What are ticks?

Ticks are small blood-sucking parasites that are members of the spider family and the population in the UK is currently on the rise.

Why are ticks of concern?

Ticks are second only to mosquitoes in the transmission of life-threatening parasitic disease to dogs and humans throughout the world.  See the section below for more information.

Even if they aren’t carrying infectious disease, tick bites tend to cause quite a lot of localised irritation and swelling. The bites can also become infected and may require veterinary treatment even once the tick has been removed.

What do ticks look like?

Ticks vary enormously in appearance but are generally oval in shape, greyish cream in colour and vary in size from a sesame seed up to a coffee bean.  They can attach anywhere in the body but are particularly common around the head and in skin folds such as the armpit and groin.  They are often confused with warts or skin tags so be careful to make a correct identification as trying to remove a wart or skin tag can be very painful!  All ticks will have small, yet clearly identifiable, black legs at the base where they attach to your pet’s skin and if you don’t see legs then leave well alone and make an appointment to see the vet for clarification.

What should I do if I find a tick on my pet?

Correct removal is important.  Ticks have a corkscrew mouthpiece that they use to screw into the skin of their host and trying to remove the tick by force or using tweezers etc risks breaking off the head which then remains in the skin and continues to provoke an intense reaction.  Also do not attempt to smother the tick with vaseline or apply TCP etc to kill the tick as this could also result in the head breaking off.  Instead, ask at the surgery for a special tick removal hook that enables you to safely twist the tick out of your pet’s skin – once removed you can check to see if the body, legs and mouth are all present.

Are ticks contagious?

No, ticks occur individually and once a tick has been removed and killed it poses no further threat to you or your pet. However, do ensure to kill any ticks as they could potentially re-attach to your pets (or you) and could even release eggs into the environment.

Do I need to treat the house/environment?

No, unlike fleas they do not establish themselves in the indoor environment so once removed and killed there is no need to take further action.  However, most household flea sprays are effective against ticks as well and if your pet is picking up a large number of ticks then a spray of the areas frequented by your pet will help eliminate the possibility of any ticks that may have fallen off indoors

Where and when are my pets likely to pick up ticks?

Ticks are most prevalent in the Spring and Summer but can be picked up at any time of year.  They are most frequently acquired from woodlands and fields where there are livestock or deer present but are increasingly found in urban areas as well (see below).

I live in a town so I am unlikely to have a problem with ticks?

Ticks are now well established in the urban environment.   Many local parks and urban green spaces now contain deer (as well as cattle) and the increasing fox population has resulted in increased transmission between urban areas and including into gardens.

How can ticks be prevented?

There are now a number of very safe and effective preventative treatments available from the surgery including tablets, spot-ons and collars so please contact us for more details.

What are the main contagious diseases that ticks can transmit?


Babesiosis is a global disease and is widespread throughout southern and central continental Europe. It is caused by a tiny parasite – Babesia canis – that infects red blood cells, causing anaemia, dark red urine, pale gums, lethargy and fever.


Babesia canis is spread by the Ornate Dog Tick Dermacentor reticulatus and poses a significant risk to pets travelling abroad with the Pet Travel Scheme. This is why it is so important to treat your dogs for ticks whilst abroad and before returning home.

Until recently there have only been rare cases of babesiosis in untravelled dogs in the UK. However this changed in Spring 2016 with a cluster of cases in Harlow, Essex. More recently two fresh cases have emerged 20 miles away from the initial outbreak, raising the possibility that this tick-borne disease could become more widespread across the UK and Ireland.

Lyme Disease

Lyme disease is widespread across the UK and Ireland and spread by the sheep tick – Ixodes ricinus.


It is caused by the bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi and can cause recurrent lameness due to inflammation of the joints. Humans can also suffer from Lyme disease. Take two simple steps to minimise the risk of tick-borne diseases:

• Monitor pets daily for ticks and remove promptly with a tick hook.

• Use a veterinary approved tick treatment – please let us recommend the best product for your pets.

If you would like further information on ticks and tick-borne diseases, please ask a member of our team!

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