As we move towards the summer season in earnest, there is rarely a more enjoyable time to be a professional dog walker. However, the warmer months do come with some hazards. Not only must you protect your canine clients from the effects of the sun, but there’s also the dangers that come with a growing tick population.
Spring and summer mark a high-point for breeding and activity for these spider-like parasitic creatures. And being aware of the dangers they face to both humans and dogs is vital.
Ticks are more commonly found in wooded and grassy areas, but could be waiting to latch onto you or your dog in your own home. Once attached to its creature of choice, the tick will feast on a meal of blood, until swelling up and falling off said animal.
The danger for dogs and humans alike is the diseases that ticks can spread.
Lyme disease is the most common and well-known tick-spread illness. It’s more prevalent in humans than dogs, but if a canine was to receive a bite from a tick carrying the bacteria, it could fall foul to the disease themselves.
A dog infected with Lyme disease is not as easy to spot as a human suffering with the illness. Some symptoms include excessive tiredness, bouts of lameness and a rash which resembles a ‘bulls eye’ around the bite.
A more serious illness that ticks can infect dogs with is canine ehrlichiosis.
Though not as widespread in the UK as Lyme disease, there is a concern among veterinary specialists that the number of dogs being infected is on the up.
Ehrlichiosis affects dogs in two stages. Firstly, the acute infection stage will present itself with a number of symptoms similar to that of Lyme disease. A dog may suffer from fever, loss of appetite and stiffness of their limbs.
If left untreated, however, it is the longer-term effect that is most concerning. If the bacteria remains in a dog’s system for weeks, or even months, there is a chance that kidney disease and diseases of the central nervous system and even death could occur.
As with many canine illnesses, antibiotics will often be able to treat a tick-transmitted disease, however prevention is always best.
While dog walkers aren’t likely to simply stop walking in grassy or wooded areas for fear of ticks, but knowing how to spot, and remove, a tick from a dog is a good skill to have.
The Kennel Club have issued their guidance on how to spot a tick on a dog in your care:
“After taking your dog for a walk, it’s a good idea to check them for ticks. You can do this by moving your hands over their body to check for any unusual small bumps, particularly around their ears, head, neck, groin, armpits or feet.
“Ticks vary in size, but you should be able to see their oval shaped body, which will get bigger as it fills with blood. Ticks may go inside a dog’s ear, so if your dog is shaking their head a lot, it’s worth having a look inside with a torch.”
Once you have discovered a tick that is feasting on your dog’s blood, it’s time to remove it. There are, however, certain recommendations when it comes to tick removal.
Firstly, it’s not as simple as just pulling the bug off your dog. With a tick’s mouth parts embedded within your dog’s skin, it could be painful if a violent motion is used to remove the tick.
Aside from the pain for your pet, improper removal of a tick can have serious health effects. A swift detachment can leave parts of the tick attached to your dog. Some common removal methods such as burning the tick, or covering them in Vaseline (to suffocate them) are not advised. This can lead to the tick regurgitating it’s bloody meal, infectious bacteria and all, back into your dog.
Instead, it’s wise to invest in a specialised tick-removal tool. Brands such as Frontline, O’Tom and Mikki produce these inexpensive pieces of kit to detach the bug from your dog.
Remember to act calmly, and slowly, and to always wear gloves when removing ticks. If you think your dog is suffering due a tick bite it’s always advisable to seek veterinary advice.
Completely eradicating the risk of tick bites and subsequent infection is impossible. However, having the best idea of their impact and what to do will always benefit dog walkers and owners.