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Very creepy crawlies

Living

TICK TOCK Now’s the time to ensure your pet has been treated to prevent ticks, and to invest in a tick hook for speedy, safe removal.

Ask the Vet

Esther Van Luipen

It’s that time of the year again when ticks are swinging into action. I have had quite a few clients this week that were looking for tick treatments for their pets because they had spotted a tick on their pet’s skin.
Ticks, I’m not a great fan of them. Probably because they are cousins of the spider. Like spiders, they have eight legs. When they are full of blood, they have a big grey body like a small grape. They definitely fit in the list of creepier crawlies. They lurk in bushes and in the long grass, waiting for an unsuspecting mammal to pass. They jump off their perch onto our pet (or ourselves), burry their jaws into the skin and start sucking blood. Creepy indeed.
The blood sucking is actually not the worst thing they do, though. Before sucking they inject some saliva into their victim’s blood stream. If the tick happens to be infected with a disease, it can inject this also into its victim. This is how an animal or human can get infected with a tick-borne disease, such as Lyme disease.
When travelling to the south of Europe it is really important to do a tick check twice daily. In those hot climates there are more tick-borne diseases, like Ehrlichiosis or Leishmaniosis. Talk to your vet about the best form of tick prevention for your dog.
Prevention both here and abroad is vital. There are several spot-on treatments or tablets available at your vet that will paralyze the mouth parts of the tick when they want to latch on and make them fall off and die. It is also a good idea to check your dog (and yourself) for ticks after you come back from a walk.
If you find a tick on your pet don’t pull it off. The best way to it take off is with a clever little device, called a ‘ tick-o-tom’ or a tick hook. This tick hook can be hooked around the tick’s mouth parts and twisted. Success is guaranteed, and with a tick hook you won’t leave any mouth parts behind.
You can also grab it with tweezers as close to the skin as possible and pull it in a straight line. When you remove it this way, the mouth parts may stay behind in the skin (which could cause an abscess).  
Whatever you do, try not to squeeze the body of the tick. When the body gets squeezed it is possible that blood from the tick is injected back into the host which makes it more likely for an infection to be passed on.
When humans contract Lyme disease they often get a ‘bull’s-eye mark’, like a red ring around the bite site, a few days after being bitten. If you see this, contact your doctor straight away. Lyme disease is treatable in the acute phase. The problem with our pets is that most parts of the body are covered in hair, so the bull’s-eye lesion is easily missed.
So if you and your dog like the great outdoors make sure you use a good tick repellent, available at your local vet, and check your dog daily for ticks. Don’t forget to check all the skin folds like the armpits and the groin area and behind the ears. And when you find one remove it promptly with a tick removal device or visit your local veterinary clinic.

Esther van Luipen is a veterinary surgeon in Claremorris Small Animal Practice. She can be contacted at 094 9373955 or at living@mayonews.ie.

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