As soon as the winter is over, we feel the urge to go outside, and we increasingly enjoy long walks in nature. But be careful: ticks are also beginning to increase their activities and are looking for victims for their first blood meal. And some ticks don’t come alone. Ticks can transmit diseases to both dogs and humans. These include tick-borne encephalitis (TBE), Lyme disease, and babesiosis.
Infection usually takes place with the first sting and sucking act, although it can take many hours to days before pathogens are transmitted.
There are three main types of ticks in dogs:
- Holzbock (dangers: transmission of Lyme disease to humans and dogs as well as TBE to humans, tick bite allergy)
- Brown dog tick (dangers: transmission of babesiosis and Ehrlichiosis, tick bite allergy, tick paralysis)
- and the alluvial forest tick (dangers: transmission of babesiosis, tick bite allergy, tick paralysis).
After a long walk, every pet owner should check their dog for ticks, and themselves at the same time. Ticks are tiny when they infest the dog – usually less than a millimeter in size – as they feed on blood, they swell up and drop once full. A fully engorged tick reaches the size of a pea and is therefore easy to feel when petting the dog.
Correct removal of a tick
Ticks must be removed very carefully. Use tweezers or tick tweezers to grasp the tick between the skin and the head of the tick and slowly but purposefully pull the tick out as straight as possible. No part of the tick – eg the head – should remain in the skin, since an infection or a small “lump” can form there.
The tick must be grasped as deeply as possible on the skin and then pulled out without squeezing the tick.
The tick should not panic, otherwise, it can empty its stomach contents or saliva into the wound and thereby transmit a pathogen. It is very important: DO NOT drip nail polish, oil, or similar onto the tick, as this will cause the tick to panic. Have your veterinarian show you how to do this. If the tick bite site appears abnormal, such as redness or swelling, have the site examined by a veterinarian.
Ticks are almost always in season
Recent studies indicate that infected ticks appear to survive cold and heat better than uninfected ticks. In Switzerland, it has been proven that ticks infected with the borreliosis pathogen are less sensitive to heat and drought. This means that in both cold and warm, dry months, the proportion of risky ticks can be higher than would be expected at these times of the year. In regions where ticks infected with pathogens occur, dogs should therefore be treated with a tick repellent all year round, i.e. also in the winter months.
Repellents against ticks
Dog owners should consult their veterinarian for advice on tick repellents. In recent years, new active ingredients have been developed for an application, for sprays and collars. But beware: not according to the motto “a lot helps a lot” or “that works with the dog, I can also use it with the cat”. Not every remedy works against every tick, and some dog remedies are deadly for cats. Your veterinarian will also know whether you live in one of the TBE or babesiosis risk areas and should therefore take special measures, or whether a Borrelia vaccination is recommended for your dog.