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Common Pests

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Ticks

Ticks are blood sucking parasites, the most common of which, in the UK, are the sheep and hedgehog ticks. These ticks are less dangerous in the UK than in many overseas countries. There is some evidence that when the tick bites onto the skin the host can develop Lyme disease, this can occur in both humans and animals, however it is more commonly seen in the USA. The signs of Lyme disease are fever and arthritis in several of the joints. It can be treated with antibiotics, but all ticks should be removed as soon as possible. Ticks are more commonly found in long grasses, fields where sheep have been, moorland and woodland. The hedgehog tick can also be found in your garden from infested nests and burrows of hedgehogs. Most of the ticks that are found in the UK are "hard ticks" meaning that they have a hard shell to protect them.

The life cycle of the tick:

The female tick lays many thousands of eggs on the ground, once these eggs hatch they become larvae. The larvae then climb onto the grasses and shrubs around them. From here they are picked up by animals and humans brushing past. Once on the host they feed then fall off into the environment in order to proceed to the next stage of their lifecycle. The next stage is the nymph, again it feeds from the host then falls off into the environment where it develops into the tick. The tick will climb onto grasses and shrubs and wait for a passing host. They have a sensory organ located on their front legs which helps them to achieve this. Once they have located their host they move through the coat of the animal to find a place where the coat is thin. This is why ticks are commonly found on the face, ears and abdomen. Once at a suitable area the tick attaches itself to the skin, it secretes a substance which fixes it securely to this area. This is why they are difficult to remove from your pet, and often the head is left behind. The tick is designed in such a way that it is able to penetrate the skin with its mouthparts and suck blood. Once the female tick has fed fully it falls from its host and lays its eggs. So the cycle carries on. It is thought that this lifecycle usually takes as long as 3 years to complete.

The first sign that you will see of a tick on your pet is a small grey dot which has attached itself to your pets skin. As the tick feeds on the blood of the animal it gets larger, many people mistake it for a wart or lump that has suddenly appeared on their pet. When the tick has fed it can be as big as a pea or bean, making it fairly noticeable on your pet. They are commonly found when the pet is being groomed.

The tick can cause problems in your pet, ranging from infection or an abscess where it is attached through to transmitting serious diseases. If you try to remove a tick quite often the mouthparts are left behind, this can lead to infection occurring or an abscess forming. Either way a trip to your veterinary surgeon is necessary. In untreated kittens and puppies asevere infestation of ticks can cause severe blood loss (anaemia) and sometimes even death. Ticks can also transmit infectious diseases to both humans and animals, so treatment is necessary. Some of these diseases can be possibly life threatening. As was stated previously with the tick in the UK these diseases are rare, but it is always better to be aware of what can happen. Do not wait for the tick to fall off, get advice on how to remove them first.

If you are going to an area where you suspect there may be ticks then it is possible to treat your pet before you go. Pets which come into close contact with sheep and hedgehogs should be treated regularly to prevent infestation.

Treatment to prevent and remove ticks on your pet come in  various forms and your veterinary surgeon will give you the best advice for your particular situation.

Visit the Petplanet.co.uk online shop to see our full range of flea and tick treatments for cats and dogs that are sure keep your pet healthy, happy and free from discomfort.

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