Part 1: Pesky Parasites: Ticks, Fleas and Worms

With spring just around the corner, it’s that time of year when pesky parasites come to the fore (try not to itch)!

Lighter nights, warmer temperatures and friendly sunshine mean we are spending more time outside - and so are our pets. Unfortunately, due to increased playtime outside, they have more chance of coming into contact with unsightly critters.

Ticks

There are over 20 different types of ticks in the UK: all very similar in appearance. They can be as small as a single poppy seed or when fully engorged they can reach 11mm! There is evidence that ticks have been around for at least 90 million years and there are two specific families: Hard Ticks (Ixodidae) and Soft Ticks (Argasidae). They are both known to carry and transmit diseases or illness that are hazardous to humans and animals.

Ticks are quite partial to moist conditions and can be found all year round in woodland, grassland, parkland or areas of long grass and dense vegetation. The most common tick found on our pets is that of the Sheep Tick (also known as the Deer Tick).

What are they?

Ticks are small, round bodied creatures that slightly resemble a spider. Ticks can vary in size depending on their stage of life cycle, species, gender and whether or not they have just fed. Thankfully, ticks do not have powerful hind legs and are not able to fly! A tick will use its surroundings to enable it to use its hooked legs to climb up plants or bushes and wait for a host to latch on to: where they bite to attach themselves and begin their blood meal.

Adults have 4 pairs of legs and no visible head - just a mouth that cuts into the skin. As they latch on to their unsuspecting victims they inject a saliva that prevents blood clotting. The bacteria that ticks transmit when they feed can cause diseases such as Lyme's Disease. Not all tick bites result in disease, but if you are concerned about your pet’s health we recommend you seek advice from your vet.

It may take a number of days for a tick to finish its meal. Once full, the tick will drop off to continue with its life cycle.

If you find one of these little critters on your dog or cat it is possible to remove them with specially designed tick removers, or tweezers - just be careful not to “pop” them! If you don't want to get too close (which is totally understandable) why not try our Tick Away Spray? This non-toxic and non-insecticidal spray is a very effective freezing treatment that kills within a few minutes and, as a result, the tick just falls off.

It is important not to crush a tick, even after it has been removed from your pet, and it is safest for you to flush it away in some toilet roll.

If you would like any further advice on our blog “Pesky Parasites: Ticks, Fleas and Worms”, please contact the OSCAR Helpline on our freephone number 0800 195 8000 or email helpline@oscars.co.uk

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