Ticks ingest blood from hosts such as dogs, humans, deer and other
animals. Most will go through four life stages - egg, larva, nymph and
adult. Each stage requires a blood meal to survive feeding on different
hosts at different stages. Some ticks may take up to three years to
complete their full life cycle and many will die if they don’t find the
next host to feed from. Ticks find their host by detecting breath, odor
or sensing body heat, moisture or vibration from their host. Ticks
cannot jump. They wait on the tips of grasses and shrubs in a position
known as ‘questing’ with their first pair of legs outstretched waiting
to climb onto the host. Some will then work their way towards the
ear where the skin is thinner, others will attach straight away. The tick
inserts a feeding tube with barbs through the skin as well as special
cement, tick saliva contains anaesthetic so the animal will not detect
it feeding. Ticks are often picked up in long grass and can commonly
be found on the face or front legs. The tick will feed for several days,
then fall off and complete the next stage of the life cycle. Transmission
of disease from the tick to the host and vice versa occurs via the ticks
saliva, often once the tick is full of blood.
A study at the University of Bristol hopes to collect ticks from dogs
in order to track the incidence of disease carried by ticks such as
Lyme disease (a spirochete Borrelia burgdorferi). Lyme disease can
affect both dogs and humans and can be contracted when infected
ticks feed. The incidence of Lyme disease in dogs is largely unknown,
however it is known that dogs across the country have tested
positive for antibodies for Lyme, particularly in rural areas. Thankfully
however, despite having a positive antibody test, relatively few dogs
will go on to develop clinical signs, perhaps only 5-10 per cent. A
higher proportion of people however with a positive titre will go
Ticks are blood sucking parasites that are classified as Arachnida (a classification that includes spiders). They are
thought to have been around for at least 90 million years. There are many different species but only a few are
thought to transmit disease.
onto develop symptoms, approximately 90%. It is thought that Lyme
disease in humans is on the increase.
Lyme disease is not commonly diagnosed in dogs but can cause
lethargy, fever, lameness, heart and kidney disease. In humans it may
cause a rash, flu like symptoms and can eventually cause problems
with the joints, heart and nervous system.
Public Health England estimates the number of new cases of Lyme
disease at around 3,000 a year in humans, but the Lyme disease
charity say the figure could be far higher at up to 15,000.
Ticks are most active in spring and early summer. Ticks collected by
vets will be sent to Professor RichardWall and his colleagues at Bristol
University to examine them for evidence of disease.
Increasing pet travel to parts of Europe also poses a risk for the
introduction of diseases such as babesia and ehrlichia not currently
thought to be endemic in the UK. Climate change, host abundance
and other factors are thought to have increased the distribution
of ticks with warmer, wetter winters and milder, wetter summers
allowing the seasonal tick activity to be extended.
There are many options available to protect your dog against tick
exposure, including 4 weekly spot ons, sprays or collars and oral
medication. Tick hooks can also be used to remove ticks. Some
products are not safe to be used in households with cats. If your dog
is at risk of getting ticks then contact your vet for more advice. Tick
treatment is no longer required as part of re-entry to the UK under
the passport scheme, but tick protection is strongly recommended
when taking your pet abroad.
Big Tick Project
Ticks are thought to have been around for at least 90 million years...
Injuries are all too often seen in veterinary practice as a result of dogs retrieving sticks. These include oral, pharyngeal (throat), neck, chest and
abdominal wounds. The most severe types of injury tend to occur when sticks are thrown and get stuck in the ground at an angle; enthusiastic
dogs can then run at full speed onto them. Sticks can splinter in the mouth and lead to persistent infection and abscessation or, worse, can
penetrate further in the oral cavity and pharynx (throat) causing extensive damage and even in some cases tearing of the trachea (wind pipe)
or oesophagus. The Specialist soft tissue surgeons here at Willows regularly have cases referred to them by other vets for advanced imaging
e.g. CT scanning to locate pieces of stick, assess the damage and try to safely remove them – which is an indication of how complicated these
cases can be.
There are many safe alternatives to sticks, so if your dog loves to collect sticks or indeed catch them, please use a safe one to avoid
such an injury.
Spring is in the air; now the mornings and evenings are getting
lighter many of us will be increasing our own activity levels as
well as that of our canine friends. It might be a stroll in the woods,
playing ball in the park or throwing a stick for the dog. They all
sound like innocent fun – and in a lot of cases will be – but many
owners are unaware of the danger that sticks pose for their dogs.
Stick Injuries in Dogs