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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