There's nothing like a nice walk with the family in the fields to relax and have a good time. If you have decided to have a walk in rural areas, remember to check that a tick hasn't invited itself into your dog's coat. What are the risks and how can you prevent tick bites? We take stock.
What is a tick?
Ticks are parasites of the blood-sucking mite type, that is to say that they feed on the blood of their host to live (yes, nice, we know).
Where are they found?
Contrary to popular belief, ticks are generally active in spring and autumn, when temperatures range between 0°C and 20°C. However, they are active practically all year round in Belgium and mainland France, so be careful.
When it is very hot, they lie on the ground waiting for rain so they can climb up plants and watch for their host.
They are found in rather cool and humid areas. Forests, tall grasses, bushes, gardens, fields, etc., are all places where your dog is most likely to catch ticks.
Why is it dangerous for your dog?
Ticks are parasites. They not only drink the blood of their host, they also inject anticoagulant saliva to enjoy their meal in quiet. The contaminated saliva then enters the body of the healthy carrier, causing damage to the host. Among the diseases caused by a tick, we find in particular:
- Piroplasmosis: The dog is depressed, apathetic, sometimes vomiting. He has a fever (40°C) and his urine is discoloured. Urgent consultation is needed if you observe any of these symptoms, because this disease is potentially fatal if not treated in time.
- Lyme disease: In its acute form, Lyme disease is characterised by a prolonged high fever, meningitis, polyarthritis as well as lymph node reactions. Then there is a chronic form characterised by chronic pain as well as heart and kidney problems. Only your veterinarian can diagnose this disease with certainty. In case of doubt, don't hesitate to contact a professional.
- Ehrlichiosis: In its acute phase, usually occurs a few days after the bite. The dog may have a fever and appear dejected, joint pain may occur and the lymph nodes may swell. This phase sometimes goes unnoticed and some dogs never show symptoms again. Others, however, develop a chronic form of this disease with weight loss, apathy, nosebleeds and joint pain, among other things.
Did you know? Ticks contract these bacteria by feeding on contaminated animals (birds, cats, cattle, etc.). After their meal, they unhook from their host and land in the vegetation. It is not until their second meal that they contaminate a healthy carrier. So not all ticks carry these bacteria.
Which areas are affected?
Ticks like to lodge in places where the skin is thinner such as: the groin, behind and inside the ears, between the fingers, around the eyes, in the neck, etc.
Remember to inspect these areas regularly to quickly detect any abnormalities.
How can a tick be removed?
- Place the tick's hook between the dog's skin and the tick's head.
- Turn 2 or 3 times counterclockwise (don't pull on it, or you risk tearing the body but leaving part of the tick embedded in the skin).
- When the tick lets go, get rid of it.
- Disinfect the bite with antiseptic.
- Inspect the area. If there is any abnormality, immediately contact your veterinarian.
As the saying goes, prevention is better than cure. There are several preventive treatments:
- Tablets (retake every 3 months)
- Pipettes (administer once a month)
- Collars (proven effective between 6 to 8 months)
- Vaccine (First two doses injected when puppy is 8 weeks old up to 4 months old. Then a booster every year.)
We love walks, but remember to regularly check your dog's sensitive areas after visiting a rural area.
Have a happy walk!