BLOOD-sucking ticks are feeding earlier in the year and for longer, putting dogs and their owners at risk.
Tick bites can transmit serious infections, such as Lyme disease — a serious and debilitating illness that can cause long term health problems in dogs and people.
West Devon veterinary practices are taking action by joining naturalist and television presenter Chris Packham and the University of Bristol in the Big Tick Project. This new nationwide initiative runs from spring through to autumn, tracking the rise of the tick population in the UK and finding out how many carry disease.
Dog owners can take their pets to participating practices for a tick check and advice about innovations in effective tick control. Any ticks found on dogs will be collected and sent to Bristol University laboratories to help advance the knowledge of tick-borne disease, benefiting both veterinary and human medicine.
Chris Packham feels the challenge of keeping dogs and people tick-free has never been greater.
Chris said: ‘Research highlighted by the Big Tick Project experts at Bristol University suggests that ticks are a growing problem, especially in areas such as urban parkland, woodland or open country. While I find both ticks and fleas interesting creatures, I don’t want them on my dogs, in my house, or on me.
‘I want the best advice and treatment available and I know I can get this by talking to my vet.’
By taking part, local veterinary practices will help the level of risk to dogs and people in West Devon to be identified, compared to the national average. The practices also aim to provide advice to local dog owners on effective tick control.
Ticks are hard to spot when small but can transmit infections as they feed off the blood of their host. Dog owners often see ticks when they have increased in size as a result of their blood meal but by then the damage may have been done.
New advances and treatment innovation means that there are a number of ways that vets can control ticks, including the use of spot-ons (typically applied every four weeks), sprays, collars and oral chewable formulations which can last up to 12 weeks.