Ticked Off – A Guide To Pesky Parasites

I’m not sure worry is the right word here but you should certainly be aware of the risks that ticks pose to you and your pets. A recent study found that Sandwich, Deal and Dover are all within a medium risk tick area and I certainly see quite a few ticks attached to animals throughout the year. If you travel abroad with your dogs and cats then you should be particularly careful as some European ticks are particularly nasty.

Ticks have a fascinating, but gross, lifecycle and live through three life stages. The youngest lifestage can be as small as a poppy seed which can make them almost impossible to find amongst your pet’s coat. Cats are particularly good at hiding ticks, and managing to groom them off before you find them but this does not protect them from the risks of tick borne disease.

Lifecycle of a tick
Lifecycle of a tick

There are a number of different ticks in the UK and some ticks carry serious diseases that can infect our pets and us! In a recent study, 1094 veterinary surgeries examined over 12,000 dogs and found 6,555 ticks! 1,855 cats were examined and 601 of them had ticks attached.

Tick species found include Ixodes ricinus, Ixodes hexagonus, Ixodes canisuga, Dermacentor reticulatus, Haemaphysalis punctata, Rhipicephalus sanguineus and Dermacentor variabilis. Blimey! Some of these ticks were found on travelling dogs and show just how easily diseases can be spread. The current legislation does not require travelling dogs to have any treatment for ticks when returning to the UK. Together with changes in climates, this means that the UK will likely see an increase in the number of ticks that we see and hence we are concerned that more people and pets will be affected by diseases carried by ticks.

Overview of all stages of Ixodes Ricinus

The most common tick found on cats and dogs in the UK is Ixodes ricinus. Tick can carry many serious diseases such as Lyme’s disease (Borreliosis), Babesia, Ehrlichia and Anaplasma.

Lyme’s disease

  • This is a long term inflammatory diseases caused by a bacteria, Borrelia burgdorferi. 
  • Symptoms can include intermittent lameness, swelling of lymph nodes, kidney disease and a high temperature.
  • It can be very difficult to diagnose as it has vague symptoms and the laboratory tests required can be extensive and may give false negative results.
  • It can be treated but some cases have life long problems. Occasionally the disease can be fatal, especially in pets that have other pre-existing diseases.
  • Humans can catch Lyme’s disease from ticks and it can cause life long illness.


  • This mainly affects dogs that travel to Europe but there have been a few cases in dogs that have never left the UK which suggests that the disease is present in the UK tick population. 
  • Symptoms can include weakness, lack of appetite, high temperature, anaemia and jaundice.
  • Diagnosis can include looking at a blood smear under a microscope and sending samples to the laboratory for specific tests. 
  • Treatment can be very effective if the disease is caught early enough but some dogs can become carriers of the disease and can then have flare ups later in life.


  • Caused by a bacteria, Ehrlichia canis, which can cause disease in dogs, cats and humans. 
  • The disease is present in France, Spain, Italy and Greece; hence it is mainly a risk to travelling dogs but cases have been found in UK dogs that have never travelled.
  • Clinical signs can be very vague and include lethargy, depression, appetite loss, weight loss and high temperature. Pets can also present with bleeding disorders that may appear as nosebleeds or bruising. Neurological symptoms such as seizures have also been documented.
  • Treatment with specific antibiotics can cure affected animals but the disease can  recur and be fatal in unlucky cases. 
Ixodes Ricinus

So what can we do?

There are a number of ways we can protect dogs and cats from ticks and the diseases carried by ticks. Here’s a list of options (not exhaustive and not sponsored)

  1. Oral chews such as Nexgard Spectra, Simparica and Bravecto
  2. Spot on treatments such as Stronghold plus, Bravecto plus and Advantix
  3. Seresto flea and tick collar for dogs and cats
  4. Merilym3 vaccination for dogs against Lyme’s disease

Please talk to your vet about which option is best to suit your dogs lifestyle. Remember it is always better to take a proactive, preventative approach.

What to do if you find a tick?

  1. Ideally use a tick removing tool to slide under the ticks head and then rotate. Follow the manufacturers guidelines closely as they can vary. 
  2. Use fine tipped tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible and steadily pull the tick outwards. Do not twist using this method.
  3. Never try to burn off, freeze, pop or smother the tick in lotions. These methods may cause the tick to panic and basically vomit it’s contents into your pet, increasing the risk of disease transmission.

If in doubt you can always ask your vet, our on our Facebook group, Ask A Sandwich, Deal & Dover Vet 


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Deal and Sandwich vet Claire


Hi, I’m Claire and I am a veterinary surgeon working in East Kent. Having grown up locally I was delighted to be able to move home and settle near Sandwich. I love all animals but I mainly treat dogs, cat and rabbits. My lifelong passion for animal healthcare has led me to start this blog in the hope that I can interest your inner animal lover and share some fascinating stories along the way. You can also find me on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

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