VET’S VIEW: Take care when you’re out – ticks may be, too

DYLAN was a typical springer spaniel – he may have understood the word ‘walkies’, but there was nothing pedestrian about his exercise as he tore, at speed, through the long grass.

“I’ve noticed a wart on his leg,” his owner announced on a recent visit to the surgery, and in a rare moment of calm I managed to examine the offending object. It did indeed look like a small brown growth, near his elbow, but on closer inspection we could see some tiny black legs protruding. Dylan had picked up a tick.

Ticks are arachnids – eight-legged creatures that suck animals’ blood.

They are commonly picked up in the country, where sheep have been, but can also be brought into urban areas by hedgehogs and foxes.

They wait on vegetation for an animal to pass by and then latch on to feed, dropping off again after a few days.

Tick bites will often cause a localised irritation but can also spread disease, notably Lyme disease, a bacterial infection characterised by fever, malaise and stiff, achy joints, so it makes sense to get rid of these pests as soon as you see them, or better still, deter them from attaching in the first place.

Simply pulling the tick out risks leaving the mouth parts behind, but you can buy special hooks from your vet, which will lift them out painlessly.

There are also various treatments to kill or deter ticks, including collars, tablets and spot-ons, but do ask your vet for advice as these will need to be integrated with control of other parasites such as fleas and worms.

It’s worth remembering that some tick treatments for dogs can be toxic to cats, so please read the instructions and be careful how you use them.

However, I’m not sure the word ‘careful’ would come into Dylan’s vocabulary!

• Peter Brown, of Northdale Veterinary Practice, writes the Herald & Gazette’s Vet’s View column. A local man, whose family history can be traced back to the 1700s in Worthing, Peter took over the practice 26 years ago. What was a one-man operation is now a thriving six-vet practice.