Spring has sprung and tick season has arrived. Particularly unpleasant parasites, ticks are not insects, but closely related to mites. They feed on most animals, including dogs, cats and people.

All the varieties in Portugal can transmit assorted diseases. There are at least 8 tick fevers, including Lyme, Babesia and Ehrlichia. Some can be rapidly fatal without treatment.

Ticks become active when the air temperature is warm enough. They climb long grass, or to the edges of bushes, and wait for a target (called Questing). Once on their victim, they bite and start to feed on blood. When full up (can take several days), they drop off. Female ticks pass their diseases on to their offspring (larvae).

Ticks have a barbed, beaky mouth, which prevents them from being dislodged. The longer it stays attached, the higher the risk of disease transmission – some take less than 3 hours to pass on!

Prompt removal and prevention of being bitten is important!

Removing a tick must be done correctly. Plucking them off, burning them, and other methods, are not recommended. If you leave the mouth behind, an abscess can form. Angering the tick (by squeezing or burning it etc) can make it regurgitate into your pet – more disease risk.

Best is to use a tick remover which hooks under the tick’s body. A twisting action ‘unscrews’ its mouth from the skin.

Ticks get everywhere, but favourite sites include earflaps, between the toes, and the groin. They can be as small as a sesame seed and as big as a little fingernail.

There are many products to repel and kill ticks. Some work better than others. Some supermarket and drogaria collars contain a sheep-dip chemical – kills ticks, makes your dog ill too! Many tick repellents are poisonous to cats.

There are very good and safe collars available, that kill and repel ticks. There is even a cat version. If your cat loses collars, or your dogs chew them off each other, a “spot-on” pipette may be better. Several companies now also make a tablet. These tablets have no repellent action, but do kill ticks quickly. Talk to your vet about the right choice for your pet.

Most important is to check your pet daily – nothing is 100% effective 100% of the time.

My dog uses a collar; I found a tick feeding on her tummy 2 days ago...

For further advice and information, please contact 124 Vet by calling 282 338 407, emailing 124vet@algarvevet.com or visiting www.algarvevet.com