Tick bite prevention week takes place in March every year with this year’s dates being the 22nd to the 28th.
What are ticks?
Ticks are external parasites that are related to spiders and mites. Adult ticks are approximately 3 to 5 mm in length depending on age, sex, species, and “fullness”. They live by feeding on the blood of, not only mammals but birds and sometimes reptiles and amphibians too.
Ticks are widely distributed around the world, especially in warm, humid climates.
In the UK, ticks have become more abundant and have extended their distribution in Europe during the last two to three decades. Changes in farming, global warming, more animals moving around and across the borders, all contribute to this.
Years ago, you might have only come across ticks in rural and woody areas but these days we’re at risk of tick bites when spending time in public areas like parks, gardens, picnic spots, while camping, cycling, running, or doing any outdoor activities.
Ticks don’t jump like fleas. They have a different approach. They wait, patiently in the grass, bushes, or other vegetation, and when their target approaches they just drop themselves on. Ticks operate mainly by using their sense of smell and they don’t jump or fall from trees. Instead, they do something called “questing.” That is, they climb to the top of a blade of grass or plant and stick their front legs up in the air, waiting for the scent of a victim walking by. If you find one on your head, then it crawled there (ticks don’t jump). Their front pair of legs have what are called Haller’s organs, which detect the smell, temperature, movement, and carbon dioxide. This is how they know you’re coming. They love warmth and moisture and are just waiting for a warm, moist environment to call home, such as your dog… or you.
Ticks carry several diseases, not only the well-known Lyme disease. One of these diseases is tick-borne encephalitis (TBE). There are a few others, however, these are the two most prevalent in Europe. According to the NHS website, the chance of catching Lyme disease from an individual tick ranges from roughly zero to 50 percent. The risk of contracting Lyme disease from a tick bite depends on three factors: the tick species, where the tick came from, and how long it was biting you. We’re all very concerned about our dogs catching ticks but we need to protect ourselves too.
How to protect yourself:
1) Use tick repellent
2) Make sure you keep to the middle of the path and try to avoid overhanging vegetation
3) Wear long sleeves and long trousers and tuck them into your socks
4) Wear pale clothes so that you can easily see a tick crawling on you and you can brush it off
5) Always check yourself after a nice walk in the woodlands
6) Take a shower after spending time outdoors
7) Wash clothes in hot water after being outdoors
8) If you find any ticks feeding, remove the tick promptly and clean the bite site with an antiseptic such as Soothing Antiseptic Spray
9) Keep an eye on the area, watch for any symptoms of Lyme disease https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/lyme-disease/ and if you feel unwell contact your GP immediately.
How to protect your dog:
1) Spray him with a tick repellent
2) Don’t let him browse in overhanging vegetation
3) Check your dog thoroughly after a walk
4) If you find any ticks feeding, remove the tick promptly and clean the bite site with an antiseptic such as Soothing Antiseptic Spray
5) Keep an eye on the area, watch for any symptoms of Lyme disease. If you see your dog is unwell contact your vet immediately
Choosing a natural tick repellent is not only better for you and your dog but for the environment too. When I decided to develop insect, flea, and tick repelling products I wanted them to be safe, not only for our dogs and us. But also for the environment. Commercial repellents contain synthetic ingredients that repel insects, fleas, and/or ticks, however, many of them have been linked to skin irritation, negative respiratory effects, and rashes. They also have a negative effect on bees, fish, birds, and the environment in general. Find out more here.
Scientists have also found that some flea and tick treatments for pets are poisoning our rivers and lakes across the UK. The discovery is extremely concerning for water insects and the fish and birds that depend on them. It is suspected that significant environmental damage is being done.
Protect your dog, protect yourself, and don’t let ticks spoil your spring walks.
Stay safe, Jitka xx