dog attending a veterinary practice for tick check up

What are ticks? How to prevent and get rid of ticks on dogs

Ticks are nasty little critters that are second in line to mosquitoes in spreading infectious disease to both pets and people. There are several species in the UK alone, and numbers are on the rise. Ticks are particularly prevalent in the spring and summer, though they can be found in the UK countryside all year round.

Where are ticks found? 

Usually found in fields or woodland areas, ticks lurk in long grass, waiting to latch themselves on to passing animals – or humans. These pesky parasites need a host to feed from, and to provide somewhere to find a mate for breeding. They often transmit disease from one host to another, which makes them particularly efficient at spreading disease.

“Usually found in fields or woodland areas, ticks lurk in long grass, waiting to latch themselves on to passing animals – or humans.”

What are the signs of ticks on dogs?

Being tiny, ticks can be hard to spot: though they’re generally oval and flat, they swell to the size of a pea once they’re engorged with the blood of the host creature they’re feeding on. Like the spiders they’re related to, ticks have eight legs which you may be able to spot if you look closely.

Identifying ticks on your dog

The best way to check your dog for ticks is to groom them thoroughly after walking in the countryside. Brushing against the direction of hair growth can help you spot any embedded ticks – and remember to check inside the ears, around the chin, eyes and muzzle, and between the pads and toes.

Ticks and Lyme disease

As well as causing your dog to itch, UK ticks may carry a serious condition called Lyme disease, which can affect humans as well as dogs. Lyme disease is hard to diagnose in dogs, so if you have any reason to believe your dog may have been bitten by a tick, get them to your local vet fast.

The most obvious signs of Lyme disease in dogs include a ‘bull’s eye’ lesion around the bite, fever, lameness, and inflamed lymph nodes. If in doubt, always consult your vet.

How can I prevent my dog from getting ticks?

There are many tick-prevention products out there, ranging from spot-on treatments and sprays, to impregnated collars. Your vet will advise you on the best method of tick prevention for your dog.

What if I find a tick on my dog?

If you do find a tick on your dog, it’s vital to remove it with care – or ask your vet to do it for you. It’s best to use tweezers or a tick-removal tool, sometimes called a ‘tick twister’ – as embedded parts can be left behind in your dog’s skin. You may want to wear disposable gloves or use kitchen towel when handling these horrible hitchhikers. If in doubt, always speak to your local vet.

Dog ticks – advice and treatment

If you suspect your dog has ticks, or is carrying a tick-borne disease, call or visit your local vet immediately. To find your nearest recommended vet or pet clinic, use our Find a Vet page.