Ticks are not only an ever-present nuisance for dogs and us dog people, but also a serious danger. As small but dangerous bloodsuckers, they can cause serious health problems for both our beloved four-legged friends and us humans. Protecting our dogs from ticks is therefore an important task that we, as responsible dog owners, have to face up to. In this blog series we offer you a comprehensive guide to tick protection for dogs. We explain the dangers posed by ticks, show you how you can recognize ticks on your dog and give valuable tips on how to protect your dog from ticks and how to remove them safely. We'll also discuss preventive measures you can take to make your environment more tick-friendly, and when it's a good idea to see a vet. Our goal is to provide you with all the information you need to keep your dog safe, healthy, and surviving tick season unscathed.
What you need to know about ticks
Ticks are small arachnids that feed on blood. They are able to attach themselves to various animals, including dogs and humans. They live in grass, shrubs and bushes, waiting for a host - like a dog - to come by to attach themselves and suck blood. Tick bites can cause serious health problems for dogs, including infection and disease. One of the best known and most dangerous diseases transmitted by ticks is Lyme disease. This disease can cause severe and long-lasting symptoms in both dogs and humans, including fever, joint pain, lethargy, and other ailments. It is important to identify and treat tick infestations quickly to minimize the risk of infection and to allow for early diagnosis and treatment if infection has occurred. Dogs that live in areas with high tick infestations or are frequently outdoors should be regularly checked for ticks to protect their health.
Why tick protection is so important for dogs
Ticks pose a significant health hazard to dogs and their owners as they act as vectors for various pathogens. These include bacteria, viruses and protozoa that can be transmitted when sucking blood. Some of the most well-known and dangerous tick-borne diseases are Lyme disease, Anaplasmosis, TBE and Babesiosis. These diseases can cause serious health problems in dogs and can even be fatal in some cases. It is therefore important that dog owners are informed about the dangers of ticks and take appropriate protective measures to minimize the risk of tick bites and the diseases associated with them.
Borreliosis, also known as Lyme disease, is caused by the type of bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi caused. The infection can cause fever, joint inflammation, lethargy, and loss of appetite. If not recognized and treated early, the disease can cause severe damage to joints, the nervous system, and internal organs.
Anaplasmosis is a bacterial infection that can cause fever, loss of appetite, joint pain and swelling in dogs. Left untreated, it can lead to chronic joint problems, kidney damage, and neurological disorders. Treatment with antibiotics is usually effective if the disease is caught early. Effective protection against ticks is therefore essential to protect your dog from these diseases. In the next blog post in this series, we will deal with preventive measures against tick infestation to protect your dog in the best possible way.
TBE (tick-borne encephalitis)
TBE is a tick-borne viral disease found in some parts of Europe and Asia. The condition primarily affects humans, but can also occur in dogs in rare cases. It can cause neurological symptoms in dogs such as lack of coordination, seizures and even death. There is currently no specific antiviral therapy for TBE, so treatment is aimed at relieving symptoms and supporting the immune system.
Babesiosis, also commonly known as canine malaria, is a protozoal infection transmitted by ticks of the Rhipicephalus and Dermacentor genus. Babesiosis is caused by unicellular parasites of the genus Babesia caused. The pathogens (babesia) infect the host's red blood cells, which can lead to anemia, fever, weight loss, jaundice and, in severe cases, multi-organ failure. Treating babesiosis is complex and requires a combination of medications that fight the parasites and relieve the symptoms caused by the infection. Bebeiosis is also appearing more and more in countries such as Switzerland, Germany and Austria, although it was already thought to be extinct. This is mainly because dogs are imported from abroad or we take our dogs with us to warm vacation areas. In this way, we are again “importing” this dangerous disease into our native territories.
When are ticks active?
Ticks usually start their activity as soon as ambient temperatures reach around 4-7 °C.
These small arachnids are particularly active during the warmer months, i.e. during spring, summer and autumn. However, it is important to note that their activity also depends on specific climatic conditions and geographic regions. So are ticks in Switzerland, Germany and Austria often found even in winter due to climate change. In areas with mild winters, such as southern countries or coastal regions, ticks can even be active all year round. However, they tend to be most active in these regions during the warmer months.
Tick activity can also be affected by humidity and rainfall, as ticks are sensitive to dehydration. They prefer humid environments to maintain their moisture balance. Hence they are more active in humid and rainy periods and then increasingly search for host animals from which they can suck blood.
In colder regions with severe winters, ticks retreat to sheltered areas such as leaves, moss or under bark during the winter months to protect themselves from the cold and frost. As soon as spring temperatures are consistently above freezing and ambient temperatures rise again, the ticks wake up from their hibernation and start looking for hosts again.
Since tick activity depends on various factors, Dog owners should always be vigilant and protect their dogs from ticks all year round, and regularly check for ticks during tick season. It is advisable to take appropriate precautions to minimize the risk of tick bites and possible diseases that may result from them, regardless of the region in question and the current weather conditions.
Fun facts about ticks
Ticks bite, they don't bite!: The term "tick bite" is scientifically inaccurate. In general usage, a "bite" is often spoken of incorrectly, while the correct term is "tick bite". This is because ticks have a proboscis and a scissor-shaped mouthpart. As soon as the ticks have found a suitable puncture site, they cut open the skin, pierce the tissue with their proboscis and start sucking blood. Hence the term "bloodsucker".
The tick's nose is on the front leg: Ticks don't have a proper nose, but they can "smell" certain substances using their Haller's organ, which is located on the front leg. Ticks use this organ to recognize their victims.
Ticks hunt on blades of grass: Ticks prefer grassy landscapes and climb on grasses and bushes to be able to reach their victims better. They often stretch out their front legs to better perceive the scents in their environment. When a host touches the tick, it quickly grabs the skin, fur, or clothing with the claws on its front legs.
Ticks can survive for 10 years without food: Ticks are survivors and can go up to ten years without any other food if they have previously had a blood meal. In the wild, wood beetle have a life expectancy of three to five years.
After a blood meal, the tick is 200 times heavier: Female ticks can increase their body weight by 100 to 200 times in a single meal. An adult human would have to eat as much pizza as they weigh as much as a truck to reach a similar weight.
A tick has up to 20,000 siblings: A single female tick can lay between 2,000 and 20,000 eggs at a time. These eggs are surrounded by a layer of wax and connected to each other. Due to the large number of eggs, they are often referred to as "tick caviar".
Ticks stun their victim before biting: Ticks use an anesthetic to bite the host without the host noticing the bite. To ensure that the host does not simply scrape the tick away, produces
Tick protection for dogs
There are several methods to protect your dog from ticks. You can read more about natural tick repellents and chemical preparations in other blogs in this series.
- spot-on preparations: These fluids are applied directly to the dog's skin and typically provide around four weeks of protection.
- tick collars: These collars continuously release tick repellents. They are usually effective for several months.
- tablets: Medication given by mouth can also protect against ticks, but they often require a prescription and need to be ordered by a veterinarian.
- Natural alternatives: There are also natural approaches, such as B. essential oils or special dog shampoos that can help repel ticks. However, the effectiveness of these methods varies widely.