Why tick control is important
Ticks are an increasing problem in the UK1 and Ireland. Their bites can:

• Cause irritation
• Lead to abscesses
• Transmit diseases in the UK and abroad

New research1 has demonstrated that the number of ticks carrying Lyme disease (Borreliosis) in the UK is much higher than previously thought and that at least 15% of dogs have ticks, often without the owner’s knowledge. This means that the potential for undiagnosed tick-borne disease may be much higher than previously thought2.

Ticks can be found anywhere that wildlife goes (e.g. pheasants, blackbirds, hedgehogs, badgers, foxes, squirrels and deer), where livestock grazes (e.g. cows, and sheep), and where the vegetation (e.g. grasses, heather, bracken, trees or garden shrubs) is sufficiently dense enough to provide a higher level of humidity that ticks need to survive. This can include town parks and gardens.

Whether you have a cat, dog, horse, pony or you keep exotic animals that have access to the outdoors, your pet may be at risk from tick bites.

Tick checks
Ideally, tick checks should be performed daily to reduce the risk of infection. Sub-adult ticks can be very tiny (less than 1mm), even when fully engorged with blood. Stroking your pet is a good time to do a finger-tip search for smaller ticks and this can be a relaxing, bonding time between you and your pet.
When grooming, brush against, as well as with, the hair-growth to see any ticks that are close to the skin. Check around and inside the ears, around the eyes, on the chin and around the muzzle, as well as between pads and toes.

Horses and ponies can pick up ticks while they walk through vegetation, so even stabled animals should be checked. Whilst ticks can be found anywhere on the body, favorite placed often include inside the ears, under the forelock and mane, around nostrils and muzzle, around the fetlocks, chestnuts, buttocks and the dock of the tail.

Veterinary licensed tick-control products
There are a number of products licensed in the UK for tick control on companion animals:

Safety precautions
All of these products must only be used on healthy animals and under veterinary guidance. Some products that are suitable for use on one type of animal can be harmful to others, causing acute illness and even death. Some products may also be unsuitable for use with pregnant or nursing animals. Always read the manufacturers’ instructions carefully before applying any product to your pet.
NEVER use more than one parasite-control product at a time without veterinary guidance, as this can result in overdosing or interaction between chemicals which could be extremely detrimental to the health of your pet.

Tick- and flea-control products that are sold over the counter in pet shops and supermarkets often contain Permethrin, which is extremely harmful to cats. It can cause Feline Permethrin Toxicosis, which is potentially fatal. Cases of poisoning most commonly occur when people mistakenly use a product that is intended for dogs on their cat. Poisoning can also occur when the cat comes into contact with treated carpets, other soft furnishings and pet bedding. Sometimes cross-contamination occurs when a cat has close contact with a treated dog.

Some product ingredients may be dangerous to aquatic organisms. Check the manufacturers’ instructions before letting your pet come into contact with water.

Natural alternatives
Some people prefer not to use chemical-based products on their pets. In some cases, the animal has an allergy to the active ingredients in these products. In either case, without using an alternative, the animal remains unprotected.
There are a number of herbal products on the market. However, most of these products have not received the rigorous trials that licensed products have. It is therefore important that pet owners thoroughly research any products that they consider using. Many herbal products can be toxic to varying degrees. Just because the products says it is ‘all natural’, it doesn’t mean that it is safe.