All dog and cat owners are confronted with the problem of ticks. Every year, usually between March and October, they wait in the brushwood for warm-blooded prey and attach themselves to any victim that passes by. It is not the little vampires themselves that are so dangerous, but the diseases that they can transmit. If you would like to spare your pet dangerous risks, you should read on carefully.
You will find all of the following information about this controversial topic here. From the lifestyle habits of the ticks to effective precautionary measures and the correct behaviour after contact, to the potential long-term health consequences.
Ticks are arachnids that feed on blood. Only a few of the 850 different types of tick worldwide are found in Germany. The majority of these are the common wood tick and the marsh tick or ornate cow tick. Mild climatic conditions and the high mobility of our society favour the continuous spread of the ticks and the associated risk of infection. Ticks become active from a temperature of 7 degrees, and prefer a warm, damp environment. They prefer living in the brushwood, in grass, ferns and bushes close to the ground and in the plants around the edges of garden ponds. Ticks climb to a height of about 1.5 m.
Ticks, with the exception of hard ticks, are blind and deaf. In spite of this, they find their way to their victims using a special organ. This organ, which is known as Haller's organ, reacts to mechanical, thermal and chemical stimuli. If an animal passes by, the tick detects vibration, body heat and breathed-out carbon dioxide and attaches itself to the coat. Now the search for an injection point that is as moist and thin-skinned as possible starts, which can take several hours. The head, neck, ears, chest, belly, back, genitals or armpits, for example. The proboscis then drills into the skin and the blood meal starts. This can take up to seven days. The volume of the tick increases by up to 200 percent, up to a size of about one centimetre. It does not let go until it is full.
Prevention is better than cure, which also applies to tick protection. Because nobody can or wants to keep their animals on a lead for months on end and forbid it from freely rummaging in the brushwood. For this reason, you should take care of tick prophylaxis at an early stage. Protect your dog from contact with dangerous parasites.
Your vet will definitely be able to help you to spoil the ticks' appetite. With products that provide reliable and odourless protection. They are waterproof and maintain their effectiveness over several weeks or even months. Since tick activity also frequently extends to the months of February and December, all year round tick prophylaxis is the safest.
You should always carry out a regular visual inspection of the coat after a walk in nature, despite the tick prophylaxis. Safe is safe. Ticks that are discovered must be removed immediately, but no later than 12 hours after infestation. Because in that case, with any luck any pathogens that the tick may be carrying will not yet be in the bloodstream.
The How is extremely important when removing a tick that is already securely attached. Because about 80 percent of all infections result from using the wrong method. The borrelia that may be in the intestine of the tick can be squashed out if the tick is not removed correctly, meaning that the gastro-intestinal contents of the tick end up in the body of the host. For this reason, the tick should be held with fine splinter tweezers as close to the skin as possible and carefully lifted upwards. It is impossible to be 100% certain that an animal will not be infested by ticks. It is therefore advisable to get your dog used to having its coat examined at regular intervals.
Some of the illnesses that are most frequently transmitted by ticks in Germany and Austria are borrelia, early summer meningoencephalitis or meningitis, anaplasmosis, babesiosis (dog malaria) and ehrlichiosis. Under certain circumstances a single tick bite can be enough to cause an infection. If this is left untreated it will become acute, cause chronic joint diseases or even cause death. However, not every tick bite will make an animal ill. In spite of this, the danger emanating from ticks is still underestimated!
There are renowned risk areas such as large areas of Bavaria and Austria in which the risk of becoming infected with borrelia or early summer meningoencephalitis is significantly increased. But similarly to people, contracting diseases depends on living circumstances and having an intact immune system. The tick can pick up the pathogen from intermediate hosts and pass it on via the bite. The majority of pathogens are not transferred immediately with the bite, but after several hours or days. Early, proper removal of the tick can often avoid infection.
The most widespread disease caused by tick bites is borrelia. It is transferred by the wood tick. Infection is already possible after 24 hours in this case. The symptoms, which can also occur after weeks, months or even years after the bite, are flu-like and are accompanied by fever, aching limbs, lymph node swelling but also joint inflammation, muscle weakness or disorders of the vegetative nerve system.
Early summer meningoencephalitis, a certain form of meningitis, is also transmitted by the wood tick. Unlike borrelia, which is caused by bacteria, early summer meningoencephalitis is a viral infection. In Germany it mainly occurs in the south German regions (Danube region and southern Bavarian forest) and above all in Baden-Württemberg (Black Forest, Lake Constance, Rhine Plain). The symptoms are extremely varied and range from atactic movements to cramp, paralysis, nerve failures and a general increase in pain.
Like borrelia and early summer meningoencephalitis, anaplasmosis is transmitted by the wood tick. It is somewhat less known. However, about two to five percent of ticks in Germany are infected with this bacteria. They destroy the white blood cells of the dog. In this case the symptoms are high fever, weight loss, listlessness, impairment of the nerve system, anaemia and joint inflammation.
These diseases rarely occur in our country. Ehrlichiosis and Babesiosis are caused by bacteria that can be transmitted by the bite of an infected brown dog tick. Brown dog ticks can be mainly found south of the Alps. Just like anaplasmosis, the ehrlicihosis attacks the white blood cells. The disease may occur after an incubation period of 1-3 weeks, which can lead to serious joint problems, haemorrhaging or even the death of the dog if left untreated. Babesiosis destroys the pathogens of the red blood cells, which is why this disease is known as "dog malaria". Babesiosis occurs in all south European Mediterranean countries and beyond. In Germany the ornate cow tick is the transmitter, and in warmer regions of southern Europe it is the brown dog tick. The incubation period for babesiosis is also 1-3 weeks, and is associated with high fever. The symptoms caused by anaemia are a high level of fatigue, high fever and loss of appetite. Bloody urine is another indication of the disease.