Ticks are not only a danger in spring and summer, they are also active when temperatures are low. These arachnids wake from their winter sleep at around 8°C. Because they transmit microbes that cause diseases, these bloodsuckers are not just dangerous for people but also for animals.
The number of infections with Lyme disease, TBE and babesiosis is on the rise, and experts estimate that every fourth tick carries pathogens.
Babesiosis, also known as canine babesiosis, is transmitted by the so-called 'marsh tick'. First symptoms include exhaustion and lack of appetite and can lead to anaemia accompanied by fever and lethargy. If you suspect that your pet might have babesiosis, see a vet immediately. Without treatment, the disease is lethal!
The same is true of TBE (tick-borne encephalitis). Weakness and drowsiness are early warning signals, followed by high fever and seizures. However, TBE is most often diagnosed in animals with a low immune system. In its early stages, TBE can be treated with antibiotics. Without treatment, TBE leads to fever attacks, fatigue and joint inflammation, and eventually to paralysis. Vaccination is recommended, although unfortunately, it does not offer 100 percent protection.
Ticks lurk in high grass waiting for their victims
The first ticks become active as temperatures rise, usually in March when temperatures go beyond 8°C. May and June see the highest activity, which drops towards the autumn months (October).
These arachnids mainly live in deciduous forests and mixed woodlands. They sit on grasses and ferns at a height of up to 1.5 meters, waiting for their victims. Haller's organ, a sensory organ on the ticks' front legs, enables the eyeless 'vampires' to detect a host animal. Once they have settled on the host, they pierce the animal's skin with their scissor-like mouth parts and suck the blood. They gorge on the host animal for days before dropping off.
Important: check your pet after each outdoor activity
After each walk or time spent outdoors, the body of your dog or cat should be thoroughly examined. Remove any ticks immediately.
In addition, 'spot-on' tick control products recommended by a vet can protect your pet. Drops are applied to the back of the neck where the animal cannot lick them off. Products are available that both defend against ticks and kill them. Take care in the case of the insecticide 'Permethrin': while dogs tolerate this substance very well, it is toxic for cats. Read the instruction sheet carefully and do not use the same product to treat dogs and cats.
Spot-on products are recommended for cats especially, rather than flea collars, because the collar can get caught when cats roam around or climb. In general, commercially available anti-parasite collars do not guarantee 100 percent protection. Each product has an expiry date that must be watched.