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How do dogs get ticks?

brown-dog-in-the-forest advice
© Unsplash

You love your dog and you do everything in your power to keep him happy and healthy. But unfortunately, no matter how careful you are, ticks can still occur. In this guide, we'll be answering the commonly asked question, 'how do dogs get ticks?' - so you can understand where and when your dog is most at risk.

By Alice Lang

What are ticks on dogs?

Dan Rice, the author of The Dog Handbook, said that “Parasites [ticks] are living organisms that derive their nutrition and live at the expense of their hosts.” Ticks are eight-legged parasites, which basically feed on the blood of the dog (or another animal), which they attach themselves to. Yep, it’s as gross as it sounds!

Tick ©Shutterstock

There are multiple forms of ticks, which can affect dogs in the UK, including sheep ticks, dog ticks and hedgehog ticks. And they’re more than just a little creepy - they can be dangerous, too. Ticks on dogs can carry nasty diseases, including Lyme disease and Ehrlichia, which can affect both the pet and their owner(s).

Fortunately, you can keep your pooch safe by understanding how dogs get ticks, where they’re likely to pick ticks up and at what time of year they’re most at risk. That way, you know when you need to keep an extra close eye on your pup and do regular tick check-ups.

How do dogs get ticks?

Ticks basically ‘hang out’ here on plant material, waiting to jump on the next body which comes nearby. Once they’ve found themselves a new victim, they’ll insert parts of their mouth into the skin, producing a sticky substance which will help them stay firmly attached. Then, they’ll begin to suck the dog’s blood - yuck!

And would you believe, that ticks can live for over a year without food (blood)? They’re determined creatures, that’s for sure.

Generally, dogs at most risk of picking up ticks whilst walking through grassy wildlife, shrubs, fields, forests or woods. Plus, if you enjoy a good hike or walk (with or without your pup) you could find that a few ticks find their way onto your clothes, into your socks, or on your shoes. You’re unlikely to notice them - but if they end up in your home, your dog is likely to become their new home.

Even if you or your dog don’t venture far into the wilderness, they can still pick up ticks. When rats, mice, cats, squirrels or other small animals explore your garden, they’ll often be carrying ticks - which, you guessed it, end up taking a fancy to your garden and ultimately, your dog!

Can dogs get ticks in the city?

We bet you’re thinking “I don’t live near any woodlands or wildlife - how do dogs get ticks in built-up areas?”. Well, good question. A 2016 report by the BBC stated that “the risk of an animal picking up a tick is as great in urban areas as in rural ones”, so your dog is still (unfortunately) at risk.

Whenever you take your dog for a short walk around town, to the park, to the vets, to visit a friend who has a dog or to the boarding kennels, there’s an opportunity for ticks to nuzzle their way into your dog's fur.

When do dogs get ticks?

Now you know how dogs get ticks, it's useful to know at what time of the year they're most at risk. Vets at the Woodland Trust say that

“In the UK, the tick seasons are mostly in the spring and the autumn. However, your dog could get a tick at any time of year.”

It’s true - ticks are much more active in the spring and autumn months. But don’t forget to check for ticks on dogs throughout the year, as it’s possible to find ticks on your dog at any time of the year.

In what areas of the UK will dogs get ticks?

While ticks on dogs can occur in any area of the UK, they are more prevalent in certain locations.

According to the Woodland Trust, you should be particularly wary of ticks in “the New Forest, Exmoor, the South Downs, Thetford Forest, the Lake District, the North Yorkshire Moors, and the Highlands and Islands of Scotland.” As well as this, The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence stated that the South of England and the Scottish Highlands have been earmarked as high-risk areas for Lyme disease.

If you want to take a closer look at where ticks on dogs are most common in the UK, check out the Big Tick Project’s interactive tip map.

Public Health England (PHE) encourages everyone in the UK to ‘be tick aware’ and have created a fantastic tick awareness video where you can find out all about ticks and their risk factors. Make sure you check it out - now you know how dogs get ticks, your next step is to know how to spot and remove them.