The dog tick, a parasite of mammals !
The tick is a small insect found throughout Europe. Ticks feed on the blood of the animals they attach themselves to, and will only make three meals in the course of their lives! They can settle in kennels or houses, and thus be a permanent source of contamination. Ticks carry a number of diseases, the best known of which is Lyme disease. So you need to be extra vigilant to make sure you and your pet don't fall victim. In this dossier, you will find a range of answers and natural products to help you combat this insect as effectively as possible.
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Latin name : Ixodes ricinus
Order : Acariens
Family : Ixolidae
Size : 4 to 12 mm
Location : any habitat
Period : all year round
What you need to know about ticks
The tick is a haematophagous mite, meaning it feeds on blood.
On an empty stomach they are around 4 mm long, but after a good blood meal they can grow to over 10 mm, making them the largest of the mites. Before arriving on the dog, the tick will parasitise numerous vertebrates such as lizards, birds and all wild or domestic mammals.
You or your dog can pick up this insect on a walk or simply by going into your garden. Beware: ticks can transmit highly dangerous diseases such as Lyme disease (transmitted by Ixodes ricinus), piroplasm, babesia and human spotted fever (southern France - transmitted by Rhipicephalus sanguineus).
No one is immune to ticks, since their habitats depend on the species. There are those that depend on humidity, found in forests, peri-forests or wooded areas, and those that are adapted to dry or even desert climates.
During the "foraging" phase, the tick waits for a host to attach itself to. Depending on whether ticks are exophilic or endophilic, you will find them on blades of grass, grasses, ferns, etc., or on the ground, on the twigs of nests and burrows or the crevices of caves. Adults can climb up to 1.5 m. However, contrary to what some people think, ticks do not climb trees!
Ticks can survive between -20°C (adult female) and +41°C. They also need a high level of humidity: 80-85%.
Tick life cycle
Ticks feed exclusively on the blood of the animals they attach themselves to, and will only make three meals in the course of their lives !
The life of a hard tick consists of three stages of development : larva, nymph and adult. At each stage, the tick takes a single blood meal, on a different host each time. Each stage is separated by a metamorphosis phase, which takes place in the soil or in a burrow.
The blood meal lasts from 2 to 15 days, depending on the species and stage (larva, nymph or adult female). The adult male does not feed. The most important blood meal is that of the adult female, as it precedes fertilisation and egg-laying; the female Ixodes ricinus can grow 200 times larger when gorged on blood. Ticks can live up to 3 years.
In order, here's how it happens :
Adult females lay eggs on the ground. Their eggs hatch, releasing larvae resembling miniature ticks.
The larvae climb to the top of plants and wait for a host on which they can attach themselves. The larvae attach themselves to the skin and take a single blood meal, then drop to the ground where they transform into nymphs.
The nymphs in turn climb onto plants to parasitise a new host. Once gorged with blood, they drop to the ground and move on to the adult stage.
Finally, the adults (males and females) reproduce the same pattern: ambush at the top of a stem, a single blood meal on a new host and return to the ground. It is then that the females, fertilised by the males, lay their eggs.
To complete their life cycle, ticks need moderate humidity and warmth. They can wait for favourable weather conditions for several months, or even several years. As a result, tick infestations are seasonal, especially in northern Europe, where the risks are greater in spring and autumn. In the south, infestations are less seasonal.
How does the tick locate its host in order to feed ?
Ticks locate their hosts using a highly specialised recognition system, called chemoreceptors, located on the legs (and not in the antennae, as is often the case with insects). Ticks have no visual perception. They orient themselves towards their hosts, stimulated by their scent. Temperature sensitivity is not a factor, as ticks also bite cold-blooded animals (snakes, lizards, orvets, etc.).
Ticks transmit around thirty pathogens, some of which are of interest to us, causing diseases in our dogs as well as in humans. Ticks are among the most important vectors of disease on the planet. Unlike mosquitoes, ticks are in contact for long periods (2 to 15 days) with a wide variety of hosts through which they spread pathogens. In this way, germs circulate from a reservoir population of vertebrate hosts to the ticks, which transmit them to other vertebrate hosts. The tick's exceptional longevity (up to 3 years) makes it both a good vector and an excellent reservoir.
The tick is a vector for 4 diseases
- Piroplasmosis or Babebiosis (all of France)
- Lyme disease or Borreliosis (all of France)
- Canine Ehrlichiosis (southern France)
- Canine hepatozoonosis (south-east France): a parasitic disease that is rare in France, contracted by ingesting a tick.
Tick-borne encephalitis mainly affects humans. Rare cases of infection have been reported in dogs, but most of these previous reports have proved to be erroneous. (Eastern France)
The great danger is piroplasmosis
Babésia canis is the pathogen of Babesiosis, or piroplasmosis, a potentially fatal disease.
The tick gets infected by taking blood from an infected animal and transmits the parasite and the disease by biting a healthy dog. Two ticks are vectors of this serious disease : Dermacentor reticulatus and Rhipicephalus sanguineus.
3 - Protect yourself : we recommend wearing light-coloured clothing that covers the skin to make it easier to locate ticks, and wearing closed-toe shoes to prevent ticks from attaching themselves to the skin. When out and about, stay on the paths, taking care to avoid places likely to be inhabited by ticks. In gardens, you can limit their proliferation by cutting the grass short and removing dead leaves, which are a haven for larvae.
4 - Inspect your body thoroughly after your walk (especially the scalp in the case of children) and if you find any ticks, use the Tick Twister tick-pulling hook, then disinfect.
How can you protect your pets from ticks ?
1 - Treat your pets' baskets or kennels with our insecticide for all insects 4J diluted at 5% (500ml spray for 5 m2).
2 - You can protect your pets with various repellents : before going out in tall grass, protect your dog occasionally with our STOP fleas and ticks insect repellent foam, our STOP fleas and ticks insect repellent lotion, our insect repellent dry shampoo or our Alt'o Zinsect insect repellent spray or gel.
3 - Check your pet's coat regularly and thoroughly, especially after a walk outdoors, to make sure there are no ticks attached (beware of sensitive areas such as the eyelids, behind the ears, scalp, etc. You may need to do a tactile check, as larvae and nymphs are difficult to see). Avoid sleeping with your pets.
If you find a tick, don't pull on it, as the head will remain attached to the animal. We recommend removing it with our specially designed Tick Twister, then disinfecting. Do not pull violently or horizontally, but perpendicular to the skin, in line with the insect's jaws. Finally, if your pet is itching after extraction, be sure to disinfect first, then apply our soothing and deodorising STOP scratch lotion made from natural plant extracts.
Our other effective products against ticks
Frequently asked questions about ticks
Q: Can you tell me if your zero-chip cat product is effective against ticks ?
R: According to the manufacturer, this product is effective against a large number of parasites. Laboratory tests have shown it to be highly effective against fleas and ticks.
Q: I've just been given 2 rabbits that are quite big (3 to 4 kilos) and have never lived outdoors. I'd like to leave them in my garden and am looking for a non-harmful product to keep fleas and ticks away. I also have 3 children who play with these rabbits.
R: Take a flea repellent or a small dog collar. We have some on sale in our shop in the "Pet Protection" category.
Q: My kennel is infested with ticks. What do you recommend I use ? I have about forty dogs plus puppies. I have a reception area with a shop where I sell accessories and hygiene products.
R: For premises, pens or buildings, you can treat with our 4J insecticide. This will treat both ticks and other insects such as fleas. For dogs, we have various products: collars, pipettes, shampoos or sprays (ALT'O ZINSECT spray).
Q: Hello, I have a dog (expecting puppies) and two cats. My animals roam freely in our garden. I think we have a family of hedgehogs which attract the curiosity of our animals and which carry many parasites. My dog brings me ticks every day, even though she is treated with frontline combo. Our dog sometimes sleeps on our bed and I've already discovered two ticks on our bed. What can I do to treat this problem without endangering my dog's future puppies ?
R: Hedgehogs do have a thin coat and bare skin between the quills, which attracts fleas and ticks. Sometimes there are so many of them that they cause the death of a weakened or elderly hedgehog by sucking its blood. However, I thought that the Frontline combo was a preventive product that also cured ticks, with a minimum of one month's protection. This type of product is not a repellent but an insecticide, which means that the insects only die once they have bitten the animal. It is possible that the ticks you find are dead. The dog and cat collars on the market are designed to protect our pets from ticks and fleas. A word of advice: make sure your pets don't get into bedrooms. If they are carriers of fleas or ticks, they will inevitably bring them back into these rooms.
Q: We've ordered insecticide to treat certain parts of a garden to eradicate ticks. We're planning to treat the areas in the path of a dog and along a wooded area. Can you tell us the recommended dilution volume for this operation ?
R: For ticks, a 3% dilution of our 4J insecticide should be sufficient. Treatment should preferably be carried out on well-mown areas and in the evening (cool and shady).
Q: We're looking for a tick repellent for ourselves and our pets that's non-toxic because it can be applied daily in a tick-infested area! (1 to 4 ticks per week on us).
R: For pets, the flea repellents we sell are effective. In particular, you'll find our ALT'O ZINSECT insect repellent spray, a formula combining 3 well-known active ingredients (Eucalyptus citriodora, vegetable pyrethrum and geraniol), which are extremely effective in keeping biting insects at bay. For you, use our anti-insect body lotion instead. It's made from eucalyptus citriodora plus a vegetable oil for better application to the skin.
Q: What product is effective against ticks on a 14 kg dog? My animal has had piroplasmosis in the last few days (he's 9 years old) despite the essential oils used, which are supposed to be anti tick; frankly, I'm now very scared. Before every outing, I used to put quite a lot of it all over his coat (lavender-geranium-nem etc.....). What do you advise me to do ?
R: The product we think is most effective is our ALT'O ZINSECT insect repellent spray, given its composition, but we've never personally tested it on ticks.