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There are 900 different species of ticks worldwide. Luckily, the little bloodsuckers are limited to about 15–20 species in Austria, Germany and Switzerland. The parasites need the blood of a host – an animal or a human – to survive and grow. The dangerous thing about ticks is not the bites themselves, but the possible diseases they can transmit. When it comes to ticks, one thing is always true: Better safe than sorry.
Ticks are circadian arachnids. This means that their body temperature is always the same as the outside temperature. Because of this, they are unable to move in sub-zero temperatures. The warmer it gets, the more lively ticks become. The peak season for ticks traditionally begins in March and lasts until about October. However, neither humans nor animals are really safe on a mild winter day. Shifting weather conditions mean that infestations are increasingly occurring outside tick season. So you should be vigilant throughout the year.
Meadows, fields, woods and hedgerows are where these parasites lurk, staying mostly close to the ground at no more than 50 cm above. It is an old wives' tale that ticks fall from trees. The finest sensory organs allow them to detect the smell of a potential host, its warmth and its CO2 emissions. The signal for the tick to strike. The tick species that most frequently infest our dogs include the castor bean tick, the meadow tick and the brown dog tick. Their shades range from light grey to dark brown.
Once a tick has settled on its victim, it breaks a selected area of skin with its sharp jaw apparatus. Less hairy areas are preferred, especially on the head and ears, but also the groin area and the genital area. It then anchors a sucking spine into the wound, through which the blood flows into its mouth.
Once bitten, the bloodsucker stays on the host for several days to get its fill. Depending on the tick species, the insect can increase its body weight a hundredfold and grow from a millimetre in size to a centimetre.
The bite of a tick itself is not dangerous. This isn't the case with the secretion that ticks release. It's main purpose is to act as an anaesthetic so that their activity remains undetected for as long as possible and it prevents blood clotting in the wound. However, it also contains possible viruses and bacteria that the tick can transmit.
Transmission takes a couple of hours to occur. So it is advisable to carry out a thorough tick check regularly after longer stays outdoors and to remove all greedy troublemakers immediately. Depending on the infection and the dog's general health status, the symptoms as well as the duration differ. Symptoms can range from non-specific diarrhoea, vomiting and fever to apathy and paralysis.
Diseases that ticks can transmit:
It is best to remove the parasite immediately. There are numerous tools for this. Tick tweezers, tick V-tools, tick cards or tick lassos all work well. If necessary, regular tweezers would also do the trick. However, there is a risk with these of squeezing too tightly. The aim is to detach the tick while it is still alive. Why? Because when crushed, it completely empties its stomach contents and secretions into the wound, increasing the risk of disease transmission.
Twist or pull – the most common question when removing ticks. In fact, even vets disagree on the answer to this. On the package instructions of the tick remover of your choice, you will find a recommendation on how best to use it. However, there is one thing everyone agrees on: go slow! Once you've got a hold of the tick with the tweezers, V-tool, card or lasso, take a few seconds to gently (!) pull. This should encourage most ticks to come off. You want to make sure the mouthparts do not break away and get left behind, which may cause unpleasant inflammation in the area. Once you have done it and successfully removed the tick, disinfect the affected skin area and dispose of the tick.
If the redness at the site of the tick bite has not disappeared after a few days, or if it swells or even spreads, please seek veterinary advice. The same applies if symptoms such as diarrhoea, vomiting, fever, apathy, swelling of the lymph nodes or signs of paralysis occur.
Talk to your trusted vet. They know which areas have which tick species lurking around and which products deter or kill the bloodsuckers. It is also important to choose a treatment that is appropriate for your dog's age, health, activities and environment. No matter what you choose, tick protection should be used regularly. Sporadic application after a tick bite is not enough.
The most common remedies available on the market are:
If you come across amber or EM ceramic collars in your search, then you should know that their effect has not yet been scientifically proven. However, there are some home remedies that are considered to be natural tick repellents. In any case, they can act as added protection. Ticks prefer to stay away from coconut oil, black cumin oil, selected essential oils, beer yeast and cistus.
At DOG'S LOVE, we recommend our Super Protect herbal blend. It contains a blend of cistus and coconut together with black cumin seed, lavender and wormwood to provide additional, natural protection against ticks and other parasites. You can feed your dog Super Protect all year round, regardless of age, or use it specifically during tick season.