Ticks: Disease Transmission, Symptoms and Removal Techniques

Ticks are external parasites, and globally they rival only mosquitos as carriers of disease. 

Their natural habitat is thick grass – fields, meadows, farmland and woods are all favourite locations. If you or your pet visit areas such as this, be extra vigilant.

Parasites live by feeding off a host, and as they move from one to another they quickly and easily pick up and spread diseases. Some of these diseases are not only dangerous to your pet, but also to the rest of your family (see below) so it’s really important to give your pet continuous year-round protection against ticks.  We offer a monthly treatment for fleas and ticks and you can save money on this if you’re a member of our VIP Club.

What do ticks look like and can I spot them whilst out?

Ticks change shape as they feed, starting off the size and shape of a small seed but growing to the size of a baked bean once they’ve fed from their host. They vary in colour as well as shape and size, but are often a dull brown or grey.

Whilst in their natural environment and are waiting for their next host to walk by (they often climb to the top of a blade of grass and wait for any passing animal or human) they’re so tiny that they’re unlikely to be spotted and avoided.

What diseases do ticks carry and can they cause other problems?

Problems range from itchiness and local infection to disease that can have lifelong consequences for your pet – and for your family if a tick decides to make you its host.

Ticks produce mucous that they use on the feeding site to help them stay on, and this can be really irritating for your pet. If they then scratch themselves in response to this and to get the tick off they can make themselves bleed, get an infection in the broken skin, and possibly scratch the tick off but leave part of it inside them that can then become infected. There have also been cases of anaemia in badly infested pets, and reports of some female ticks releasing a toxin that can result in paralysis. Thankfully there are so far very rare in this country. 

One of the biggest and most serious threats is Lyme disease which is caused by very resilient bacteria. The symptoms of this are arthritis, painful swollen joints and lameness.  In humans, the symptoms are often a rash, joint pain, fever, and headaches. As these are all common to many different diseases, diagnosis can sometimes take a while or be missed completely.  If this disease is left untreated, it can lead to an extremely serious debilitating chronic illness with permanent complications.

Are ticks a seasonal problem?

Ticks are often more active in spring and autumn when it’s warm and damp, but they can be found all year round. With a 75% increase in pets coming into the UK, we are now seeing the emergence of foreign ticks such as the kennel tick on recently travelled dogs, so it’s now even more important to protect your pet all year round.

I’ve found a tick! What should I do?

Regular grooming and vigilance should help you identify any unwelcome visitors. Always brush your pet against the hair growth as well as with to help you identify any embedded ticks, and carefully check awkward areas such as their ears, face and paw pads.

If you spot one, don’t panic, and don’t pull it straight off as embedded mouth parts can be left behind and cause further problems.  It’s also important not to do anything that makes the tick feel stress, as they can often regurgitate their meal back into the host along with any diseases they’re carrying. Traditional ways to remove them include burning them with a match or flame, pulling hard on them or covering them in Vaseline to suffocate them and all of these would cause stress to them that could further harm your pet.

How to safely remove a tick

Always have a ‘tick removal kit’ ready at home so you don’t have to spend time getting everything together if you do identify a tick. This kit should include a tick removal tool (available relatively cheaply from your vet or online, although you could use tweezers), gloves, a jar with a lid, rubbing alcohol and some antiseptic wipes.

  1. Put on your gloves. As ticks spread disease through the bloodstream they could infect you through any broken skin.
  2. Hold your pet and make sure they are calm. They’re going to have to remain still for a minute or so to allow you to remove the parasite. Get someone to hold the pet for you if you can.
  3. Place your removal tool or tweezers around the part of the tick closest to your pet’s body, being careful not to pinch your pet’s skin.
  4. Using a steady pressure, gently pull the tick out. Try not to move suddenly, pull too hard or twist too much as you don’t want the tick to regurgitate whatever is inside it back in to your pet, or for any of it to be left behind.
  5. Put the tick in the jar and examine it to check it’s still in once piece and nothing has been left inside your pet.
  6. Add some rubbing alcohol (vodka would do but it seems a waste!) to kill the tick. Keep it in the jar somewhere for a few days until you’re sure your pet is well. If you pet starts to display any symptoms such as a reluctance to move, fever, extreme tiredness, loss of appetite and swollen lymph nodes then bring both your pet and the tick to us straight away so we can check them over and be sure of the parasite that infected them.
  7. Disinfect the bite site with disinfecting wipes or some fresh rubbing alcohol. Keep an eye on the site and contact us if it becomes red or inflamed.

Can I stop my pet getting ticks, and if not isn’t it enough to just regularly check my pet?

When they first attach they are usually only the size of a sesame seed and are often hiding between toes and under ears. They can be almost impossible to spot until they’ve been on there for long enough to grow bigger, become irritating to your pet, and have potentially transmitted diseases.

There is no tick repellent, but treatment works in the same way as flea protection. The substance will penetrate the fatty, subcutaneous layer just under the pet’s skin and give the tick a dose of the anti-parasitic drug as soon as they first feed.  As ticks pass on disease within the first 24 hours of attaching to a host, it’s important to kill them off as soon as possible. The only reliable way of doing this is through a continuous protection programme.

We’ve specifically developed The Castle Club to make it simple for you to look after your pet. Get access to year-round flea, worm and tick treatments, and many further benefits designed to keep your pet healthy and happy all year.

The Itchy Issue of Fleas: A Risk for Your Pet and Your Family

The Itchy Issue of Fleas: A Risk for Your Pet and Your Family

Fleas – putting your family at risk all year round

Fleas are often considered to be a seasonal nuisance that are annoying for your pet, and annoying for you when you get nipped by one at home.  But they’re a more serious problem than this, are a year-long threat, and can cause serious distress to your pet and spread disease.  

Our centrally heated homes are the perfect year-round breeding ground for fleas who are attracted to the warm environment, so they aren’t just a spring and summer issue. Eggs can lay dormant in pet beds, carpets, rugs and upholstery for months before finding a host. In fact much of the life cycle of the flea takes place in the animal’s environment, not on the animal itself. Protecting your pet and your family requires this life-cycle to be broken by year round protection, and ideally by using a treatment that renders the eggs unable to hatch, so any that do transfer to the environment don’t start the cycle all over again.


Heavy infestations may lead to iron deficiency, anaemia and death, particularly in young animals. Other diseases caused by fleas include pruritis (itching), moist dermatitis and flea allergic dermatitis. Fleas also transmit tapeworms, feline infectious anaemia and bacteria that cause cat scratch fever and have also been implicated in chronic fatigue syndrome in humans.

Why ad-hoc treatments just don’t work

By the time you notice fleas on your pet, they have already bitten their host and injected their saliva in to their blood stream and started laying eggs. In the same way, ticks transmit disease within the first 24 hours of being attached to a host, so once they are discovered and removed it’s too late to stop this transmission.  The chances are that they will already have laid eggs before treatment, and these are sitting in a warm and cosy environment just waiting to hatch and infest your pet all over again. Even if you use a treatment that remains active for a month, it’s possible that some eggs and/or fleas will be lurking for longer than this period and will get to work once the treatment has worn off.

So, reactive and one-off treatments are both insufficient in preventing the spread of disease AND do nothing to prevent the initial attack or to break the life cycle. We recommend monthly treatments with an integrated product which not only kills any fleas that attack your pet, but also stops the development of eggs and therefore breaks the life-cycle. This approach will stop any initial infestation and protect your home, your pet and your family throughout the year. 

We’ve specifically developed The Castle Club to make it simple for you to look after your pet. Get access to annual flea and worming treatments and much more, all design to ensure your pet stays healthy.

Just discovered your pet has fleas?

1. Treat your pet

You will need to treat them with a product that kills the fleas and preferably one that contains a growth regulator to prevent eggs from hatching. Call us and we can let you know which products these are.

treat your pet - the itchy issue of fleas
2. Treat your environment

The house (and car) will need to be treated with an insecticide spray. A spray containing S-methoprene such as RIP (available at the practice) is the most effective mild insecticide for this and will kill live fleas and stop eggs hatching. If your infestation is or becomes more severe, you will need to contact your local pest control agency which will have insecticides not generally available to the general public and will be able to come out and treat your house.

treat your environment - the itchy issue of fleas
3. Vacuum soft furnishings, bedding and carpets thoroughly

This really helps remove any fleas, eggs or lavae that might be lurking or have been transferred around the house by feet or general movement.

Vacuum soft furnishings, bedding and carpets thoroughly - the itchy issue of fleas
2. Treat your environment

The house (and car) will need to be treated with an insecticide spray. A spray containing S-methoprene such as RIP (available at the practice) is the most effective mild insecticide for this and will kill live fleas and stop eggs hatching. If your infestation is or becomes more severe, you will need to contact your local pest control agency which will have insecticides not generally available to the general public and will be able to come out and treat your house. 

treat your environment - the itchy issue of fleas
4. Wash anything such as pet beds, rugs, blankets and cushions

Fleas and eggs are unlikely to survive a once round in the washing machine and it is another good way to make sure none have escaped treatment. (It’s still  important to treat first to kill as many as possible this way as movement and transfer is likely to make any unwelcome visitors spread around your home).

Wash anything such as pet beds, rugs, blankets and cushions - the itchy issue of fleas

Managing treatments

Monthly application of product involves some organisation – remembering the date to treat, when they were last treated and making sure you have to product to hand. To make this simpler (and cheaper!) for you, membership of the Castle Care Club ensures you have the product every month without fail. From the day you join you know when each month to treat, and can do so without having to order your treatment and wait for it to arrive which is time consuming, liable to fail if only through the weight of our busy lives, and can be costly. It also ensures that you and your family are protected year round.

We’ve specifically developed The Castle Club to make it simple for you to look after your pet. Get access to annual flea and worming treatments and much more, all design to ensure your pet stays healthy.

Join us for Puppy Training Club

Exciting news….

Our Puppy Training Club is back!

We are restarting our Puppy Club, a 6 week puppy training course held every Tuesday evening at the Poundbury Clinic at 7.30pm run by Watercombe dog trainers.

What the course covers:

Puppy Training! They will look at foundations for confidence, recall, loose lead, walking focus and impulse control, all done in a fun and enjoyable way for you and your pup. They will talk through common puppy problems and how to overcome them.

How to book:

This is a 6-week course and costs £70.00.

This is currently restricted to 4 pups per class.

Your puppy will be able to attend a week after their 2nd vaccination.

To book your place, click the button below to visit www.watercombedogs.co.uk where you can book the course:

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to call us on 01305 267083

Pets and Fireworks | Top Tips To Help Pets Scared of Fireworks

Pets and Fireworks – Why Noise Annoys, and How Fears Can Turn Into Life-Limiting Phobias

Around 60% of our furry friends become agitated and afraid whilst fireworks are going off, so aside from being unpleasant for both them and your family, it’s little surprise that statistically more pets are reported missing on bonfire night than any other night during the year.

If the fear isn’t dealt with, it can quickly turn into a phobia. This is a lot more severe than anxiety and is defined as a persistent, excessive, and irrational fear response. It WILL NOT go away without help. Your dog isn’t going to grow out of it or get used to it and minor anxiety can quickly turn into a fear of thunder, then fear of sudden noise like people calling out in the street, or doors closing, and severely restrict their enjoyment of life – and yours. Scared dogs make difficult companions.

If you feel your pet would benefit from extra help, remember that Castle Club members benefit from unlimited behaviour and training advice, which includes help with anxious pets, training and anything else you may need. (Not a member yet? Click here to read the full list of year-round benefits)

No one knows why pets develop fears and phobias, but it is known that dogs who have separation anxiety often also develop a fear of noise, so if you have a nervous puppy be extra vigilant for the early signs of noise fear.

The signs are different in all animals but can often include:

  • Hiding (cats like to do this more than dogs)
  • Urinating and defecating around the house in otherwise house-trained animals
  • Chewing
  • Panting
  • Pacing
  • Trying to escape (digging, trying to get out through windows, running away)
  • Dribbling
  • Over-dependence on the owner
  • Loss of appetite
  • Ignoring commands
  • Trembling or shaking
  • Uncharacteristic barking or meowing

Although it sounds wrong, it is important to try NOT to comfort nervous pets whilst they’re showing signs of fear or anxiety as it both rewards a fearful response and reinforces their belief that there is something to be fearful of.  Animals will also pick up on your anxiety which can make the problem worse, so try to remain calm and relaxed and carry on as if nothing is happening. Never punish your pet for fearful behaviour either, as they will associate the fear they feel with punishment and it will justify their fear to them.


Keep this information handy

If you have a potentially anxious pet – although it is generally a sensible list to keep handy – you should have the following information readily available to you during firework season. Storing it on your phone is a good way to do this.

You should note down:

  • Your pet’s microchip number/microchip database (microchips are now a legal requirement in dogs)
  • Local dog warden’s number
  • Local police contact
  • A clear photograph of your pet
  • Access to missing pet websites

Be aware that fireworks night is not just a night! As the date falls on a weekday this year, events will take place on the weekends either side and fireworks are sold well in advance of November 5th until after News Year’s Eve. If your pet is sensitive to them you need to ACT NOW to save them several months of distress.

What can I do?!

Download our FREE guide!

You can download our handy guide on Firework Fears and Phobias where we detail what you can do to help your cats, dogs, rabbits and other small animals during the weeks before and the day of the event. It’s packed with good ideas and will help get your pet through this potentially stressful time.

If you think your pet suffers from more than just minor anxiety or would like to discuss any behavioural issues, book an appointment to come and chat to us about it. We can offer behavioural consultations, supplements and plug-ins to help calm them, and in really bad situations we can prescribe sedatives.

Don’t let your pet suffer unnecessary anxiety.


To find out more and book an appointment, call the practice on  01698 361 136



Castle Club members benefit from unlimited behaviour and training advice, which includes help with anxious pets, training and anything else you may need. (Not a member yet? Click here to read the full list of year-round benefits)

Pet Obesity | The Growing Issue of Overweight Pets

The weighty issue of the portly pet

Overweight pets – a growing trend

Our pets are mirroring the human obesity growth curve, and very overweight cats and dogs are becoming common. As in humans, being overweight can cause many health issues for our pets. These include:

  • Diabetes
  • Arthritis, joint and mobility problems
  • Increased frequency of joint injuries
  • High blood pressure
  • Skin and coat problems
  • Urinary disease
  • Heart disease
  • Shorter lifespan than fitter pets
  • Tendency to interact less with their families.

The term obesity is used to describe a condition that is more serious than just being overweight. When a dog or cat is classed as obese, it means that their fat has now reached the stage where their bodies struggle to maintain good health.


In 2018, results of an online survey* suggested that around 59% of dogs and 53% of cats throughout the world are obese. In fact, this rapidly increasing problem is now so significant that the World Small Animal Veterinary Association have officially classed canine obesity as a disease.

But it’s not always obvious to us…

This survey also showed that only 24% of owners thought their pet was overweight. This suggests pet owners not realising that their pet is obese has also become a big part of the problem. When you see your pet every day, and pets around you are slowly getting bigger too, a larger size becomes normal.


Why is obesity becoming more common?

The science behind overweight pets is usually as simple as it is in humans – more often than not a pet is obese because they’re eating more calories than they’re burning off.  There are occasions where genetics or other health factors play a part, and some breeds are more likely to gain fat than others. There might also be some medical reasons that are contributing, for example, undiagnosed joint pain restricting their movement, or an underactive thyroid slowing down their metabolism.

Before starting your pet on a diet or increased exercise schedule, you should book a FREE weight clinic check-up with one of us to make sure there aren’t any underlying medical issues.

Don’t forget that if you’re a member of The Castle Club you'll already have a full health check with a vet every year, and one six months later with a nurse. Plus, you can arrange for a weight check or weight clinic FREE OF CHARGE whenever you feel you need it.

Not already a member?
The Growing Trend of Overweight Pets
How do I know if my pet is overweight?

There are some visual checks you can do at home that will give you an idea of their condition:

  • You should be able to see their ribs under their coat, or if they have a thick coat, you should be able to feel them.
  • A clearly defined waist should be visible from the side and from above
  • When you look at them from the side, you shouldn’t be able to see a rounded or saggy belly
I think my pet is overweight. What should I do?

More pets are being fed complete diets in the form of biscuits, and this has resulted in well-nourished animals, as the nutritional quality of the food makes sure they get all they need. The downside of biscuits is that it’s easy for us to fill their bowl each day as that seems like the right amount to give them, and it’s often way too much.

To ensure they aren’t consuming more calories than they need, check the pet food packaging. Many pet foods come with a cup with a portion size printed on the side. If not, weigh the food using kitchen scales until you get an idea about how much they should have each day, then split that across their meals.

Take care with extra treats! For a small dog, one biscuit can be the additional calorie equivalent of a burger.

Below is a comparison of some common treats for pets in human terms:

Source: https://www.hillspet.co.uk/pet-care/nutrition-feeding/human-food-treat-translator

How much exercise should pets have?

Dogs need to be walked every day, although the amount of exercise they need varies depending on their breed, age, size and general health. Your dog should be either walking or running for between 30 minutes and two hours daily. Hunting and working breeds need the most exercise and plenty of time to run around and explore off the lead.

Cats will only do exactly what they want when they want. This includes active time, and they’ll control their own, although you can encourage them to want to move around by getting some irresistible-to-cats toys – lights that move around, balls to chase around tubes, feathers on sticks, and small cat toys are often enjoyed but try a few and see which ones result in a playful cat.


The best approach to weight management is to monitor and prevent excessive weight gain

As many of us know from personal experience, losing weight can be boring and difficult. It’s much easier to maintain weight by making tweaks to food intake and exercise when needed, and better for long-term health too.  It’s also good to have support, as denying your pet simples pleasures can be as hard for us as it is for them, even when we know we’re doing it because we love them. That’s where our weight clinics can help…

FREE weight clinics for our clients

Our pet weight clinic aims to improve the health and overall fitness of your pet. We do this by holding regular appointments with our friendly and non-judgemental nurses in which we weigh and measure your pet and discuss diet.

We will track your pet’s weight loss over time by measuring your pets neck, widest part of the chest and waist. We also weigh and body condition score to build up a full picture of their overall progress.

With your consent we also take pictures before, during and after weight loss as it’s not always easy to see the progress when you see them every day.

If you think this service would be useful for you or you’d just like to check that your pet is the right weight, call to make a free appointment on Dorchester (Poundbury) 01305 267083 or Weymouth 01305 81330

Don’t forget that if you’re a member of The Castle Club you'll already have a full health check with a vet every year, and one six months later with a nurse. Plus, you can arrange for a weight check or weight clinic FREE OF CHARGE whenever you feel you need it.

Not already a member?

*The survey was conducted online during January and February 2018.  The total sample size was 5,309 cat and dog owners who were responsible for their pet’s health and well-being (Brazil 1,068; China 1,036; Russian 1,111; United Kingdom 1,023 and United States 1,071).

Health Benefits of Veterinary Acupuncture for Pets

Did you know that pets, as well as people, can respond really well to acupuncture?

We’re delighted to now be able to offer this ancient Chinese therapy as a holistic supplement to traditional veterinary care. Veterinary acupuncture can be particularly useful when dealing with mobility issues, chronic pain conditions such as joint pain, and gastrointestinal issues. It’s an ideal treatment for older, geriatric pets who can find the therapy quiet calming, although it’s a useful complementary treatment for all life-stages.

Veterinary acupuncture is thought to work in a few different ways:
  • It can stimulate the release of the pain relieving and anti-inflammatory chemicals as well as relax muscles at the site of the needle insertion, causing both local and more generalised pain relief
  • Veterinary acupuncture can improve blood flow to tissue, increase oxygenation and remove metabolic waste and toxins
  • Unlike prescription drugs, there are no potential adverse side effects. It can also safely be used in conjunction with traditional vet medicine

Vet Alice Moore, who joined us in April, has been treating patients with acupuncture for a number of years.

“I find veterinary acupuncture to be useful in treating a whole range of conditions” says Alice. “Owners are often surprised that cats, dogs and rabbits all tolerate acupuncture really well and I have used it to treat back pain, arthritis, bladder problems and all sorts of lameness issues”

Alice Moore

Veterinary Surgeon

Here are some photos of Raz and Monty who are both being treated at our Dorchester clinic.

If you think your pet might benefit from veterinary acupuncture or are just interested to learn more, contact us on 01305 267083 or using Petsapp

Castle Vets have partnered with Virtual Veterinary Specialists!

Castle Vets have partnered with Virtual Veterinary Specialists, a team of world-class specialists who work alongside our excellent veterinary team here at Castle Vets to achieve the best possible outcomes for your beloved pet.

So if we feel that your pet would benefit from being examined by a specialist for a more complex health issue, we can now use cutting edge technology to enable us to work together with the specialist to examine and treat your pet, here at Castle Vets.

This option is not only very convenient for you as there is no need to travel or take time off of work, but it is also much less stressful for your pet as they remain in the familiar environment of our practice with our caring veterinary team.  And you can rest assured that your beloved pet has received the best possible veterinary care all under one roof, here at Castle Vets!

Mitral Valve Disease (MVD) in Dogs

Does your dog have a big heart?

We should check it’s the right kind!

Here at Castle Vets we are launching a campaign to get as many dogs as possible diagnosed and staged with their heart disease because it can make a real difference to the outcome.

There are different types of heart disease but one of the most common causes of a murmur is Mitral Valve Disease (MVD).

What is Mitral Valve disease in dogs?

Mitral Valve Disease, Canine Myxomatous, or MVD, is a condition that primarily affects small to medium sized dogs, although it can affect any size dog. Degenerative changes thicken the valve in the heart, causing it to leak. When the disease progresses, the heart enlarges. This can eventually lead to heart failure.

Not all dogs with MVD will go into heart failure. Dogs with MVD who do go into heart failure are normally those with an enlarged heart. Usually dogs with both MVD and an enlarged heart will develop heart failure within 1-2 years.

There are certain breeds that are known to be likely to develop this condition, such as; Cavalier King Charles Spaniels and Dachschunds. Although the genetics are being investigated, the disease is very common in small breed dogs as they age.

Dogs with MVD and an enlarged heart have been shown to stay outwardly healthy for longer and live longer with treatment. This is why it is important to check your dog’s heart so that treatment can be started at the right time to delay the onset of heart failure and keep them happy and healthy for as long as possible.

What can I do about MVD?

Here at Castle Vets, we have partnered with Virtual Veterinary Specialists to offer a Mitral Valve Screening ultrasound scan with a Specialist Cardiologist. Find out more about Virtual Veterinary Specialists here

Get £50 off an MVD Screening with a Specialist Cardiologist

For October and November we can offer MVD Screening for just £250. (Usually £300)
The scan will assess the severity of the heart disease and whether the heart is enlarged. If indicated then medicine can be prescribed to slow the progression of the disease.

Call the surgery to book an MVD Screening today
Simply call the surgery to book a Mitral Valve Screening Ultrasound appointment today and we can keep your dog happy and healthy for as long as possible.

Dorchester: 01305 267083 Weymouth: 01305 813303

If you would like further information on Mitral Valve Disease then we recommend taking a look at http://bit.ly/beatdogheartdisease