Flint the Border collie puppy had so many ticks attached to her skin that I lost count.

Most dogs that come to the surgery with ticks have one or two. Often the owner worries that the rapidly swelling lump is some sort of tumour, or sometimes it is the other way around and what the owner thinks is a tick turns out to be a wart.

For Flint there was no mistake. Before she left the farm in Wales where she was bred she must have got out into some long grass where the sheep go. Once the ticks sense the rising temperature in the spring they climb up the stems of the long grass they love to hide in and attach themselves to anything warm-blooded that comes past, and she must have just been in the wrong place at the wrong time. She certainly holds the record for the most ticks I have ever seen on one dog. Somewhere around a hundred was my best guess.

The ticks were making her so uncomfortable that I had to give her a light anaesthetic before I could remove them without her crying in pain. Just in case there were any more that had escaped my inspection, I also sprayed her with Frontline, which as well as being one of the best treatments for killing fleas, also kills ticks. The ticks that covered her varied from pinhead to pea size, and dark grey to white in colour.

They have a hard shiny outer shell which swells as they suck blood. As I carefully pulled them off with a gentle straight pull I held each one up to be sure all its mouth parts had not broken off, which causes an abscess.

After a precautionary shot of penicillin, Flint was soon on the mend. In many parts of the world the trouble with ticks is not so much the ticks themselves as the diseases they can spread. Here in the United Kingdom we are lucky that although ticks are common, they rarely spread serious diseases to people or animals.

Global warming and freer movement of dogs from other European countries could change this. A serious dog disease called Babesiasis is spread by ticks in the south of France. It is an interesting question whether it could spread to this country. Lyme disease is an infection spread by ticks in the USA and sometimes in this country. It is important because it affects both people and dogs and is serious if not treated. Removing ticks within 24 hours is said to be the best prevention.

Converted for the new archive on 30 June 2000. Some images and formatting may have been lost in the conversion.