While most pet owners are familiar with fleas, many are unaware of the other major external parasite that poses a risk to our pets during the warmer months: ticks on dogs!
Continue reading to learn everything you need to know about ticks on dogs and how to protect your pet.
Ticks can attach to your dog when they go with you on walks, hikes, or during any outdoor activities.
Almost every dog owner has heard of ticks and is aware that these parasites can transmit harmful diseases to both dogs and humans.
Vaccines for the most tick-borne diseases that dogs can contract are not available, and they do not prevent dogs from bringing ticks into your home.
Ticks are arachnids, similar to scorpions, spiders, and mites, and are commonly mistaken for insects. They are active throughout the year but are generally more prevalent in the spring and fall.
Adult ticks all have eight legs and no antennae. They have an egg-shaped body that will become larger and darker when filled with blood.
Unlike fleas, they don’t fly or jump. Instead, ticks wait for host animals on the tips of grasses and shrubs. They can linger for a year without feeding.
When your dog brushes up against a tick, the tick uses its front legs to clip on and then crawls over the coat.
However, it is important to note that when ticks attach to a dog, they will often move around the body, looking for the best place to bite and blood feed.
Once they find a suitable spot on your dog, ticks begin feeding on your dog’s blood. They take several days to complete feeding.
Ticks numb the area before they bite. Their saliva contains a numbing agent called kinases, so your dog won’t feel the bite. The area will remain numb when the tick is feeding on a host’s blood.
What Are the Signs of a Tick on a Dog?
Ticks are good at hiding and can be tough to find, so how do you know if your dog has one?
First of all, tick checks should be part of your daily routine if your dog spends a lot of time outside. Ticks are active all year in many parts of the United States, even after a killing frost.
Ticks are usually dark in color and prefer to hide in deep and dark areas, so they may be difficult to spot on dogs with longer or darker coats. Having your dog groomed will help with the search.
If you see your dog shaking his head more than normal, he may have a tick in his ear canal.
On top of that, any new joint pain (which may manifest as reluctance to stand or lie down, painful crying, gingerly walking, or limping), lethargy, and lack of appetite are common symptoms that may indicate a problem warrant a visit to your veterinarian.
Ticks prefer warm, damp environments and will crawl from the ground up to areas such as a dog’s ears, groin, or under his front legs.
Where to Check Your Dog for Ticks
Spotting these tiny bloodsuckers in a dog’s fur isn’t always easy.
Begin by slowly running your fingers over your dog’s entire body. After feeding, ticks are big enough to spot and feel like a small bump (that wasn’t there before) on your pet’s skin.
So, examine any bumps or swollen areas to see if a tick has burrowed there.
However, don’t just search on your dog’s torso. Instead, examine toes, legs, the insides of their ears, and the area around their face, chin, and neck.
Can Ticks Make My Dog Sick?
Ticks are effective disease carriers because they attach firmly when sucking blood, feed slowly, and can go unnoticed for extended periods while feeding.
Ticks are small arachnids that can carry fatal diseases transferable to humans. The disease that most people are familiar with is known as Lyme disease. Rocky Mountain spotted fever is another.
Lyme disease can cause arthritis and joint swelling in your dog, resulting in painful lameness.
Rocky Mountain spotted fever is characterized by fever, lameness, and other symptoms. Unfortunately, ticks can also transmit various other diseases to your dog.
Although uncommon, ticks can consume enough of your dog’s blood to cause anemia.
In addition, a toxin produced by certain female ticks while feeding can also cause a rare paralysis in dogs.
How to Get a Tick off Your Dog
If you find a tick on your dog, you need to remove it as soon as possible. But you might be wondering how to get ticks off dogs.
First off, it’s important to remove the tick promptly and correctly. When removing a tick, you must be extremely cautious because if the head is left in the animal, it may abscess and cause infection.
On top of that, keep in mind that any contact with the tick’s blood can potentially transmit disease to your dog or you.
Please follow the steps below to remove a tick from your dog.
- Clean tweezers / Tick remover
Never try to remove a tick with your bare hands, as some tick-borne diseases can be immediately transmitted through breaks in your skin or contact with mucous membranes.
So always wear gloves while handling ticks to avoid contact with your skin.
- Once you’ve found the tick, part your dog’s fur gently so you can easily reach it.
- Take your tick remover and gently push it under the tick.
- When you have a firm grip on the tick, twist it several times clockwise until the tick comes loose.
- If using tweezers, make sure to get it as close to your dog’s skin as possible and pull out in a gentle motion.
- Examine your dog’s skin to ensure that the tick has been completely removed.
If the tick has been attached for an extended period and you are unfamiliar with tick removal, you will most likely need to use more force/steady pressure than you might have anticipated.
Please get rid of the tick by soaking it in alcohol or wrapping it in tissue and flushing it down the toilet before washing your hands.
Alternatively, you can bring the tick to a local vet clinic to be tested at the lab for disease.
Keep an eye on the tick’s bite to see if an infection develops. Make an appointment with your veterinarian if the skin remains irritated or infected.
How Do I Prevent My Dog from Getting Ticks?
Ticks become active in the spring once the temperature reaches 45 degrees Fahrenheit, but it’s never too early to start tick prevention!
Ticks are bound to be picked up by dogs from their surroundings, especially if they’ve been running through wooded areas or long grass – a tick’s favorite place to hide while waiting for their next host.
It is challenging to keep your dog from becoming infected with ticks. However, the best way to prevent ticks from attaching to your dog is by the regular use of tick control products.
So, when temperatures begin to rise, your outdoor pets should be treated with a tick preventative.
Moreover, if you live in a tick-infested area, it’s a good idea to use a tick treatment that will either repel ticks or kill them quickly if they attach – the longer the tick is attached, the more likely your dog will catch a disease.
If your dog is heavily infested with ticks, you should take it to a veterinarian for tick removal.
Heavy infestations cause severe skin damage and increase the risk of anemia, paralysis, and other complications.
Your veterinarian is best positioned to provide the necessary care for a heavily infested pet.
Keeping animals away from tick-prone areas is the most effective step you can take to control exposure. On top of that, avoid dealing with ticks by keeping your dog on tick preventatives.