Ticks and your dog

Ticks and your dog  - A dog with a tick on their forehead

As a pet owner, you should be aware of what a tick is, what to look for, and most importantly, how to safely and effectively remove a tick.

Ticks come in many forms and exist all across the nation. Depending on your location, ticks can be lively during any season, however, ticks start to slow down when the temperature drops below freezing in the fall. Dormant ticks usually begin searching for food when the weather warms up in mid-March to April.

Adult ticks have eight legs and are about the size of a ladybug. They feed on the blood of all kinds of animals, from birds to deer to humans. They are challenging to see, especially in dogs with long or dark hair, so they can bite and spread diseases before pet owners even notice.

Ticks are found in wooded areas with shrubs, tall grasses, and weeds. These places are convenient for ticks to find animals walking by, including your dog. In addition, ticks may also live in overgrown patches in backyards, wood piles, and even bird feeders. When “questing” for a new host, they will let go of the vegetation and climb onto the host. Ticks cannot jump or fly, but may crawl hundreds of times their body length to find a host.

How do you tell if your dog has a tick?

Unlike fleas, tick bites do not usually irritate dogs, so dogs typically do not let us know when they have one. This is why daily checks are essential. As soon as your dog comes into the house, check their entire body thoroughly. Focus especially around their ears, eyelids, under their collar, between the front and back legs, between their toes, and around the tail. Part their fur with your hands looking for ticks. Keep in mind that even if you do miss a tick that has arrived on your dog, ticks usually do not cause long term health problems for dogs and humans. They will detach after they are done feeding and leave a bite that can be inflamed and scabby. This mark will take up to two weeks to heal, even if you correctly remove the tick, but is usually not a cause for concern.

What should you do if your dog has a tick?

As soon as you find a tick, you should remove it. There are many folk remedies about using petroleum jelly or touching the tick with a hot match to make the tick release. These methods only make it harder to remove the tick and can even harm your dog. Instead, follow these steps to safely remove a tick from your four-legged friend:

  1. Grab the tick as close to the skin as possible with disinfected tweezers.
  2. Pull upwards without twisting or jerking the tick. Once the skin tents up, wait a few seconds. It will usually let go. If not, keep applying steady, straight upward pressure until it does.
  3. Once the tick is out, clean the infected area with rubbing alcohol or soap and water. Clean your hands as well.
  4. Get rid of the tick by putting it in alcohol or flushing it down the toilet.

If your dog develops a fever, rash, or other symptoms over the next few weeks to months, see a veterinarian for treatment.

What can happen if your dog gets a tick?

For both dogs and people, tick bites usually aren’t more than a nuisance. Ticks can impact your dog's well-being in three ways. Take note that these scenarios do not happen with every tick bite, but can be severe when they do occur.

  1. If enough ticks are attached to your dog, they can become anemic by too much blood loss. Small dogs and puppies are at the most risk of anemia due to tick infestation.
  2. Tick-borne diseases, such as Lyme disease, can be transmitted to your dog if the tick is on them long enough. The risk for Lyme disease and other tick-borne illnesses is higher in some geographic locations than others.
  3. Some species of ticks produce a toxin in their saliva and in rare cases this causes paralysis in dogs. Tick paralysis is a quick and progressive disease that usually shows signs 5 days after the tick begins feeding on your dog. Symptoms start with weakness in the hind limbs and difficulty walking that works its way up the dog’s body, eventually causing complete paralysis.

How do you prevent ticks on your dog?

Dogs who frequently go outside in areas with heavy tick populations are prone to getting ticks and tick bites. Provide veterinarian-approved flea and tick medication to your dog. Be aware that many over-the-counter products on the market have harmful ingredients, especially if you also have cats in your home. These chemicals can cause pyrethroid and organophosphate toxicoses. The most reliable and safest source for information regarding ticks comes from a veterinarian.

A vaccine is available for Lyme disease, but it does not prevent ticks from biting your dogs. Prevent ticks in your yard by clearing brush and plant debris, mowing lawns, and treating the yard with a vet-approved repellent. Also, check your dog frequently and remove ticks as soon as you find them. Ticks do not transmit diseases immediately after attaching.

Contact with ticks is bound to happen in a dog's life. So, if you have more questions or concerns regarding tick bites or tick-borne diseases in dogs, book an online appointment at Vetster.com to get all your answers today!



The Vetster Editorial Team is comprised of seasoned writers and communicators dedicated to elevating stories about Vetster, pets and their owners.

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