Taking care of a pet is hard work, especially when you have to worry about fleas, ticks, and other issues. Due to the diseases that they carry, ticks can be especially worrisome, and while ticks are, more or less, an infrequent event, you never know when it might happen, so it helps to be as informed as you can be.
The more informed you are, the better you will be able to prepare for ticks and even prevent your dogs from coming into contact with one.
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Whether you have just discovered a tick or you are worried about your dogs getting ticks in the future, you can protect your dog with the proper knowledge. For good reasons, ticks on dogs can cause some panic in the parents, but knowing the basics of removal and prevention means that you will know what to do when your dog is bitten. When you know what to do, you can be more confident and less worried and act in a way that makes the most sense.
What Is a Tick?
Ticks belong to the arachnid class, but can also be classified as ectoparasites or external parasites. These are parasites that live and feed off of organisms from the outside, and mosquitoes are another example. Like mosquitoes, ticks also feed off of an organism’s blood, and this is partially why they are known to transmit so many diseases.
People often confuse ticks with fleas, but this is incorrect. Ticks are generally larger and more visible than fleas, and they belong to an entirely different family. Unlike fleas, ticks are unable to jump and can only attach to a host by direct contact.
How Did the Dog Get Ticks?
You might be wondering how your dog got ticks in the first place, and there are several different ways that it can happen.
Ticks are located outside and primarily in warmer climates with plenty of moisture, which means your backyard might not be off limits. A common source of ticks on pets is actually other animals that wander into your yard. Raccoons, squirrels, and rodents, among other things, may all carry ticks, and these ticks can eventually make their way onto your dog.
However, being outdoors, in general, can lead to ticks, and as your dog wanders outside and rolls around on leaves and other things, they may come into contact with one.
Another way that dogs can get ticks is through people, and one of the most common ways that people get ticks is through traveling. Hiking outdoors, camping, and other outdoor activities can lead to ticks, and if the ticks don’t attach to your body, they may cling to your clothes or belongings for a free ride back to your home.
Common Tick-Borne Diseases
The panic and worry that ensues after a tick is discovered is completely justified, as ticks are notorious for spreading a number of nasty diseases. They can also be responsible for several different health conditions, which includes skin rashes. Since these diseases may be transferred to humans and members of the family, it’s important to address them properly.
Some of the most common diseases include Lyme disease, Babesiosis, Hepatozoonosis, Rocky Mountain Fever, and Tick Paralysis. Of course, whether or not your dog gets an actual disease will depend on a number of factors, and many dogs don’t get any diseases. However, these things are often unpredictable, so it’s important not to ignore a tick situation when you have one.
The hope is that you can discover a tick before it becomes a real problem, but if you suspect your dog to be sick, it’s important to seek veterinary care. Veterinarians will be able to administer the proper treatment to bring your dog back to health.
Symptoms to Watch Out for
Without having a reason to suspect a problem, most people won’t dig through their dog’s fur to look for ticks. Luckily, there are several different symptoms that dogs tend to show when they are suffering from a tick infestation.
While fleas and ticks on dogs are entirely different, they do share a common symptom, which is scratching. When dogs have ticks, they tend to nibble or scratch at the area, but they may also display odd behavior in the form of ear scratching or head shaking. Nibbling and scratching are often the earliest sign of a problem, so rather than assume the culprit to be fleas, it’s important to check the area and look for ticks. Other symptoms include sudden fevers, tiny bumps on the skin, and skin rashes.
Even though not all ticks carry diseases, it’s important to take these threats seriously. Diseases will also take some time to transmit to the host, so the quicker the tick is found, the safer your dog will be. Certain symptoms of a tick-borne illness can actually take weeks or even months to appear.
You should also keep in mind that ticks aren’t always alone. Sometimes, you will see clusters of ticks, some of which will be smaller than the others due to being in a different stage of the life cycle.
Where to Look for Ticks
Ticks may show up anywhere on a dog’s body, but there are some areas that are more common than others. Ticks are most drawn to warm, dark, and moist areas of the body, so the groin and bottom area of your dog is one area to look. You might also find them in between the toes, underneath the collar, in the ears, and on the eyelids.
These places are easy to check, but if you don’t find any ticks here, you should sift through your dog’s fur until you see something.
Spotting a Tick
Once you know where to look, it’s important to know what to look for. Ticks are far more visible than fleas, but they can attach to your dog at different stages in their life cycle. They are also commonly misidentified as skin tags or other conditions, so it’s important that you are able to tell the difference.
Ticks will vary in size, but they can get as long as one centimeter. As arachnids, they will have eight, small legs, and most of them have a white or yellow, egg-shaped body. As their body fills with the blood of the host, however, it grows in size and darkens in color.
Different species of ticks may also have a different look. For example, the “lone star” tick is a specific species of tick that is identified by a noticeable, white spot on its back. The “black-legged” tick is also a different color than most other ticks, they have a reddish-brown color.
Removing a Tick from Your Dog
Removing ticks on dogs isn’t too difficult, but you do want to be careful. When the tick’s body is full of blood at the point of removal, squishing it too hard could cause it to expel blood onto your dog, increasing the risk of infection. There is also the chance that the tick’s head detaches and gets stuck inside your dog’s body, which could be more difficult to remove.
The first thing to know is that pet stores often sell tick-removal tools that you can buy. Most of the time, these tools are essentially tweezers, but they are designed specifically for tick removal, so you may find it easier with one of these. Otherwise, you can remove ticks with things you have at home.
All that you really need is a pair of tweezers, and the pointier they are, the better. However, you might find it better to have some latex gloves, rubbing alcohol, and a small container with a lid.
Should ticks be removed
If you are wearing gloves, you don’t have to worry about getting blood on your hands, but you want gloves that still allow you to grip and use the tweezers with ease. Obviously, you will want to make sure your pet is calm, and if this doesn’t happen naturally, you may want somebody to hold or distract your pet while you work on the tick.
The rubbing alcohol and the container are for killing the tick, so before you remove the tick, you can pour some rubbing alcohol in a container. Take your tweezers and grab the tick as close to your dog’s body as you can get. Grab it with enough force that you can pull on it, but don’t grab it too hard that you squish the tick.
If you pull straight back with enough force, you should be able to pull the tick away from the dog’s body without leaving anything behind. However, you should take a look at it and make sure the mouthparts were removed. Now, you can place the tick in the container with the rubbing alcohol.
After the Tick Is Removed
Once the tick is dead, you will be able to dispose of it. However, veterinarians often recommend leaving it in the container in case your dog begins to show signs of disease.
If the tick’s mouth parts are stuck in the dog’s body and if you are unable to remove them, you may need to visit the veterinarian. The vet will be able to remove small parts of the tick that are left in the pet’s skin. Otherwise, you can use antiseptic spray or wipes to disinfect the area to decrease the risk of infection.
For the next few days, you might check the area for redness or inflammation. In either case, you would want to make an appointment with your veterinarian. There are antibiotic ointments and other treatments available for dogs that get an infection.
While it’s not exactly possible to guarantee that your dog will never suffer from a tick, there are a number of things that you can do to dramatically reduce the possibility, and many of these things are highly effective. Ticks on dogs can be, more or less, prevented, and certain actions such as taking caution when you travel to the woods or making sure you know about ticks in your specific state can help you make informed decisions about tick prevention. Some of these things include:
- Knowing your state’s tick season
- Spraying your yard
- Changing your landscape
- Getting rid of wild animals
- Tick shampoos and collars
Knowing Your State’s Tick Season
Generally, the farther north you go, the less active ticks will be, and they are most active during the warmest months of the year. However, places such as Florida or Arizona can have ticks all year long. If it’s warm and humid, ticks aren’t afraid to be outside. Otherwise, they will die, go into hiding, or lay dormant due to the low temperatures.
Different species of ticks will also survive for different lengths of time. The lone-star ticks become inactive during cold weather, but other species can survive as long as the temperatures are above freezing. Doing some research about your state’s tick season and the ticks that are most common in the area will help you prepare for travel or make appropriate lifestyle changes.
Yard Preparation and Spraying
Ticks do latch onto leaves and other vegetation, but there are things you can do to make your yard less habitable for them. Certain backyard pesticides will allow you to create a barrier around your property, and you will likely find some that are oil based and safe for children and foliage. If you live next to the woods, it might be wise to create a solid barrier as well. You can separate your property and the woods with a couple feet of mulch or wood chips, for example.
You will also want to do what you can to prevent rodents and other animals from lurking around your property. This can be as simple as making sure your garbage is inaccessible, and even your dog’s water bowl, if left out, can keep certain pests around. However, if it’s a severe issue, you could even install a fence around your property.
There are certain plants and herbs that can aid in tick prevention as well. Rosemary, mint, and garlic have all been known to repel ticks, and you can also use these for cooking. Otherwise, plants such as wormwood, chrysanthemums, and marigolds have scents that deter certain pests.
Lastly, it helps to keep your hedges and bushes trimmed and your yard as dry as possible. Ticks are attracted to moist areas, but if you can manage to reduce moisture, you will make your backyard less hospitable to ticks.
Tick Shampoos and Collars
Pet stores will have products that are specifically made for tick prevention, and these are usually shampoos and tick collars.
You can find high-quality shampoos made with essential oils and other natural products that help give your dog a healthy coat and also repel against invading ticks. Regular grooming with tick shampoos can dramatically reduce your dog’s chances of having a tick problem in the future.
Tick collars also help to create a barrier that deters ticks, and some tick collars are anti-flea as well. A good tick collar can remain effective for as long as six months, and with a good shampoo, you can make sure that your dog is as prepared as possible.
Going to the vet should always be a last resort. To save money on those expensive vet bills just go and see the natural ways of dealing with this problem.
If self-removal doesn’t give you enough peace of mind, you can take your dog to the veterinarian, and he or she will be able to make you feel more confident.
Veterinarians may recommend blood testing to look for any tick-borne diseases, and this is especially necessary if your dog is showing signs of illness. Ticks on dogs can force them to act strange or unusual, but your veterinarian will be able to diagnose your dog and provide antibiotics. If you see your veterinarian early enough, your dog can recover in a matter of days.
When the illness is, further along, your vets may recommend hospitalization, prescription diets, more antibiotics, or IV fluids. Vets can also provide supplemental oxygen in the event of tick paralysis as well.
Whether or not your dog is currently sick, your vet will be able to provide some peace of mind, and he or she will help you monitor your dog’s tick bites until they have completely healed. Your vet will be able to recommend tick prevention products so that you know you are buying a good brand.
Always Check Your Dog for Ticks
Ticks that feed off of your dog’s skin for long periods of time are a greater threat than those that are caught early. If ticks go unnoticed, your dog will be at a greater risk for disease and illness, and this also increases the risk of the ticks spreading to another pet or person in the household. This is why it’s always important to check your dog after he or she has been outside.
While the chances of your dog coming back inside with a tick aren’t exactly high, doing a quick run through of his fur will catch it when it does happen. The quicker you can remove the ticks, the better you can feel about your dog’s health, and your dog will certainly feel better as well.