Dog Ticks - Introduction
It’s pretty common for dogs to get ticks especially if they are the outdoorsy kind.
No matter how hard you may try, it is quite impossible to prevent the pesky parasites from finding their way to your dog’s coat.
That said, there are some excellent tried-and-tested ways to help you prevent or cure tick infestations on dogs.
But, before we get to them, let’s first quickly understand a little about ticks.
What are ticks?
Ticks are basically ectoparasites, a term used to refer to organisms that attach themselves to other animals and live off them.
Ticks are tiny eight-legged and often found in the outdoors.
They attach themselves to dogs by burying their mouth-parts into the dog’s skin and survive on their blood.
On attaching themselves to a dog’s skin, ticks usually swell to the size of a pea.
Ticks aren’t harmful to dogs alone. They can bite humans too and a few types can even transmit diseases.
Is there a season when infestations are high?
Well, this totally depends on where you live. Usually dog ticks infestations are on a high during summers and fall.
Ticks also generally prefer warmth, so if you live in an area where the temperature is warm throughout the year, then the tick infestation risk is high.
For instance, in regions where the outside temperature is 65 degrees and higher, the risk is high.
Whereas, those regions with 40 degrees and below temperature, the risk is significantly lower.
But again, this doesn’t mean there will not be any infestation in such regions.
Vets across the world have time and again stated that tick prevention treatment is important throughout the year for your pet, irrespective of where you live.
This will protect your dog from tick bites.
How do dogs get infested with ticks?
These small pesky parasites usually infest dogs that spend most of their days in the outdoors.
But they can also affect indoor dogs and those that spend only a limited time in the outdoors.
Dog ticks usually live in low-lying damp areas, waiting for a host to latch themselves on to.
You can expect them in dog parks and even your own backyard. But, your dog is at most risk in areas where there’s tall grass, fields, and heavily-wooded areas.
Therefore, if you ever take your dog for a stroll in such areas, it is important that you do a thorough check for ticks before you let your dog roam around.
How can I spot ticks on my dog?
In order to protect your dog against ticks, it is important to do a thorough check after every outing even if your dog is on a tick prevention treatment.
Finding ticks isn’t as easy as running your hand across your dog’s body and legs.
They are really tiny organisms that attach themselves to the skin of your dog.
You’ll hardly feel them. So, it’s important to inspect more closely - you’ll have to search deep into your pup’s fur to find ticks.
It gets even harder if you own a long-haired dog or a dog with an undercoat or a dark-colored coat.
There are chances that you may mistake ticks for warts or skin tags too.
That’s why it’s extremely important to familiarize yourself with your dog through frequent petting, grooming and bathing rituals.
Like we mentioned earlier, dog ticks usually live in dark and damp areas. Hence, they prefer to latch themselves to such areas of your dog’s body too.
Here are some common areas where ticks usually hide on dogs:
The best camouflage option for the pesky parasites to hide.
Even on doing a deep search you may miss the ticks hiding on the eyelids especially if the tick is small in size.
So, check your dog’s eyelids very carefully after an outing.
The front legs
Another common hiding place for ticks is under the front legs of dogs. You could refer to this warm and moist area as your dog’s armpit.
Ticks find it pretty cozy there and you can easily miss spotting the ones hiding within that stretch of skin.
In between your dog’s toes
Your dog’s feet are always touching the ground, making them the lowest transfer point.
Therefore, the area between your dog’s toes makes for an easy spot for ticks to latch themselves too.
This area is also quite tricky to examine and find any hiding ticks.
Two reasons why the groin area is another favorite spot for ticks: thin-skinned area making it easy for ticks to bite into, and it makes for a great hiding spot.
The collar or harness
Often overlooked, your dog’s collar and harness could easily make a comfortable home for ticks.
The area around or underneath the collar and harness is usually dark and warm, so ensure that you check for ticks there without fail.
Around and in ears
The thin skin and the delicate layers of a dog’s ear canal make them a popular hiding spot for ticks.
The floppy ears of most dogs serve as a warm spot that ticks thrive upon.
I found a tick on my dog. How do I remove it?
Firstly, do not panic.
If you find a tick on your dog, kindly do not pull it off your dog’s skin as you could end up leaving the tick’s mouth-part on your dog.
And this can later cause an inflammation or an infection.
So then, what’s the best way to get a tick off a dog?
Get your vet to give you a tick removal tool which is specifically designed to remove the tick in its entirety – including the mouth-part - from a dog’s skin.
Also, do ask your vet to show you how to use the tool to remove ticks in case you aren’t sure how to use it.
Okay, let’s now assume that you’ve removed the tick from your dog’s skin.
Firstly, ensure that you haven’t left behind any part of the tick.
The tick’s head and legs must be intact.
Once a tick has been completely removed from your dog, either flush it down the toilet or dump it in rubbing alcohol.
You could also trap it in a tape strip and put it in your trash. Whichever method you choose, remember that it’s important to dispose ticks properly.
If not, they’ll easily attach themselves to another host.
You can also use some of the available flea products to either kill ticks or as an extra protection against them.
However, it would require a few applications to work effectively. Always check with a vet for the safest flea and ticks treatment for dogs.
What are common symptoms of ticks on dogs?
Common tick bite symptoms in dogs include tell-tale signs such as red and inflamed skin that could lead to a skin infection and skin irritations.
You'd also notice small bumps on your dog’s skin, or local reactions such as scabs, bumps and itchiness around the area of the bite.
Generally, most of these symptoms aren’t a reason for concern.
But, if they persist post 24-hours after removing the tick or your dog shows other alarming symptoms, do consult your vet at the earliest.
Some dogs may also get tick fever in response to a tick bite. It takes around 21 days for tick fever to develop after a dog has been bitten.
Tick fever can be mild and easily curable or it can lead to more serious diseases such as Lyme disease or Rocky Mountain spotted fever, etc.
Some common signs of tick fever in dogs include:
- Lethargy and disinterest
- Loss of appetite
- Breathing difficulty
- Nasal discharge
- Enlargement of the spleen
- Pain in the joints or arthritis
- Swelling in the lymph nodes and legs
- Neurological problems
A simple blood test can confirm whether or not your dog is suffering from tick fever.
So, if you notice the above-mentioned symptoms in your dog, please consult your vet immediately and ask for a blood test.
The treatment for tick fever is usually a full 21-day medication course.
Are ticks harmful to dogs?
Usually ticks aren’t harmful to your dog.
While ticks aren’t dangerous by themselves, they can however pass on diseases from other animals.
We, humans, are also susceptible to such diseases. Lyme Disease and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever are two of the most well-known tick-borne diseases.
This is transmitted by deer ticks and can cause swelling and arthritis of your dog’s joints, leading to painful lameness.
Symptoms include rash around the tick bite, loss of appetite, lethargy, mild lameness and fever.
Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever
Usually transmitted via American dog ticks, brown dog ticks and Rocky Mountain wood ticks.
Common symptoms of this tick-borne disease include vomiting, lethargy and stomach pain.
This disease can turn fatal if not treated properly, so it’s best to consult your vet as soon as your dog starts showing symptoms.
This is another common tick-borne disease that is transmitted by the brown dog ticks.
These ticks thrive in warm climates. The common symptoms associated with Ehrlichiosis are lethargy, loss of appetite, fever, abnormal bruising in some cases, and enlargement of the lymph nodes.
In a few rare cases, tick bites have caused anemia in dogs by consuming too much of the dog’s blood, causing a deficiency.
Also, some female ticks produce a certain toxin while feeding on a dog’s blood, which causes a rare paralysis.
Can I prevent dog ticks?
Whether you live in an area abundant in ticks or not, it is mandatory that you take measures to prevent tick infestation in your pet.
This can be done by starting a vet-approved tick preventative treatment for your pet.
There are a lot of different options available today, either through your vet or at pet stores, for treating and preventing ticks.
You can go for spot-on treatments, invest in a tick-repellent collar or even give your dog tick-prevention tablets to keep tick infestations at bay.
These methods can help either repel ticks or kill them if they have already attached themselves to your dog.
However, make sure that you keep a constant eye out for ticks, so that you can tend to them at the earliest.
Any recommended OTC products for dog ticks?
For less serious tick bites or to keep your dog safe from fleas and ticks, you can invest in these safest flea and tick treatment for dogs.
You can easily find them on Amazon or your nearby pet store.
However, we'd advise that you always check with your vet before you use an OTC product.
Get your dog complete protection from fleas and ticks in just a small chew.
NexGard chews is also the only FDA-approved product that helps to prevent Lyme disease in dogs.
These chews are flavored for your dog's taste buds too.
And just one dose a month is more than enough for complete protection through the month.
Unfortunately, NexGard is no longer sold on Amazon Online, you'll have to find it in a pet shop.
FRONTLINE Plus Flea and Tick Treatment for Dogs
Frontline Plus for Dogs is a waterproof, long-lasting and fast-acting formulation that kills flea eggs, flea larvae, ticks, chewing lice and adult fleas.
Apply to the skin of your dog (not hair) and keep him/her safe from infestations for full 30 days.
Frontline Plus has been a trusted product by vets for over 20 years.
Remember that there are multiple sizes - get the appropriate doses for your dog according to its weight!
Seresto Flea and Tick Collar for Dogs
Get full 8 months of flea and tick protection for your furball with the Seresto flea and tick collar.
It is odorless and non-greasy, making it convenient to use.
This collar kills fleas and ticks through contact - they don’t have to bite your dog to die.
Same thing - getting the appropriate size for your dog is important here!
Veterinary Formula Clinical Care Flea and Tick Shampoo
Formulated with a natural insecticide – Pyrethrum, this shampoo kills fleas and ticks on contact and soothes irritated skin. It also gently exfoliates and cleanses your pet’s skin.
This pH balanced product is ideal for sensitive pet skin too and can be used on dogs older than 12 weeks.
Vet's Best Flea and Tick Yard and Kennel Spray
This plant-based formula is perfect to get rid of active infestations.
It kills fleas, mosquitoes and ticks. This comes with a ready-to-use hose attachment to easily apply on lawns, kennels, yards, patios and other outdoor surfaces.
The solution is certified 100% natural – no harsh chemicals.
Tick Twister Tick Remover Set
Perfect to remove ticks within seconds and pain-free, the Tick Twister set can be used on both animals and humans.
It easily removes small and large ticks without squeezing them, avoiding infections altogether.
While ticks themselves are mostly harmless, the potential viruses and bacteria they carry are far deadlier to the health of your dog.
Of course, tick prevention should always be the first and foremost thing on our minds - no ticks, no problems.
For those of us who unfortunately live in areas where ticks are more plentiful, it is definitely helpful to utilize tick-sprays as well as proper pet insurance, should the very unlucky dog ever develop any issues due to viruses from tick bites.
Keeping an eye out for ticks on you dog will keep both of you healthy and happier and let you enjoy your time together outdoors.