What are ticks?
Help! My dog has a tick! It can be alarming to find a tick either on your pet’s skin and coat or around the house, but what are ticks on dogs? A type of parasite, ticks are tiny bug-like creatures that are actually related to spiders and part of the arachnid family as they have 8 legs. As they are parasites, they live off hosts, usually different animals, where they feed on. They can also potentially pass diseases and infections from host to host, making them something you definitely want to avoid at all costs.
What does a tick look like on a dog?
Ticks are often between 1 mm and 1 cm in length and generally egg-shaped. When unfed, their size can be compared to a sesame seed, however, when fully engorged with their host’s blood (don’t worry, they’re not big enough to take all of our dog’s blood!) they’re about the size of a coffee bean. They can vary in colour, anywhere from cream to grey and brown depending on their age, size and how recently they’ve fed. Ticks on dogs are pretty noticeable as pests go; they look like a small bump on the skin and, depending on what stage they are at in feeding, you may be able to see their body sticking out.
How do dogs get ticks?
Ticks are most commonly found in woodlands or grassy areas, where they climb or drop onto the host’s skin or fur. As a result, ticks on dogs can be pretty common, especially if they spend a lot of time outdoors and in areas of tall grass. A tick can latch onto any part of your dog’s skin that they get in contact with, so are usually found by their feet, head, neck and ears as these are the most likely places to come into contact with the tick’s living areas (such as long grass).
Tick on dog symptoms
The most obvious sign that your dog has a tick is if you see one latched onto their skin, however, there are other things to look out for too. A tick bite on dogs can cause redness and irritation in the area which can also be more severe and painful for a dog with a tick allergy. If your dog has a reaction to the tick bite, it can even result in more serious symptoms such as fever, lethargy, weight loss, appetite change and depression. In certain cases, a tick in dog’s skin can also result in them passing on a number of diseases and infections with their own individual, and highly serious, symptoms that you must watch out for if you do find a tick on your dog.
Tick diseases in dogs
Being parasites that feed off of the hosts’ blood, ticks can pass on a number of diseases that can be transmitted when bitten by a tick that is already infected. The main condition they carry is called Lyme disease, which is caused by bacteria and can affect the muscles and nerve cells. Signs of Lyme disease in dogs include a ‘bulls-eye’ rash around the bite, lameness (when they can’t move their limbs or stand properly), fever, painful joints, appetite loss, swollen lymph nodes and lethargy.
Ticks can also pass Lyme disease onto humans, so it is extremely important that you act quickly if you do find a tick on your pet, even if you don’t think they’re carrying the disease. A rarer of the tick diseases in dogs is babesiosis which affects the red blood cells. This can have similar symptoms as Lyme disease, in addition to your dog having pale gums, a swollen abdomen and yellowish skin.
How to remove a tick from a dog?
If you’re asking how to get rid of ticks on dogs, the first thing to do is not panic! If you come across one of these parasites, check the rest of your dog’s skin and fur and make sure it is the only one. After this, do NOT ever pull the tick forcibly out of their skin; this can cause more damage than you think as it can result in the tick’s head being left under the surface which can lead to a number of infections and other issues. It is also important that you don’t just ignore it, and that you also do not try to remove it with your fingers or try to burn it off.
The best way to remove ticks from dogs is to choose a safe and effective option. You can find specific ‘tick twister’ tools that safely remove the full tick from the skin. You can also use blunt tweezers to twist the root of the tick out, but make sure you do not squeeze the body as this will kill it and leave the head under the skin. If you are cautious or not sure how to remove a tick from a dog yourself, your best bet would be to take your pooch to the vets and get their assistance.
Tick treatments for dogs
There are a number of flea and tick treatments for dogs out there that work to either kill, control or prevent parasites. These include spot-on products, tick tablets for dogs, protective shampoos, tick collars for pets as well as topical powders that kill parasites on contact. When looking for the best tick treatment for dogs, there are a few things to consider first. When choosing, make sure you ask yourself these questions:
- Where is the flea located? You may need to choose different methods depending on where it is, for example, you need to take extra care if it is inside the ear or around the eyes.
- Do I want to kill, control or repel? If there is already a tick, you want to get rid of it, or alternatively, you may need a treatment that stops them from returning.
- Does my dog have any other parasites? Fleas and mites are also common parasites for dogs, and many products work universally to help get rid of them all.
- Is my dog exhibiting any symptoms of a tick disease? If they are, you want to act as fast as possible to get rid of it and it may be best to take them to the vets.
- Can the tick be easily removed? Depending on positioning, how much they have fed and the amount of fur means some ticks are easier to remove than others.
- Is the head visible or buried under the skin? If the head is visible, it will be far easier to safely remove. If it’s buried then you run the risk of it staying in the skin when you remove the body.
Once you know the answers to these questions, you can establish what you need to help. This may include a tick killer product, a multi-purpose product for all types of parasites or a visit to the vets to get them to remove it for you.
Tick prevention for dogs
If your dog hasn’t yet got a tick, or your worried about them getting another one, tick prevention is key. This includes taking active measures to avoid ticks in the first place as well as purchasing a product that works as a tick repellent for dogs when your pooch can possibly be exposed (which is very common for any dog that likes to go outside!). These include tick repellant sprays and other topical products for parasite prevention as well as deterring shampoos and other grooming products. In general though, if you can avoid the ticks, that can be the best route to take, but sometimes finding ticks on dogs is inevitable, so it is important you know what to do when it happens and take action as soon as possible!