If you’re a pet parent, the last thing you want is ticks on your pets. If you don’t fully realize how bad ticks are, ticks are extremely common parasites that attach themselves to your dogs or cats and feed on their blood.
At best, they cause irritation and itching, but at their worst, they can transmit potentially deadly diseases. The best way to ensure your furry friends are tick-free is to invest time in preventative measures.
We’ll talk you through everything you need to know about canine tick infestations, and how to be prepared if you spot a tick on your pup!
What Are Ticks?
Ticks are bloodsucking parasitic insects. They’re about the size of an apple seed and have many little legs sticking out. Once they’ve fed, they can become as big as your small fingernail.
They’re often brown and reddish, depending on the species. Their sizes can dramatically vary too due to their age. Ticks can burrow into your pets’ fur or hair and latch onto their skin.
As parasites, they need a host body to survive. Without latching themselves to an animal or human, ticks can only live for up to two years.
hat does a tick bite look like? It’s similar to a mosquito bite — a red, swollen bump.
How Do Dogs Get Ticks?
Sometimes, it's very difficult to avoid ticks. Dogs can pick up ticks from going on hikes or walks with their humans. They’re found in natural environments along paths, trails, tall grass, and shrubbery.
They’re most active in the warm seasons during the springtime and summer because insects breed more in hot climates. They typically wait in low-lying grass and get attracted to the warmth and odor of your pup.
Once they’ve found a host of their liking, they’ll use their legs to propel themselves onto a dog and find a spot to attach to.
Different Types of Ticks
There are over 15 species of ticks in North America, but only a few will latch on to your pets. Here are some types of ticks to look out for:
Lone Star Tick
Can be found in bushy or wooded areas, river and creek banks, and resting spaces for animals. They feed on cattle, dogs, and humans. They’re easy to tell apart because the females have a singular white spot on their backs.
American Dog Tick
The American Dog Tick feeds on humans and animals alike. They’re most active in the summer and females can lay up to 5,000 eggs!
One of the more deadly species, deer ticks can transmit Lyme disease to humans and dogs. They have black legs.
Brown Dog Tick
The Brown Dog tick doesn’t really bite people, but latches itself onto dogs. They can lie in the cracks of a wall, behind radiators, or outside in the summer.
Tick Bite Symptoms
There are many ways to note if your dog might be suffering from ticks. Tick bite symptoms can range from mild to severe, so it’s important to be aware of them. Here are some telltale signs:
This is a no-brainer since ticks attach themselves to your dog’s skin and suck out their blood regularly to feed. You may notice redness, swelling, and bumps along the areas of the bite.
In some cases, your pup can develop a tick bite rash too. You may notice your dog scratching itself more than usual.
If the tick feeds for long enough, the blood loss can cause a condition called anemia. Anemia is a condition where the blood has low levels of iron. Anemia causes fatigue and lower absorption of nutrients.
Loss of Appetite
Tick-borne fever and disease can also cause a drop in your pup’s appetite.
Most or all ticks can cause fever in your dog. A fever is the body’s natural response to fight off invaders or outside pathogens.
Dogs can feel weak and tired even after a moderate amount of exercise. They don’t show as much excitement for going on walks, and can even display signs of depression.
Difficulty Breathing or Labored Breathing
In severe cases, tick saliva can cause many complications for your dog’s health. It can have adverse effects like organ failure and respiratory issues.
Your dog might be prone to vomiting or frequent diarrhea after a tick bite.
Loss of Coordination
In cases of tick-borne paralysis, your dog can show a lack of coordination in its hind legs. They may find it harder to get up and may display a wobbly gait.
Tick paralysis is a very serious condition caused by a neurotoxin in the saliva of certain tick species. It is very rare but can cause high blood pressure, drooling, and vomiting.
How To Remove a Tick From a Dog
If you suspect a tick infestation, start by inspecting your dog. Gently go over its entire body with your fingers and look for lumps. If you find a bump, part the fur carefully and see if a tick has embedded itself onto the skin.
Get your gloves on, have a napkin ready, and fill up a glass with rubbing alcohol. Locate the tick and use clean tweezers as a tick remover. A tick will have 8 legs and be brown, black, or reddish. Fully fed or “engorged” females will look slate gray. Get the tweezer as close to your pup’s body as possible to pull out the tick without hurting your pet.
Gently pull the tick out in one straight motion. Do not yank or pull too quickly because it could cause an infection. Once the tick is out, immediately drop it into the alcohol to instantly kill it.
If your dog shows symptoms, you may need your vet to run tests and determine the type of tick it is so don’t throw it out right away.
Apply vet-approved antiseptic cream on the bite. Clean the tweezers with alcohol and wash your hands thoroughly after removing the gloves.
The best way to prevent ticks is to administer tick preventative medication. These come in chewable tablets that should be given to your pup once a month. They offer great protection from brown and paralytic ticks.
If you and your dog like to spend time outdoors, check your dog thoroughly once you get home. For more protection, rub a citrus juice (lemon) rinse over your dog’s coat. Ticks and fleas are repelled by the fresh citrusy scent.
Cover up your pup if you’re planning on being outdoors for longer periods to minimize the surface area that ticks can latch onto.
We hope this article shed some light on what ticks are, the symptoms of infestation, and what to do if you spot a tick on your dog.
While ticks may be hard to prevent, adequate grooming and daily checks after outdoor visits will help you tackle an infestation before it’s begun. To give your pup additional protection from this deadly insect, consider tick preventative medicine.