When looking for ticks, you may feel or spot ticks on your dog’s body underneath their fur. When it first attaches, an adult tick will look like a tiny round bug with eight legs. After feeding, it will swell up to look bloated and bluish-gray and eventually detach. If that tick has already separated, you may notice a slight bump, lump, or red rash at the bite sit
Ticks are found in nearly all parts of the country and are especially prevalent in spring and fall. Ticks are vectors for several diseases in dogs, including:
- Rocky Mountain spotted fever
- Canine ehrlichiosis
- Canine babesiosis
- Canine hepatozoonosis
- Lyme disease
In the case of Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever, these diseases can also spread to humans and cats. And ticks can carry different forms of ehrlichiosis, babesiosis, and hepatozoonosis that can affect humans and other animals.
The saliva of ticks can also produce an allergic hypersensitivity reaction and, in the case of the female wood tick, lone star tick, and Gulf Coast tick, a disease called tick paralysis.
Ticks begin as eggs that hatch into six-legged larvae. The larvae live and feed on animals for about a week before detaching and molting. After the molt, the larvae become eight-legged nymphs. Nymphs feed on animals, engorge for 3 to 11 days, detach, and molt again into an adult tick.
Ticks do not run and jump like fleas but scuttle around slowly. They climb grass and plants and hold their legs up to sense passing hosts. Then, when a warm-blooded animal walks by, the adult tick crawls onto them and begins feeding.
Ticks can fasten to any part of the dog’s skin but are commonly found around the ears, between the toes, and sometimes in the armpits. A severely infected dog may have hundreds of ticks all over its body. The ticks insert their mouths, attach to their prey, and engorge themselves with a blood meal. During feeding, tick saliva can enter the host’s body and bloodstream; this is how diseases are transmitted.
Males and females mate on the dog's skin, after which the female takes a blood meal and then drops off to lay her eggs. This usually occurs 5 to 20 hours after the dog acquires the ticks. Thus, prompt removal of ticks is an effective method of preventing tick-borne diseases.
Ticks may drop off a dog and transfer to people, although this is not common. Once a tick starts feeding on a dog, it will feed until it is engorged and will not seek a second host.