Everything You Need To Know About Ticks On Dogs
Say goodbye to ticks on your dog ❌🪳
If you and your pup spend a lot of time outdoors, you might run into ticks every now and then.
And if you’ve ever found a tick on your dog, you probably know how hard they are to spot. But it’s super important to know what ticks look like on dogs and how to remove them since they can carry diseases and make your dog (and you) sick.
We spoke to Dr. Jose Arce, president of the American Veterinary Medical Association, and Dr. John Sangiorgio, a veterinarian from CompleteCare Veterinary Center in New York City, to find out everything you need to know about ticks on dogs.
What does a tick on a dog look like?
If there’s a tick on your dog, you might be able to see it crawling around, but it’ll be very small.
Once the bug becomes embedded, it can be even harder to spot. An embedded tick on a dog will look like a mole or wart, but if you look closely, you’ll be able to see the tick’s legs.
Below are pictures of embedded ticks on dogs so you’ll know what to look for. (Warning: They’re pretty graphic.)
Where do dogs get ticks?
Dogs can pick up ticks pretty much anywhere there are lots of bushes or tall grass since that’s where ticks like to hang out.
“If your pet picks up ticks in your backyard, trimming bushes and removing brush may reduce your pet’s exposure and risk of infestation,” Dr. Arce told The Dodo.
These bugs like warm environments, so you can usually find them in areas of your dog’s body that trap heat.
“Ticks are most often found around your dog’s neck, in the ears, in the folds between the legs and the body, and between the toes, but they can be found anywhere on the body,” Dr. Arce said.
Most common tick-borne diseases
“Ticks can spread serious infectious diseases to people and animals, such as Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, ehrlichiosis and anaplasmosis, so it’s important to keep ourselves tick-free,” Dr. Arce said. “Preventive measures and prompt removal of ticks can greatly reduce the chances of disease transmission from ticks to you and your pets.”
The most common dog tick-borne diseases include:
- Lyme disease
- Canine ehrlichiosis
- Rocky Mountain spotted fever
Signs your dog has a tick-borne disease
Each tick-borne disease has slightly different symptoms, but some typical signs you might notice include:
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Joint pain
- Lack of appetite
How to remove a tick from a dog
If you find a tick on your dog, you’ll have to remove it carefully.
“To remove ticks from your dog, use tweezers to carefully and firmly grip the tick as close to the pet’s skin as possible, and gently and steadily pull the tick free without twisting or crushing it during removal,” Dr. Arce said.
Don’t grab the body of the tick because that can make it break, leaving the tick head embedded in your pet’s skin, which can cause it to release toxins into your pup. Be sure to grab as close to the tick head as possible and pull straight up.
“Crushing, twisting or jerking the tick out of the skin while its head is still buried could result in leaving the tick’s mouth parts in your pet’s skin,” Dr. Arce said. “This can cause a reaction, and [it] may become infected.”
If the head gets stuck, you should disinfect the area and take your dog to the vet to have them remove it. Don’t try to dig around for the tick head, because you can cause an infection.
After you’ve removed the tick, don’t flush it down the toilet or throw it in the garbage, because it may not die and can still lay eggs or even crawl out.
“After removing the tick, dispose of it by putting it in alcohol, placing it in a sealed bag [and] wrapping it tightly in tape, taking care to avoid contact with tick fluids that could carry disease,” Dr. Arce said. “Wash the area where the tick was removed with soap and water.”
You can bring the tick in a sealed container to the vet with you to help them diagnose your dog if he develops any tick-borne diseases, because different types of ticks can carry different illnesses.
Tick treatment for dogs
There are a few different types of tick treatments you can choose from, and the kind you pick will depend on your individual pup. Be sure to ask your vet for their recommendation for a tick treatment, since they’ll be able to tell you what’s best for your dog.
“The products for flea and tick prevention or control come in two types — systemic [oral] and topical,” Dr. Sangiorgio told The Dodo.
Oral tick preventatives come in chewables or tablets (pills). Oral medicines kill the tick when it bites your dog so it can’t transmit any diseases.
Topical products come in a variety of forms, such as shampoos, sprays, topical medicine and dips. They’re applied directly to your dog, and they kill ticks when they make contact with your dog’s body.
“I recommend systemic [oral] products for clients with young children,” Dr. Sangiorgio said. Topical products are applied to the dog’s back in a liquid form, and young kids might touch your dog then touch their face or put their hands in their mouth. These types of medications contain pesticides, so you don’t want kids anywhere near your dog after he’s been treated with a topical medicine.
Another important thing to look for is how long the parasite treatment lasts so you’ll know how often to give it to your dog. You should also check the active ingredients in the tick treatment. Tick preventatives in the isoxazoline class shouldn’t be used on dogs who have a history of seizures, so ask your vet for a safe alternative.
How to prevent ticks on dogs
The best way to prevent your dog from getting ticks is putting him on a good tick preventative.
“Tick prevention is very important to help protect the health of pets and people, especially as the weather warms up and we all get outside more,” Dr. Arce said. “Pets [who are] at risk for ticks should be treated with an appropriate preventive.”
You should also check your dog for parasites after being outside, especially if you’ve been in any wooded areas.
“After spending time outdoors in areas where ticks are present, pet owners should examine their dogs for the presence of ticks,” Dr. Arce said. “And when checking your pets for ticks, don’t forget to check yourself for ticks, too.”
According to Dr. Arce, you can also reduce the chances of your pup picking up ticks in your yard by making sure the grass and bushes are trimmed, since ticks like to hang out in tall grass and bushes.
Getting your pup on a good tick preventative is super important to help prevent ticks and dog tick-borne diseases, so talk to your vet to find the best one for your pet.
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