What Does A Tick Look Like On A Dog?

How to spot a tick on a dog 🧐

dog scratching himself

If you’ve ever seen a tick, you know they can be hard to spot, and they’re even harder to see on dogs (our pups have a ton of fur, after all).

So what does a tick look like on a dog, and how can you tell if one’s attached to your pup?

We spoke to Dr. Jose Arce, president of the American Veterinary Medical Association, to find out what a tick looks like on a dog, where dogs get ticks and how to remove them.

What is a tick?

Ticks are parasitic arachnids (the same family as spiders, which means they have eight legs) that latch onto people or animals to drink their blood, which they require to survive — kind of like vampires.

They don’t fly or jump, so the only way they attach to their hosts is by crawling onto them. Ticks have flat, round bodies that become engorged when they feed, and they’re tiny — only about a couple of millimeters in length — which is why they can be so hard to find.

There are hundreds of species of ticks, with around 90 found in the U.S.

What does a tick look like on a dog when it’s embedded?

If there’s a tick on your dog, you might be able to see it crawling around, but it’ll be very small. And once it becomes embedded, it’ll be 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.)

tick in dogs fur
Igor Chus/Shutterstock.com
tick on dogs neck
tick on dogs ear

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. They can even get them from being outside in your yard.

“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.

Ticks like warm environments, so you can usually find them on 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 types of ticks on dogs

The most common types of ticks you’ll find on dogs include:

  • Blacklegged tick (aka deer tick)
  • Brown dog tick
  • American dog tick
  • Lone star tick

Most common types of dog tick-borne diseases

One of the worst things about ticks is that they can spread diseases to you and your dog.

“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
  • Anaplasmosis
  • Rocky Mountain spotted fever
  • Babesiosis
  • Bartonellosis
  • Hepatozoonosis

Each tick-borne disease has slightly different symptoms, but some typical signs you might notice are fever, lethargy, swollen lymph nodes, joint pain, lameness and lack of appetite.

To protect your pup from tick-borne diseases, you should get him on a good tick treatment and check him for ticks after being outside.

“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.”

What to do if you find a tick on your dog

If you find a tick on your dog, you’ll have to remove it super 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 dog’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, terrifyingly enough, 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.”

If your pup starts acting sick, you can bring the tick in a sealed container to the vet with you. This can help them diagnose your dog if he develops any tick-borne diseases because different types of ticks can carry different illnesses.

It’s super important to get your dog on a good tick preventative, too, so your pup will never have to deal with ticks in the first place.

“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.”

Try this Bravecto chew from Chewy

Try these Simparica Trio tablets from Chewy

You definitely don’t want to find ticks on your pup, so be sure to check him for ticks after being outside and get him on a good tick preventative.

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