You’ve Found a Tick on Your Dog… Now What?
Veterinarian Reviewed by Dr. Janice Huntingford, DVM on May 20, 2018
Posted in Dogs
Warmer weather means more walks, hikes and playtime outside with your beloved pup. Unfortunately, the dawn of spring also means that bugs are also outside. One of the worst offenders during the spring and summer months are ticks—these nasty, blood-sucking insects are not only a nuisance to deal with, but can transmit terrible diseases to your dog, your other pets and even you.
To prevent your dog from falling ill from a tick-borne disease, you’ll need to be informed on what they look like and how to remove them safely and swiftly. Time is of the essence when it comes to ticks on your pooch, so stay alert when you and your dog spend time outside and use preventative measures to mitigate any problems.
What to look for
If you’ve never seen a tick before, you should look up a photo or two so you know exactly how to spot them if they latch onto your dog. Ticks are usually tan, brown or black in color and have eight legs. They’re typically small but become larger when engorged—this makes them difficult to spot at first, when it is the most important. Ticks live in moist and humid environments and can be found in many wilderness areas in woods or tall grasses.
What’s the danger?
The reason ticks are so dangerous is because they carry a number of potentially fatal diseases, including the infamous Lyme disease, ehrlichiosis and Rocky Mountain spotted fever. When ticks latch onto the skin of animals or humans, they bite, and their saliva is what transfers the disease. They can also cause blood loss, anemia, skin irritations or infections and tick paralysis.
Although ticks can’t jump or fly, they are extremely adept at latching onto animals as they walk by. On dogs, ticks are usually found around the head, neck, ears and feet.
During the seasons when ticks are thriving, conduct a daily tick check for you and your animals. Do this on your dog before entering the house to prevent the spread. Run your hands over your dog’s body, investigating any bumps to identify ticks. If your dog has longer hair, be sure to move it aside to see close to the skin.
Steps for removing a tick
If you find that your pooch has a tick, you’ll want to remove it as soon as possible. Removing ticks is pretty simple, so you shouldn’t delay in getting it off your dog. While most ticks won’t transmit diseases for a day or two after latching on, the earlier you remove it, the better.
To begin, put on rubber gloves to protect your own skin from the tick and its saliva. Then, use a tweezer or a tick removal tool and grab the tick’s body as close as possible to your dog’s skin. Pull the tick straight out steadily and put it into a close container with isopropyl alcohol. The alcohol will kill the tick and is more effective than flushing it.
It’s important that you don’t squeeze or twist the tick’s body as you pull it out of your dog. Erratic motions like these can break the tick’s body and leave parts in your dog’s skin that can still infect it.
Once the tick has been removed, treat the area on your dog’s skin with antiseptic ointment, then sterilize your tweezers, the removal tool and your hands—just to be safe.
Keep an eye on the dog’s bite area to make sure it doesn’t get infected and monitor your pup’s behavior to see if it is acting ill. If your dog shows signs of illness, you should take it to the vet to get tested for diseases. Some common signs of tick-borne illness in dogs include:
- Loss of appetite
- Reluctance to move
- Swollen joints
- Swollen lymph nodes
Keeping ticks off your dog
Removing ticks as early as possible is good, but the best way to prevent tick-borne diseases is to use preventative measures:
- Insect repellent: Spray your dog all over with a dog-friendly insect repellent, useful for preventing ticks. You should never use repellent designed for humans, as it is often toxic to our canine companions.
- Oral treatments: There are many oral treatments on the market that help prevent your dog from getting ticks. Many of these treatments will also help prevent against fleas.
- Yard maintenance: Dogs can still get ticks in their own backyards if there are a lot of tall grasses, weeds and trees. Keep your yard well-maintained by mowing consistently and removing weeds to prevent ticks from making your backyard their home.
Taking your dog outside shouldn’t have to result in illness. By conducting daily tick checks and acting quickly when you spot one, you’ll be able to keep your pooch tick- and disease-free.
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Janice Huntingford, DVM, has been in veterinary practice for over 30 years and has founded two veterinary clinics since receiving her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine at the Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph. She has studied extensively in both conventional and holistic modalities. Ask Dr. Jan