Ticks are external parasites that attach to the skin of a dog and then proceed to feed off of the dog’s blood. Not only are ticks uncomfortable for the dog, they can also carry a number of diseases that can be passed on to the dog. Some of these diseases can be deadly if not caught and treated early in the progress of the disease.
In addition to being a threat to the dogs in a household, ticks can also “hitch-hike” into a home on a dog’s fur and then find their way to a human host. In other words, they can attach themselves to the human members of the household rather than the canine members. Just like in dogs, a tick will feed off of the blood of a person and may also pass disease on to that person.
There are numerous varieties (species) of ticks that infest dogs and the most common types vary depending on geographical location. Tick exposure is most common during the warmer months. However, even in colder temperatures, under certain environmental conditions, ticks can still remain active.
Ticks can attach anywhere on the body of a dog but are most often found around the neck, in the ears, between the toes or in the area between the legs and the body.
Common Tick-Borne Diseases
Some of the most common diseases carried by ticks include
- Lyme disease,
- babesiosis, and
- Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever.
Symptoms from these tick-borne diseases can range from mild to quite severe and even life-threatening in infected dogs and dogs may be infected with more than one disease simultaneously.
Controlling ticks can be difficult, especially if the pet frequents tick-infested areas on a regular basis. A thorough examination of your pet’s skin on a daily basis is the best form of prevention. Any ticks found should be removed promptly. However, some types of ticks are extremely small and may not be easily visible, especially in long-haired dogs.
There are numerous topical medications that can be applied monthly to control both fleas and ticks. The use of these products is advantageous for dogs that are apt to become infested with ticks. However, these products are not without the potential for side effects. Always read the label directions for any product used on your dog and follow the directions carefully. Do not apply products that are inappropriate for your pet’s species, age or weight range.
When walking, keep your dog in the center of paths and walkways. Avoid tick-infested areas, if possible.
Discourage wildlife from visiting your yard and garden. Many types of wildlife carry ticks and can leave them in your yard and/or garden when visiting. Though ticks are most common in wooded areas or areas with high grasses, do not rule out the possibility of ticks being present in your manicured yard or garden if birds, squirrels, raccoons, skunks and other types of wildlife visit there.
How to Safely Remove a Tick from Your Dog
If you find a tick on your dog, grasp the tick’s body firmly close to where the tick’s head is attached to your dog’s body. Apply gentle but steady traction backwards (away from your dog’s body) to remove the tick.
Never handle a tick without wearing gloves. Remember that the tick can cause human infection as well. Take the necessary precautions to avoid contact of any tick blood with your own skin. Discard of live ticks by placing them in a small container of alcohol to kill them.
After removing a tick from your dog, clean the area of attachment with alcohol or another disinfectant. A small scab and minor amount of swelling may be present at the attachment site and is expected. However, if the swelling does not regress within a few days, if you see any discharge from the wound, or if you are unsure whether the tick’s mouthparts were removed when you removed the tick, a veterinary visit is recommended.
Lorie Huston has been practicing veterinary medicine for over 20 years. Besides a successful career in a busy small animal hospital in Providence, RI, Lorie is also a successful freelance writer specializing in pet care and pet health topics. Currently, she is the feature writer for the Pet Care section at Suite101.com and the National Pet Health Examiner at Examiner.com. Lorie also publishes her own blog, The Pet Health Care Gazette and manages an increasingly popular facebook page, The Voice of Pet Care. In addition, she co-moderates DogTalk, a weekly twitter chat that focuses on a variety of dog topics.