You and your dog likely enjoy time together outdoors. Whether you are playing fetch, hiking, or simply wandering the wilderness, time with your companion outside is great for bonding and relaxation. Unfortunately, being outdoors, especially around tall grasses and weeds, brings with it the possibility of ticks. These little bloodsuckers can carry serious consequences when not swiftly removed from your dog. But with the right tools at the ready, you can free your beloved pup safely from these pests that carry Lyme disease and cause tick paralysis.
It is helpful to know some facts about the enemy. The bodies of ticks are all one piece. Their mouths have barbs like harpoons; these attach to their prey so they can feed. They have crablike legs and emit a sticky secretion that assists the tick in hanging onto its host. A tick can be so small that the naked eye can scarcely see it; it can also be about the size of a human’s fingertip. About 200 species of tick dwell in the United States. These blood-sucking pests live in lawns, beach grass, forests, woods, and even within urban areas. And they carry diseases.
Types of Ticks
Some types of ticks are established as transmitting diseases to both humans and dogs. The first is the American Dog Tick. This species has a dark brown body, with off-white or mottled shields. You and your dog are most likely to be bitten in spring and summer by adult females of the American Dog Tick species. The Blacklegged Deer Tick is easily known by its black shield on a reddish-orange body with black legs. It carries Lyme disease among other pathogens. The Brown Dog Tick is also reddish, but reddish-brown, and has a narrower shape than other ticks. Brown Dog Ticks infest dogs worldwide, inside and outside.
Common Tick-Borne Diseases
Tick-borne diseases are dangerous to both canines and pet owners. Lyme disease is carried by the Black Legged Tick, or Deer Tick. It can be passed to the tick’s host after 36-48 hours of attachment. This is why catching ticks early is important; other diseases can be spread more swiftly than Lyme disease. Canine Ehrlichiosis is another pathogen passed on by ticks, specifically by Brown Dog Ticks and American Dog Ticks. Other diseases carried by ticks include Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Babesiosis, Bartonella, Anaplasma, and Hepatozoonosis, and tick paralysis.
Identifying a Tick
Ticks can be brown, black, or tan, with reddish hues in some species. They have eight legs and can be minuscule in size. If it is, indeed, a tick on your dog, you will need to remove it with care and dispose of it so that it will not return to be a continued pest.
Where Ticks are Encountered
Ticks are often picked up in tall grasses and weeds. Lawns and beach grass can both host them. So can woods and forests. Some ticks are often found inside in areas frequented by dogs. They can even be hiding in your home, in the dog crate or dog bed, or in your vehicle.
The Dangers of Improper Tick Removal
If a tick has already dug its head in to drink your dog’s blood, improper removal could lead to complications. A buried head, with the body of the tick torn away, can lead to infections. You need to remove ticks with care to avoid this eventuality.
Properly Removing Ticks
When you remove a tick, you need to ensure that you have the entire pest, head and body both. Unfortunately, a tick that has dug into its host to feast can easily be torn in two. This is why a careful method is necessary to remove the bloodsucker from your companion.
Gather Your Instruments
Properly removing ticks involves the use of tweezers or a tool specifically for removing ticks. If you use tweezers, they should be freshly cleaned and have pointed ends. You will also want gloves, isopropyl alcohol, and antiseptic cream or disinfectant. Always wear gloves if you will be dealing with a tick. They are highly efficient carriers of disease. Protecting your hands is important.
Keep Your Dog Relaxed
Only remove ticks from a dog that is relaxed, calm, and lying down. Your dog needs to be sufficiently still for you to find a good grip on the tick with the tweezers or removal tool. Pulling too quickly risks leaving the tick’s head stuck within your dog’s flesh. This increases your dog’s risk of infection. When your dog is lying still, it is vastly easier to remove the whole tick in a single piece. Try giving them a chew toy or dog treat to occupy their attention while you do your precision work.
Expose the Tick
After putting on your gloves, make use of rubbing alcohol or water to flatten the hair of your dog surrounding the tick. With a gentle motion, part the hair, keeping it flat with your off-hand. That leaves your primary hand free so it can pull out the tick. Do not rush this step. Because it has already latched on, the tick will not be moving around. It will stay in one convenient place for you. Take your time and make sure the tick is conveniently exposed for the next step, which is the actual tick removal.
Use a Tool to Remove the Tick
If you have a tick remover or hook, use that to remove the tick from your dog. Tick hooks are shaped to work their way under the body of the parasite, pulling it in one motion and without the need for squeezing. When you squeeze a tick, you risk pushing saliva into the wound. This tick saliva is rich in abundant bacteria. Look for these tools online, at some supermarkets, or at your local veterinarian’s office. Follow the instructions included with the specific tool. In general, these are to slowly slide the hook beneath the tick, pinch, pull gently, and move steadily with a straight upward motion to remove the tick .
While regular tweezers are not particularly recommended for removing ticks, pointed tweezers are less likely to crush your target. Be particularly careful not to squeeze too hard with the tweezers. Another cautionary note is not to twist the tweezers or pull too fast. The trick is to grasp the tick with just enough pressure to work it free without crushing it, followed by pulling out the tick in a single straight motion.
Clean the Tick Bite Site
Even a tick that has only just bitten onto your dog’s skin has created a small wound that should be cleansed. Wipe the affected area with a pet-specific antiseptic. You can also use water and soap. Either way, make sure the tick bite site will not be infected by carefully washing it.
Check for Others
If your dog has picked up one tick, there is a strong chance that other ticks have found the opportunity to catch a ride, and a meal, with your pet. Be sure to look your dog over thoroughly. Always include the paws, footpads, and ears. They are favorite spots for ticks on dogs. Armpits and area near dog collars are also popular among the parasites. Be thorough and remove every single one. Clean all the areas of tick bites.
Dispose of the Tick
Snap a picture of the tick before disposing of it. This is not a trophy; rather, it is to help identify it for your veterinarian should problems ensue. Your vet will want to know if it was a Brown Dog Tick or an American Dog Tick, for example. Then there are several means to get rid of it. You could place it in a sealable container or lidded jar with alcohol and discard it. Another choice is to tape the tick to paper. Also, dispose of your gloves after using them. Then thoroughly wash your hands.
Double Check for Buried Heads
Despite all the warnings, it is quite easy to leave the tick’s head or its mouthparts in the skin when removing ticks on dogs. If this happens and they are visible, try using your tweezers to pull out the remnants. If this does not work, you can either let the parts work themselves out of the skin or contact your veterinarian for assistance. Regardless of your choice, do not poke at the site or prod at the embedded parts of the tick. Doing so may push the tick further into the skin of your dog, causing irritation or infection, and besides that, can cause pain to your pup.
Watch for Disease Symptoms
Monitor your dog over the following weeks and months after tick removal. If unusual symptoms crop up, such as lethargy, lack of energy, lameness, or rapid breathing, contact your veterinarian. Bring that picture you took before disposing of the culprit. Know the symptoms of Lyme disease and tick paralysis, among other diseases.
Good Defense is the Best Offense
It is best to avoid the ticks biting in the first place. Once they have bitten, all you can do is damage control and hope that no disease was passed along. But preventing the bite from occurring altogether is a sound strategy to keep your dog happy and healthy. It is also far more pleasant to prevent ticks from populating your yard and your pet than it is to pry them off your dog. The best flea and tick treatments should help your dog.
Oral medications are one route to preventing problems with ticks. Several choices exist for your veterinarian to give your dog. Some do have side effects, so be sure to ask questions before giving these medicines to your dog.
Flea and Tick Collars
Generally bundled with protection for fleas, which is handy if you find flea dirt, tick collars are a simple way to avoid having ticks on your dog. Worn as a standard collar, today’s best flea collars bear medication that kills ticks and fleas coming into contact with your dog’s neck and head. Some flea collars last as long as 8 months. Many tick collars have medication that enters your dog’s bloodstream. These prevent ticks from latching onto more of your dog’s body. Try not to touch the collar, and if you do, wash your hands.
Banish Ticks from Lawns
Banning ticks from the environment is an effective means of tick prevention. Clear out thick brush and dense vegetation to which your dog might be exposed. Ticks climb tall bushes and grasses to find hosts. Consider spraying nematodes into your yard. These parasites kill ticks. Diatomaceous earth is another option; this natural and child-safe substance is made from fossilized diatoms’ powdered skeletons . This powder is actually made of very tiny shards that cut arachnids but not human skin. You can also get a professional to spray a chemical spray on your yard to eradicate ticks.
Frequently Asked Questions
What should I do if my dog has ticks?
If you find ticks on dogs, remain calm and put your dog at ease. Carefully follow the steps to remove and dispose of the tick. Look for other ticks around your dog and on your own person, just in case. Take care of any you find in the same fashion.
Should I be worried if I found a tick on my dog?
If you find ticks on dogs, you should be alert, but not necessarily worried. While ticks can transmit diseases in a number of hours, they can also take days for some diseases. Stay calm and watch your dog for symptoms of diseases such as tick paralysis after removal and disposal of the tick.
What kills ticks on dogs instantly?
To instantly kill a tick on your dog, you can use classic Listerine mouthwash, the amber-colored variety, or rubbing alcohol.
How long will a tick stay on a dog?
A tick may stay on a dog for three months or three years if allowed to remain. The answer depends on the species of tick and its sex. Males stay on the longest, engorging and mating before repeating the process. Females engorge, then fall off, laying eggs and then dying.