Ticks are a common malady among dogs all over the world, especially if you live in a region where they are more prevalent. Although ticks are small and can often seem harmless, they can easily pass on diseases from other animals and infest your dog’s body in some particularly uncomfortable areas.
Whether you’re searching for answers on how to address a current tick bite on your dog or proactively seeking to prevent future tick encounters, this brief guide will ensure that you and your pup are adequately prepared.
What Are Ticks?
Despite the common misconception that ticks are insects, they’re actually a type of parasite. Ticks are typically tiny until they become engorged with blood from feeding off of their host, at which point they become noticeably larger and rounder. They have eight legs and come in a variety of colors and sizes depending on the type of tick that is common within your region.
Since ticks are closely related to mites and spiders, their overall appearance often prompts people to think that they are just another common insect, disregarding their presence. However, unlike common insects, their parasitic background enables them to live at least several months without regular feeding and makes them a significant threat to both pets and humans.
How Dangerous Are Ticks?
You may wonder how something so small as a tick can potentially become so harmful. Different types of ticks exist around the world, and although you may live in a region where they are less common, the ticks that do exist nearby can still pose a threat to you and your dog. This is because ticks can carry a variety of diseases.
Their ability to move from host to host allows them to transmit those same diseases to you or your canine companion. Even if a tick doesn’t transmit a disease to your dog, a tick bite or a tick that’s still present on your dog’s body is a reason for concern. When a tick bites your dog, it can release toxins into your dog’s bloodstream, causing discomfort and harm to your dog’s health.
If a tick bites your dog and the area becomes infected, it can progress into a severe bacterial infection or even cause your dog to become infected with worms. Although you might anticipate that only one tick may bite your dog, the unfortunate reality is that sometimes multiple ticks may follow and lead to an infestation. This tends to happen if you’ve traveled to an unfamiliar area with a high concentration of ticks.
A tick feeding on a dog for an extended period without any appropriate action taken for removal is another possible cause. Interaction with other dogs that have a pre-existing tick infestation can also lead to an infestation in your dog. Tick infestations are a serious concern because if they’re not properly treated and managed, the infestation can grow, eventually causing severe anemia in your dog or even death.
How to Identify Ticks on Dogs
Now that you understand the threat that ticks can pose, you also understand how important it is to identify and remove them so that your dog can receive treatment. Sometimes it can be hard to identify ticks on your dog because they can efficiently hide within the fur. Other times, it will be very obvious that a tick is present because they might be pushing down part of the fur, causing swelling in an affected area, or your dog might be scratching the location of the tick bite due to irritation or inflammation.
Generally speaking, a tick on your dog might look like a small, round, and raised bump. Many dog owners tend to mistake ticks for a wart or skin growth on their pooch. Ticks are not always found feeding in visible areas on your dog, however. They can often infest some unexpected regions on your dog’s body.
For example, sometimes ticks will attach themselves to the underside of a dog’s ear. This is a very common location for tick infestations and can be very uncomfortable for the dog if not addressed promptly. Another popular area that ticks target is around your dog’s neck, which can mean sometimes they aren’t identified if they’re attached under a large tuft of fur or beneath your dog’s collar. Ticks may also hide between your dog’s toes, under the tail, and in crevasses under the legs.
A good way to identify ticks that might be hiding on your dog’s body is to spend time running your fingers through their fur and checking for any unusual bumps or marks that may not have been present during your previous grooming session. Grooming brushes and similar tools can also help locate ticks on your dog’s body. If you tend to groom your dog a lot and notice that something keeps catching the brush and preventing you from taking a solid stroke on your dog’s fur, it may be a hint that there’s a tick hiding underneath.
If you don’t know how to remove a tick or don’t have the proper tools for removal, it can be risky. If you don’t remove a tick properly, it can result in infection from parts of the tick’s mouth remaining embedded in your dog’s skin. Whenever you find a tick on your dog, the best thing you can do is contact your veterinarian. They will remove the tick or provide you with the correct tools and guidelines for removal and any necessary medications.
If you receive guidance on how to remove the tick yourself, you’ll have to check the tick’s body afterward to ensure that its mouth and legs are still present. If any portions of the tick’s body seem to be missing, it means that those parts are still embedded in your dog’s skin. If the tick is still alive, additional guidance may be required to kill it safely. Ticks should never be killed by squishing because this can actually put you at further risk of being bitten.
Tips for Tick Prevention
The best way to reduce the threat of ticks is to take action ahead of time to prevent them from ever reaching or surviving an encounter with your dog. As you may already know, there are many topical treatments available on an over-the-counter basis at your local pet supply store.
Although some of these treatments help kill ticks if they attach themselves to your dog, the ingredients in these products can sometimes be questionable. You should always spend some time researching these types of treatments and their related reviews to weigh the pros and cons of application on your dog’s fur or skin.
Other products such as collars or oral tablets can also be used as a preventative option to reduce ticks or completely kill them, but again, usage of these products is based on your comfort level. In general, you should always consult with your veterinarian regarding what can be done as a preventative measure. Your vet will be able to prescribe medications or treatments that are not available over-the-counter and will also be able to advise regarding whether store-bought products are safe to use on your dog.
Actively checking for ticks is strongly recommended as the main preventative option because it will help you to become familiar with your dog’s body and recognize when a tick may be present on your dog. This is particularly relevant if you live in an area where ticks are widespread. Preventative treatments are helpful but are not a replacement for active monitoring.
Of course, if you are actively checking for ticks on your dog’s body, you must remember to be mindful of protecting yourself. A tick that’s interested in feeding on your dog will be equally interested in feeding on you or any other animals you may have in your household!
Although ticks can indeed wreak havoc on your dog’s health, protecting your pooch doesn’t have to be complicated. Frequent grooming, easy to use removal tools, and professional guidance from your veterinarian can take the guesswork out of tick prevention and ensure that your dog gets the necessary care if a tick bite is inevitable.
Staying aware of your dog’s fur and skin health and being extra careful when you do discover a tick’s presence is essential for protecting both of you from potential health risks caused by these small parasites. If you have any doubts when an eventual encounter with a tick does arise, reach out to your vet for further support regarding tick removal and treatment.