Tick season means tick-hunting season. Prevention is your best weapon to protect your dog from tick bites! Here is everything you need to know to keep you and your dog safe from tick-borne diseases.
Why is it necessary to check your dog for ticks?
Ticks are external parasites, living by feeding on the blood of mammals, birds, and sometimes reptiles and amphibians (also known as hosts). A tick is considered an arachnid and most ticks fall into two families- hard ticks (Ixodidae) and soft ticks (Argasidae). Like other arachnids, a tick's size and appearance varies by its species, gender and whether it's in a larval, nymphal or adult life stage. Most ticks prefer to have a different host animal at each stage of their life and some need to feed on blood at each life stage.
During the feeding process, saliva from the tick may transmit through the skin of a host animal which is how a tick with an infection-causing pathogen spreads disease to its host. Ticks are known for carrying diseases including Lyme disease, which can be a debilitating diagnosis for humans and dogs. Dogs are susceptible to tick bites and tick-borne diseases, especially if they spend time outdoors. Since there aren't many vaccines to treat tick-borne diseases in dogs, it's crucial to prevent ticks from attaching onto, and biting your pets.
An undisturbed tick can stay attached to a dog for a varied length of time. The amount of time a tick feeds on its host depends on the life stage of the tick, its species and the host's reaction to it. Some adult ticks can feed on a host for up to 7-10 days! Diligently inspecting your pets for ticks shortly after spending time outdoors will help prevent your dog from harmful tick bites.
Familiarize yourself with the types of ticks living in your area:
Do you know which tick species are prone to your region? There are close to 900 species of ticks, but not all ticks thrive in the same environment. It's important to know how to recognize a tick and familiarize yourself with vector-borne diseases it may carry. Fortunately, of those hundreds of tick species, only a small number of tick those carry disease.
Learn more about which tick species are living in your region and how to recognize them.
Tick bites on dogs can be tricky to find. Signs of tick-borne disease may not appear for 7-21 days or more after a tick bite, so be sure watch your dog closely for changes in appetite or behavior if you suspect that your pup has been bitten.
According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), the most common tick-borne (or vector-borne) diseases affecting humans and pets are:
- Colorado tick fever
- Lyme disease
- Relapsing fever
- Rocky Mountain spotted fever
Most of these diseases cause flu-like symptoms, which can appear up to a few weeks after a bite. Further, the rash or tell-tale ring around a bite doesn't always appear, even if an infection has occurred. The only way to know with certainty that you or your dog has been infected is to check diligently for bites, and to be tested regularly.
Lyme disease is the most common tick-borne disease.
How and where to check your dog for ticks:
- Run your fingers through your dog's fur everywhere: from head to toe, in and behind the ears, around the tail, under the collar, between the toes and behind the joints- DAILY.
- Inspect any bumps you feel.
- Check your dog and yourself for ticks after hiking or walking outdoors.
How to remove a tick:
- If you find a tick attached to your dog's skin, it's important to remove the tick as soon as possible. Don't panic!
- Use fine-tipped tweezers. or use a special tool called a tick key, to grasp the tick as close to the skin’s surface as possible.
- Pull upward with steady, even pressure. Gently tug until the tick gives up and releases its bite. Avoid twisting or squishing the tick, as you want to keep the tick alive and intact until it's completely removed from your pup.
- If a tick is found within 24 hours of biting, there’s a good chance your dog has not been infected with Lyme, as it takes time to transmit. Treatments are most effective following early detection, so check with your veterinarian if you suspect your dog has been infected.
- If you accidentally break apart the tick and the mouth-parts remain stuck in the skin of your dog, remove the remaining parts with clean tweezers. If you're unable to remove the rest of the tick easily with clean tweezers, leave it alone and allow the skin to heal.
- After removing the tick, thoroughly clean the bite area on your dog and wash your hands with rubbing alcohol or soap.
How to dispose of a tick:
- Never crush a tick with your fingers.
- Dispose of the live tick by flushing it down the toilet, placing it in a sealed bag, putting it in alcohol or tightly wrapping it in tape.
Outdoor tick prevention:
- Create a 3 foot wide barrier between your yard and any wooded areas. Gravel or wood chips can restrict tick migration.
- Consider installing a fence to keep deer and unwanted animals off of your property and/or install an invisible fence to keep your dog within the safe zone.
- Remove vegetation that attracts deer and other hosts.
- Mow and rake frequently. Ticks lay eggs in dead leaves and "quest" on tall grass when looking for hosts.
- Remove trash or old furniture from your yard that could give ticks a place to hide.
- Stack wood neatly and in a dry area to deter tick hosts such as rodents.
Indoor tick prevention:
- After returning from a walk or hike, brush your dog thoroughly to catch ticks before they embed.
- Vacuum once a week and empty the bag/filter each time.
- Wash dog bedding once a week.
With such a huge variety of chemical and natural tick repellents on the market, it can be overwhelming to choose the right one for your pup. Be sure to read labels, research ingredients, and consult your veterinarian before using a repellent. Common tick repellents include:
- Topical sprays
- Spot-on applications
- Oral treatments
- Tick collars
- Essential oils
- Insecticides and sprays for plants
Remember these helpful tips next time you and your dog explore the outdoors. Be proactive by using a form of tick repellent on your pets and create a safe, tick-free environment in your yard. Don't forget to carefully inspect your dog for ticks every day!
Interesting fact: 🤓
Did you know that a tick can survive in water?
Although ticks are unable to swim, they have been known to survive up to three days while submerged in water.
Further research found that ticks can even survive a washing machine cycle! However, the dry, hot environment of the dryer killed all adult and nymph ticks within a 10 minute cycle.
Topics discussed in this article:
- Where to check for ticks on your dog
- Tick prevention for dogs
- Tick host deterrents
- Tick repellent options
- How to remove a tick
- Tick treatments for pets
- How to dispose of ticks
- Types of ticks and tick-borne diseases
Photo source: canva.com