If you are the proud owner of a canine companion, you will find that there are many aspects of his care to think about. Something that is often overlooked, especially in the early days, is the importance of learning about parasites that can affect your dog and what you can do about them. Ticks are one of the most prevalent parasites that may cause problems for your furbaby.
What are ticks?
Ticks are extremely common parasites that can be found across the United States. They prefer dense woodland, swaps and long grasses, but they can survive in virtually any terrain. They are also active all year round, although more tick bites tend to occur during the summer months.
Many people are surprised to learn that there are a variety of different types of tick that can be found in the United States. These include:
- American Dog Tick
- Brown Dog Tick
- Deer Tick
- Gulf Coast Tick
- Lone Star Tick
- Western Black-Legged Tick
- Wood Tick
Ticks survive by attaching themselves to a host and drinking their blood. Each tick is very small to begin with, but as they gorge on their victim’s blood they swell to three times their original size. Some ticks drink quickly and once they have had their fill, they move on to the next unwilling donor. However, some drink slowly and may remain attached to your pet for a number of days.
Ticks spread disease
Unfortunately, while they are eating, any microorganisms that are present in the tick are transmitted into their host’s bloodstream – in this case, your pet’s. While not every tick may be infected with a disease, many are. Some of the most common tick-borne diseases that may affect your dog include:
- Lyme Disease (transmitted by infected Deer Ticks)
- Anaplasmosis (carried by Deer Ticks)
- Ehrlichiosis (transmitted by infected Brown Dog Ticks)
- Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (carried by American Dog Ticks, Brown Ticks, Wood Ticks and Lone Star Ticks)
- Hepatazoonosis (spread by bites from an infected Brown Dog Tick or Gulf Coast Tick)
- Babesiosis (transmitted by American Dog Ticks and Brown Ticks)
- Bartonellosis (spread by infected Brown Ticks and lice/fleas)
Some of these diseases can also be contracted by humans, and their effects can have long-term and potentially permanent, debilitating effects for both you and your dog.
It is not always easy to spot a tick right away. For his reason, we strongly recommend that you groom and thoroughly check your dog’s body every time he comes in from outdoors, as this is when he is most likely to pick one up.
Pay close attention to the insides of his legs and his underbelly, particularly if he has a long coat. It is very easy for a tick to attach itself to his fur when he is waking through long grasses and bushes.
The size of a tick can vary depending on how long ago it last had a meal, from a pin head to a small fingernail. They vary in color from pale cream to dark brown and are usually round or tear-shaped.
Removing ticks from your dog
Ticks are relatively easy to remove, and you can use either sterilized tweezers or a specialist tool called a tick twister. Make sure you wear rubber gloves to prevent any blood from getting on to your skin, as it could be infected.
You can remove a tick from your dog in just a few steps.
1. Put on your gloves and secure your dog in place.
2. Using your tweezers or tick tool, grasp the tick as close to your pet’s body as you can, ideally where the mouth meets the skin.
3. Slowly pull the tick away from your pet’s body. Aim to remove it intact but be care not to squeeze it as this could cause it to burst and get infected blood on to your canine pal. Try not to twist as you pull as this increases the likelihood that the tick’s head will be left in her skin.
4. If the head does come off, don’t try and dig it out. This can cause infection. Instead, your pet’s body should automatically push it out in a few days.
5. Kill the tick by placing it in alcohol, then pop it in to a resealable plastic bag or a jar. It may be worth keeping hold of the tick for a short while after as, should your dog become ill, our vet may want to identify the species of tick that bit him.
In most cases, unless your dog has any symptoms of being unwell, you can relax once you have removed the tick. However, you should prioritize preventative care.
There are many different preventative medications currently available, many of which will also protect your dog from other parasites such as fleas, as well as ticks. Most of these treatments are breed or size specific and come in a range of formats from spot-on ointments to oral medications, so make sure you choose a suitable solution for your pet. If you need advice, speak to our veterinarian.
While ticks may be a common part of canine ownership, they can be quick to treat and are possible to avoid. If you would like to discuss tick treatment and preventatives, our friendly, expert team at Murrayville Veterinary Clinic are available to answer your questions. Please do not hesitate to call our Murrayville vet office today.