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Ticks are tiny parasites that can cause significant problems for pet parents and their dogs. Not only do ticks feast on their hosts’ blood, but they can transmit diseases, including Lyme disease, canine ehrlichiosis, and Rocky Mountain spotted fever. Another condition, called hepatozoonosis, can develop after a dog ingests an infected tick (this particular condition is also one of the most dangerous).
Dogs typically pick up ticks outside in wooded or grassy areas. Due to their size, these parasites are difficult to see. While pet parents may sometimes feel a tick while petting their dog, there’s also a chance they never know it’s there until their dog starts exhibiting symptoms of a tick-borne illness.
Finding and removing ticks is crucial for reducing a dog’s risk of developing a tick-borne disease. Here’s what pet parents need to do.
If a dog has spent time running around in tall grass, through bushes, or in the woods, their pet parent should look them over thoroughly when they go back inside. These places (including grass as short as six inches) provide cover for ticks.
The following areas are some of the most common places ticks will hide on a dog:
Under the collar
Additionally, ticks are often found on a dog’s head and in their nose. However, the entire body should be examined. Ticks are easier to spot on short-haired dogs. For long-haired dogs, pet parents may need a flea comb or brush to help look through the fur. A flea comb is an excellent tool to have on hand for this job. It makes it easier for pet parents to find ticks latched onto a dog’s body or those wandering through their fur.
Should they find a tick roaming their dog’s body or attached to the skin, they’ll want to remove it as soon and as carefully as possible. If a pet parent doesn’t find any ticks, they can reward their dog for sitting still during the once-over.
Removing a tick from a dog as soon as possible is vital for reducing the risk of tick-borne illnesses, skin irritation, and other potential issues. However, how pet parents remove the tick depends on whether it’s attached to the skin or not.
Before attempting to remove a tick, pet parents should make sure they have a few essential tools nearby:
Tweezers or a tick removal tool such as Tick Twister® or Tick Key®
It won’t hurt to have a treat or two on hand. Pet parents can reward their dogs for sitting still and behaving while they remove the tick.
If a tick is roaming around freely on the dog’s body, it likely hasn’t fed yet. Wearing disposable gloves, pet parents can carefully grab the tick with a tissue or pair of tweezers to remove it. They should then place the tick in some rubbing alcohol or crush it between two solid objects. In either case, they should avoid getting any of the parasite’s contents or blood on their skin.
Pet parents will have to take extra care if the tick is attached to their dog’s body and actively feeding. Again, they should put on disposable gloves to protect their hands. Next, they’ll need to grasp the tick with tweezers or a tick removal tool and pull gently to coax the parasite’s head out from under the skin. Slow, careful movement will decrease the risk of the tick’s mouthparts breaking off and remaining embedded.
After removing the tick, the pet parent should immediately dispose of it.
While pet parents can generally remove ticks themselves, there may be times they’ll need to visit their primary vet for assistance. Times to schedule an appointment may include:
The pet parent doesn’t feel comfortable removing the tick
The tick is in a particularly sensitive area, such as in the ear canal
The pet parent is worried their dog might bite them
The best way to avoid ticks is with monthly flea and tick prevention for dogs. Oral and topical medications help deter the parasites and keep them from embedding in a dog’s skin.
Pet parents should remember that ticks may still hitch a ride on their pets, even with flea and tick medicine for dogs. The parasites may even bite them, but they’re much less likely to attach. Pet parents should continue to check their dogs after playing in areas where ticks might like to hide. They should also remember to give their dogs the medications year-round, even during cold winter months, for optimal protection.
With regular preventative medications and routine spot checks, pet parents can help to keep their dogs safe from ticks and tick-borne illnesses.