There are various types of ticks in different sizes. Their preferred habitat is tall grass and low shrubs but can be found in any grassy or wooded areas. They can also hitch a ride on you or your clothing if you have been out and about, gaining them easy access to your home.
Some of the most common ticks that have been known to carry diseases are the black-legged tick (deer tick), American dog tick, brown dog tick, and the lone star tick. Deer ticks can be carriers of Lyme Disease, Canine Anaplasmosis, and Babesiosis. Lyme Disease is the most common disease (from ticks) found in dogs and can also be contracted by humans. Canine Anaplasmosis is a bacterial disease that can cause severe illness and be spread to humans.
Other diseases carried by different tick species include Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Ehrlichiosis, and Canine Hepatozoonosis. All of these can create danger for your fur baby and even yourself.
Checking your dog on a regular basis, and removing ticks right away, is of utmost importance. The following will provide some insight into the removal process:
Symptoms and Identification
Excessive scratching, loss of fur, or red and irritated skin could all be signs that a tick may be attached to your pup. If you live in or near a grassy or wooded area, the chances of your dog getting a tick are more likely. Ticks thrive in humid and warmer climates, as well.
Frequently check your pup by scanning his fur and running your fingers over his entire body including head, ears, neck, hindquarters, and paws (especially between the toes). A tick will feel like a bump or swollen area and can present in different colors such as tan, brown, or black. They have eight legs as they are in the arachnid family.
Ticks range in size from as small as a fleck of pepper up to as big as one-third of an inch. Size will also vary depending on if they are engorged with blood or not. When engorged they blow up like a balloon, some bigger than others.
Once you have found a tick on your dog, gather all the tools you will need for the removal. Fine-tipped tweezers or a tool designed specifically for tick removal (such as a tick key), are going to be the best gadgets to use. You will also need gloves, antiseptic, and isopropyl alcohol. Wearing gloves is an important part of protecting yourself from any infectious agents that could get into your bloodstream, from the tick.
Some dogs are more tolerable of you “working” on them. However, if your dog is squirming or trying to bite, it would be beneficial to have someone else assist you to hold your pup still. If you are removing the tick alone, try speaking to your dog in a calming, soothing voice. Offering up treats for good behavior can be effective as well.
Using the tweezers, grab the tick as close to your dog’s skin, without pinching your dog. Pull straight out in a firm steady motion, without twisting or jerking, ensuring that there are no tick head or mouth parts left behind in the dog. You can examine the tick closely to check for this.
If any of the head or mouth parts were left in your dog’s skin, you can attempt to remove them with the tweezers as well. If you are unable to do so, it is recommended to follow up with the vet to get them removed, to avoid further complications.
After removal, place the tick in a container of the isopropyl alcohol to kill it. Keep the tick for a few weeks in the container with a lid. Label and date the container, in case your dog develops any kind of illness. This will help the veterinarian identify the type of tick, if necessary, as well as the possible illness it has transmitted.
Since your pup has been a trooper through this process, give him some extra play time and loving (or treats) to reward his patience.
Aftercare for the Site
Once the tick is removed and disposed of properly, apply antiseptic to the bite site for disinfection. Keep a close eye on the site, and your dog, in the following days and weeks. Watch the bite site for inflammation or infection.
Other symptoms to be on the lookout for would be the loss of appetite, fatigue, fever, swollen joints or lymph nodes, reluctance to move, or neurological problems (such as increased irritability, aggression, or depression). If any of these symptoms occur, seek out medical treatment right away.
Myths and Things to Avoid
Several folk remedies have been circulating around on ways to remove or get rid of ticks, including using nail polish, petroleum jelly, or burning or freezing the tick. Trying to suffocate the tick with products will only cause potential problems for your dog, as the tick could secrete more bacteria into your dog. Plus, this will not necessarily guarantee the tick will come off. Even if the tick were to withdraw itself because of these products, it would take time; therefore, increasing the risk of infection or disease for your pup.
Squashing or crushing the tick can increase the risk of infection. Bringing any kind of fire or burning element near your pet is simply a common-sense thing to avoid. Freezing products are not recommended either due to the difficulty in determining how much to use and for how long. Not to mention the unknown impact on your pup.
If you choose not to kill the tick in alcohol and save it (as recommended earlier), do not just throw the tick away or try to wash it down the sink. They are resilient little creatures. Flushing them down the toilet or suffocating them in tape or plastic are other options.
Another helpful aspect to aid in prevention is adequate grooming. Long-haired dogs with double coats are especially at risk due to how easily ticks can hide in the thick fur. Proper grooming involves regular brushing and bathing. Not only is this good for your dog’s skin and coat, but it also gives you the opportunity to check the skin for any ticks or bites regularly.
Part of grooming includes utilizing the best clippers on your pup’s fur to keep the coat trimmed and in good condition. If you do not feel comfortable using clippers yourself, professional groomers can provide excellent care and grooming for your pup.
There are many preventatives available on the market that keep ticks at bay. Whether you prefer natural or chemical solutions, it is important to try to prevent ticks from getting on your pup.
One of the first places you can start is in your own yard. Keep your yard cut frequently and clear of leaves and debris. Create a barrier of rocks or wood chips between the lawn and wooded areas to cut down on migrating ticks. Clear out brush or tall grass from around your home and other parts of the yard. Keep wildlife (deer and other animals) out of your yard, as these animals often carry ticks on them.
Treating your yard with a pesticide spray such as permethrin could be beneficial as well. I use this in my own yard, and it keeps other bugs such as mosquitos, fleas, and ants at bay. Diatomaceous Earth is a natural pesticide that kills off annoying pests, but organic and safe for pets and humans.
As for your dog itself, there are chemical preventatives that are used to prevent ticks from getting on his fur and attaching. These can be purchased through the vet, pet stores, or online, and vary from topical solutions to chews that are given once a month. There are also some collars available that your dog can wear.
Medicated shampoos specifically designed to kill ticks are available. This is more of a labor-intensive process, as you will need to bathe your dog in the shampoo much more often, for the shampoo to stay effective.
Certain natural solutions have been shown to work as well. Apple cider vinegar causes acidity in the bloodstream, which could make your dog less appealing to ticks. You can place some in your dog’s water bowl. It is recommended to use half a teaspoon per day, for every 25 pounds of weight of your dog.
Diatomaceous Earth (the food grade type) can be used on your dog directly. Other things such as citrus repellent and herbal flea and tick repellents are on the market. It would be wise to speak with your vet regarding all these options, to ensure safety for your pup.
About the Author
Adam Conrad is a dad of 5 Shih Tzu pups. His passion for helping people in all aspects of dog care flows through in the coverage he provides about dog health issues like CDV (Canine Distemper Virus), pet containment systems, dog grooming, and best food for dogs. In his spare time he is an avid scuba diver.