Ticks are crawling critters in the mite family, vaguely resembling egg-shaped spiders. They have eight legs and can be up to 1 cm long. They feed on the blood of their host by clinging to their skin. Ticks are common in woodlands and fields, but they can also be found in the garden, whether in tall grass, shrubs, firewood pile, vines, etc.
Since ticks can transmit diseases, including Lyme disease, it is vital to find and remove ticks as quickly as possible. It is strongly suggested to have the tick tested to make sure it is not a carrier of the disease.
Found a tick on your dog and don’t know what to do? Don’t panic; this article will educate you on how to detect, eliminate, and protect your dog from tick-borne diseases.
1. How do I know if my dog has ticks?
You are most likely to encounter them in areas where deer, horses, and sheep live, between spring and fall, but they are active throughout the year in some areas.
Ticks do not fly or jump, but instead, climb or fall on your dog’s coat when you pass them. Then, they cling to your pet’s skin and suck its blood for a few days before falling back.
Get in the habit of visually and manually inspecting your dog’s entire body after each outing, especially if he has walked in tall grass or near shrubs.
Warning: although they seem to like the circumference of the ears and the neck, they can get caught anywhere on the body, even between the toes of your dog’s paws.
2. How do I remove a tick from a dog?
If during the inspection of your dog, you find a tick (s), it should be removed safely. Indeed, by pulling anyhow on the beast, you risk to stagnate it, and part of its head will remain hooked in the skin of your dog. Also, avoid crushing it to decrease the risk of infection.
To remove a tick, you can use a small pointed forceps, or a forceps designed explicitly for this purpose. Grab the tick by the body, and pull gently at right angles, without any twisting motion. Once the tick is removed from your dog’s skin, disinfect the wound. To protect yourself from the risk of infection, consider wearing gloves.
Keep the tick in a small jar and take it for a test at the vet, to determine what type it is (only the Ixodes Scapularis tick carries Lyme disease) and if it is a carrier of the disease. Also, it would be wise to take the opportunity to have your dog examined in case the tick has not been demolished.
Ah yes, if you are not comfortable removing the tick yourself, take your dog quickly to the vet to have it removed.
3. What if the tick is a carrier of Lyme disease?
So you have had the tick that bit your dog tested, and the result is positive. What will happen next?
Your vet will suggest blood tests that will determine if your pet has been infected with this nasty tick that carries the disease. Depending on the type of tick in question and the results of the tests, he may prescribe preventive antibiotics for your animal.
4. What are the symptoms of Lyme disease in dogs?
If you haven’t had the tick tested following the bite, watch your dog for symptoms of Lyme disease. These can occur only 2 to 6 months after the tick bite, and consist of:
- lameness alternating from one paw to the other,
- polyarthritis with joint swelling,
- loss of appetite
See your vet promptly after any of these symptoms appear, so they can prescribe antibiotic treatment to cure your dog.
5. How to prevent tick bites?
The best way to prevent ticks in dogs is with a specially designed pest control treatment based on permethrins and imidacloprid. It is offered as a liquid that is applied directly to the dog’s skin. However, you can also seek oral antiparasitic treatment if you have cats. Why?
Be aware that treatments, including permethrin, are highly toxic to cats, and that it will be necessary to either separate your animals for 48 hours following the topical medication or to prefer the oral treatment.
Also, if you have young children who might not meet the topical treatment dry period, it would be best if you opt for oral treatment. In both cases, the procedure is given each month during the 6 months when the ticks are most active.
Avoid places where ticks are found
In addition to pest control, avoid areas where you know ticks are active as much as possible. Also, prune shrubs and tall grass, pick up plant debris on your yard, keep your lawn grass as short as possible and finally get into the habit of inspecting your dog’s body regularly.