As we head into the summer months we can look forward to lovely weather (some of the time), longer evenings, outdoor barbeques and….dog ticks. Yes those little ticks that love to lodge themselves in your dog’s skin causing them great irritation.
So lets find out a little bit more about dog ticks and how you can deal with them.
What are dog ticks?
Ticks are little parasites that feed on the blood of their “host”. They are attracted to warmth and motion and often seek out mammals including dogs. They have heat sensors that detect the heat that a dog emits. Ticks tend to hide in tall grass or plants in wooded areas.
Once they find a host (in this case a dog) they will usually attach themselves in areas where dogs have little or no hair such as around the ears, between the toes, the inside of the legs and in skin folds. They bury their mouth parts in the skin and begin feeding from the blood. One reason for this is to fertilize their eggs.
Once they are firmly attached they will not remove themselves until their feeding is complete. This may continue for several hours or days, depending on the type of tick.
Are dog ticks dangerous?
Not all ticks transmit or carry disease but there is always a threat when they are present on your dog. Most tick related diseases will take a number of hours to transmit to their host so the sooner it is removed the better. Some symptoms of tick diseases include fatigue, weakness, lameness and joint swelling. Signs may take a few days, weeks or even months to appear.
In some cases a temporary condition called “tick paralysis” may occur where a difficulty in walking is exhibited which can develop into paralysis. These signs usually start resolving themselves after the tick has been removed. If you notice any signs of illness after you have found ticks on your dog contact your veterinarian as soon as possible so necessary treatment can be given.
Tips to prevent your dog getting ticks:
There are a number of ways to help your dog avoid being bitten by these parasites. During the months of April – September you could use a tick collar when out and about with your pet. There are many shampoos, sprays and medications available that you can use to repel ticks. Look out for ones made of natural ingredients so there are no harmful chemicals that could irritate your dog’s skin.
Also, try to avoid areas with tall grass and wood as ticks are especially present there. If you are walking your dog in these kind of places examine them daily to ensure that they have not been bitten.
Steps to take if your dog has ticks:
Firstly make sure that it is actually a tick as sometimes warts, cysts and small skin tumours can resemble the appearance of the insect. One indication will be if your dog frequently scratches himself in one area. If you’re not too squeamish then you may want to remove the ticks yourself –
You will need:
- A pair of pointy tweezers or special tick tweezers (available from most vets)
- A pair of latex gloves (if you are removing it with your fingernails)
- A container (to put the tick into if you want the vet to test it for diseases)
- Cotton wool and warm soapy water
- Over the counter antibiotic cream/disinfectant suitable for animals
1. Part the hair and get a good look at the tick to figure out where it is attached to the skin.
2. Slide the tweezers right under the body of the tick between the head and the skin (see photo) to get a firm grip.
5. Pull the tick straight up out of the skin using a steady and strong pressure. Do this slowly as yanking it too quickly can leave part of the ticks mouth lodged in the skin which will cause an infection. If you wait 20 – 30 seconds after gripping it, the tick will release its grasp and you will be able to remove it fully. You may want to hold the dog’s skin down to firmly grab the tick.
6. Clean the area with a little soap and warm water, then apply a mild disinfectant or over the counter antibiotic to help clear up the area affected.
7. If the tick is still alive and you want it tested for disease, put it in some alcohol to kill it and place it in a covered container to give to the vet. If not, dispose of it outside the house. Never remove or kill a tick with your bare hands because if you do you are putting yourself at risk of contracting Lyme disease or other tick related diseases.
Don’t be too alarmed if the affected area takes a few days to heal. As long as there’s no pus and no symptoms of illness your dog should be fine.