When it comes to pests, ticks are among the most annoying. They can be difficult to find when they hide among your dog’s fur, they can be hard to remove from the dog’s skin, and they can cause serious diseases — in both canines and humans.
Tick bites are responsible for a host of illnesses, including tick paralysis, skin infections, anemia, and Lyme disease. Early detection and diagnosis are crucial to the successful treatment of these health issues. Make sure to inspect your pets, and yourself, any time you come in from having fun outdoors, especially in heavily wooded areas.
Of course, the best course of action is to prevent ticks on dogs in the first place. Read on for an overview of how to keep these pests at bay, what to do if you see a tick on your dog, and symptoms of tick-borne illnesses to look out for.
How To Prevent Tick Bites
There’s a pretty wide range of ways to repel ticks, from home remedies to medications. Let’s take a look.
Those who try to live an all-natural lifestyle can add apple cider vinegar and garlic to their dogs’ meals. Those odors are unappealing to ticks, so they might be less inclined to bite. Similarly, you can treat your dog topically with lemon-infused water, lavender shampoo, or rose geranium essential oil.
There are also commercial shampoos, dips, sprays, and topical solutions available. You may want to ask your veterinarian what she recommends. One danger of topical applications is that the product could be ingested by the treated pet, or by another pet in the home.
While you are at the vet’s office, ask about oral tick prevention medications. These can be pricier than the other options, but they are also effective and easy to administer. There’s no mess, and each dose will generally last for a couple of months. That means you can fetch, frolic and play on a moment’s notice without fear.
Checking for Tick Bites and Ticks on Dogs
Make a post-playtime tick check a normal part of your dog’s day. Anytime he’s been outdoors, but particularly if he’s been in grassy or wooded areas, take some time to look for ticks and/or tick bites.
Do this by running your fingers over your dog’s body, getting into and underneath his fur. Use gentle pressure. Examine any small bumps, scratches, or other irregularities.
Ticks are good at hiding where it’s hard for humans to find them, so be sure to pay special attention to areas like:
- Around and inside the ears
- Around the eyes
- Underneath the collar
- Between the legs
- Between the toes
- Around the tail
- Near the anus
If you do find a tick, don’t panic. They are relatively easy to remove, but you must follow a few important guidelines.
How to Safely Remove a Tick
There are specially designed tick removers for both pets and humans. These are handy to have because they take the guesswork out of removing ticks. They also remove the entire tick, an important step for ensuring the safety of your dog.
However, it’s not necessary to have these tools. You can use a regular set of fine-pointed tweezers. The trick is to grasp the tick firmly where it is attached to your pet’s skin. Pull directly upward, rather than twisting or squeezing the tick.
Do your best not to crush the tick’s body or leave any of its mouth parts behind. This can cause infectious material to spread on the dog’s skin.
After you have removed the tick, dispose of it safely. You can seal it inside a plastic bag or container and throw it away, or flush it down the toilet. Thoroughly clean the dog’s skin, your hands, and the tool you have used with rubbing alcohol or soap and hot water.
Never try a home remedy for tick removals such as covering it with nail polish, hairspray, or petroleum jelly. Nor should you ever burn the tick off. In addition to presenting a burn risk to the dog, this method can actually increase the dog’s odds of contracting a tick-borne illness.
If you aren’t comfortable removing the tick yourself, contact your vet’s office to arrange for a professional to conduct the tick removal.
Watch Out for Symptoms of Tick-Borne Diseases
These pesky parasites can, with just one little bite, cause myriad illnesses. Some of the most common diseases and their symptoms include:
- Lyme disease can cause lameness, stiff or swollen limbs or joints, loss of appetite, fatigue, and fever.
- Canine Ehrlichiosis is characterized by loss of appetite, depression or listlessness, unexplained weight loss, runny eyes, a runny nose, nose bleeds, fever, and swollen limbs.
- Canine Anaplasmosis has symptoms such as high fever, loss of appetite, stiffness or lameness, lethargy or listlessness, vomiting, diarrhea, and seizures in extremely serious cases.
- Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever may show signs like fever, stiffness or joint problems, neurological issues, and skin lesions.
- Canine Babesiosis is notable for causing anemia, as well as pale gums, weakness, and vomiting.
- Canine Hepatozoonosis is accompanied by symptoms like fever, runny eyes, runny nose, muscular pain or stiffness, and diarrhea or bloody stool.
- Tick-Borne Paralysis affects the dog’s nervous system, resulting in symptoms like weakness and paralysis. You can learn more about tick-borne paralysis in this newsletter.
One of the most important aspects of many of these diseases is that they can remain asymptomatic for months. Continue to monitor your dog’s health even after the tick season is over, or even if your pet has not visited any wooded areas recently.
Remember that you know your dog best, as well. If there seems to be something amiss, contact your veterinarian to schedule a checkup. It’s always better to be safe than sorry when it comes to a pet’s health.
As the old saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Do your homework about the tick population in your area. Take steps to ensure your pet will repel any stray ticks that do decide to go for a ride. Use the aforementioned tips to remove and dispose of ticks on dogs.
Lastly, be vigilant about examining your dogs for the symptoms of tick-borne illnesses, and seek veterinary help immediately if you suspect one of these diseases.