When out and about in the warmer months, our dogs tend to go on adventures through brush and tall grass which can sometimes cause an unwanted visitor to latch on.
Sometimes it isn’t until a few days later that you notice that your dog has a new pimple that seems to be getting bigger and bigger – well guess what? If it has eight legs, it’s a tick!
Ticks are external parasites that feed on the blood of their hosts. Not only are they totally gross, also be wary that they can transmit blood borne diseases such as Lyme Disease.
Ticks are most active in Spring to Fall, and are often found in tall brush. They like to sit on the tallest grass and stick their little arms out until they come into contact with a host, and they jump right on in and make themselves comfortable, yuck!
So how do you know you if your dog has a tick?
The best thing to do is to do a quick body check after every walk. Although ticks favor areas such as the head, neck, feet and ear area, it is a good idea to run your hands all over your dog to make sure there are no swollen areas or lumps.
OMG I found a tick! Now what?
The best thing to do is remove it! There are lots of tools out there for specifically removing ticks, and I personally keep one on my key chain for whenever we go out. When you do remove a tick, it is best to do it with great care, as any contact with the tick’s blood can transmit disease to your dog and even you.
If you don’t have a tick remover, forceps also work, but be very gentle. You don’t want to pinch your dogs skin or disconnect the ticks’ body from its head. Grasp the tick as close as possible to the skin, and pull outward straight and steady. Be sure you remove the head (which is buried under the skin), since anything left behind could lead to an infection.
If you aren’t sure, take your dog to the vet to have it removed, but always always always keep the body! Drop the tick into a small container with isopropyl alcohol which will kill the tick in case you need to show the tick to your veterinarian for identification if your dog starts showing any strange symptoms.
Afterwards, be sure to clean your dogs skin with an antiseptic, and to clean off your tweezers and yourself. Congratulations! You dealt with your first tick.
Be sure to keep an eye on the area afterwards in case there is any infection or swelling.
So how do we avoid ticks?
To avoid ticks, you can either stay out of overgrown grass and brush. If you remove a tick within 18-24 hours, it greatly reduces the risk of infection, but I would always follow up with your vet to check for any diseases regardless, just to play it safe.
There are also great parasite prevention products out there that help control ticks. Although no product out there has 100% efficacy against ticks, there are many great products such as tick collars that you can get from your veterinarian. Be sure to chat with your vet to see which parasite preventative is best for you, and make sure you mention if you have any cats since some products are safe for your dog but not your cat!
So, be sure to check your dog often for ticks, and get your pup on a parasite preventative if you find yourself outdoors often.