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How to Recognize and Prevent Tick Bites in Dogs

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Learn what symptoms are associated with canine tick bites and Lyme disease and how to protect dogs from exposure. Dogs owners that live in or travel through high-risk areas for ticks should know how to recognize possible exposure and know what to do in case of a bite.

happy long hair chihuahua in grass

What are Ticks? And What do They Do?

Ticks are small arachnids that are related to mites and spiders. Ticks survive by feeding on blood and securely attach themselves to their food sources while feeding. Left unattended or untreated, ticks can take several days to finish feeding on one animal. This extended period of contact makes ticks very efficient disease carriers with both humans and animals.

Ticks typically wait for passing food sources by clinging to the tips of shrubs and grasses. When they sense the passing of a warm-blooded creature, they let go of their perch and drop onto the unsuspecting passerby. Ticks cannot jump or fly; crawling is their only means of getting around.

There are many different varieties of ticks, the most well-known being the Deer Tick, which has been known to carry Lyme disease. Other types such as the Brown Dog Tick are very rarely reported to bite humans and tend to focus their attention on small mammals such as dogs.

tick on dog fur

 

How to Tell if a Dog Has Been Bitten by a Tick

Initially, the only way to know is to check your dog thoroughly for ticks. Look in areas like their paw pads and inside their ears too. The sooner you get them off, the less chance they have of getting a tick borne illness from it.

Canine symptoms are fairly similar to the ones that humans experience but can be much harder to spot through the fur of a dog. 

Your dog may:

  • Shake their head.
  • Lick or scratch at a certain spot.
  • The skin may be red and inflamed.

Symptoms of Lyme disease in dogs include

  • Fever.
  • Muscle and joint pain and soreness.
  • Rash that spreads outwards from the bite.
  • Decreased appetite.
  • Lethargy and tiredness.
  • Lameness.

How soon after being bitten do symptoms appear in dogs?

It can be as early as 2 days after being bitten. Lyme disease can show up as late as 5 months after being bitten.

How to Prevent Tick Bites and Infection

In areas known to be infested with ticks, or any area outside where there are trees and grass around, exposure can be difficult to prevent, but there are ways to cut down on the risk of tick bites.

Purchase flea and tick repellent, which is commonly available at pet stores and veterinary offices. Follow the usage instructions and be careful to avoid getting the spray on sensitive body parts such as the dog’s eyes and mouth. Reapply as directed to deter ticks.

In high-risk, areas keep dogs on a leash and in the center of the trail to avoid brushing up on tall grasses that may harbor ticks.

Avoid letting dogs run free in tall grassy areas that are prone to tick infestations.

Check your dog immediately after you get home. Many times if you do this quickly, you can remove the tick before it attached to the dog.

2 chihuahua dogs wearing dresses in grass and flowers

What to Do if Dog has Been Bitten

The tick should be removed as soon as possible. Never attempt to remove a tick with bare fingers, as contact with the insect can spread infection.

  • Use a cotton ball soaked with alcohol to clean the area and put it on the tick. Sometimes this will make them detach from the skin.
  • Grasp the tick firmly with a pair of tweezers or tick remover tool and firmly pull it straight out, being careful not to crush or twist the tick.
  • Once removed, put the tick in a small container of alcohol in case your vet wants to see it. Not all breeds of ticks cause Lyme disease.
  • Wash the affected area thoroughly with alcohol.
  • Wash your hands.
  • Call your vet and see if they want you to bring the dog in. If so, bring the tick in too. Tick bites and the infections they can spread are treatable with a variety of antibiotics, but early detection and removal are critical. 
  • If you are in an area where there isn’t much occurrence of Lyme disease, then most likely the vet will just want to you to keep an eye out for any symptoms in your dog for the next several months.

Lyme disease and other tick-borne infections are treatable illnesses when recognized promptly. Keep a close eye on dogs and other family pets to ensure that any tick issues are dealt with as quickly as possible.

Make a Tick Removal Kit 

If you and your dog go on outside adventures, make a little tick removal kit to keep on hand. 

In it put:

  • 2 tiny jars of alcohol: one is to use to wipe your dog’s skin and the other is to put the tick in show your vet.
  • A few cotton balls.
  • Tweezers or tick remover tool.
  • Hand sanitizer for you to clean your hands.

Conclusion

Ticks are nasty little blood suckers and no one likes having to deal with them But most of us will have to at some point or another. I have found a tick several times on myself as well as my kids and my dogs. One of my daughters was treated for Lyme disease. 

As much as we all hate them, knowledge is power. Be prepared and know what to do before your dog comes into contact with a tick.

Have you had to deal with ticks on your dog before? Do you have any tips that I may have missed? Leave a comment and let us know!

Cathy

 

Valerie Manon

Sunday 16th of May 2021

We live on the MS Gulf Coast. My Sister-In-Law lived 2 blocks from us. They found a tick on their dog and poor thing got Lyme Disease from it. Not took long after I found a tick on my dog. Luckily my dog didn't get Lyme Disease, but my Sister-In-Laws doing suffered permanent nerve damage from it. Scared me so bad that I have a Lyme Disease included with their yearly vacinations.

Cathy

Sunday 16th of May 2021

Oh wow, I'm sorry for the dog that got sick. It's good you are being vigilant about ticks with your dog.

Cathy Perez

Saturday 15th of May 2021

Thank you Cathy for this information, I’m going to make up a tick removal kit to keep handy for my littles.

Cathy

Sunday 16th of May 2021

You're welcome Cathy!

Francesca

Friday 14th of May 2021

So glad I found your site! We need a place to go to share our little loved ones! My Chihuahua is a rescue & my 1st dog. He is 10 years old and I groom him every night. I also brush his teeth. He isn't heavy. He is my service dog. He was trained by "Operation At Ease.com.&the American Kennel club. He has a blue ribbon for"CANININE GOOD CITIZEN". He was one of 2 Chihuahuas in the class. So proud of him!

Cathy

Friday 14th of May 2021

Thanks for joining us Francesca! SOunds like you have an awesome little chi!