You know what really ticks us dog lovers off? Ticks of course. They’re gross little creepy crawlies that are both annoying and potentially very harmful for you and your fur-friend. It’s crucial for pet owners to be able to recognise a tick and how to treat a tick bite to best keep their fur and hooman family safe. That’s why today we’re going to discuss what ticks are, how to remove them, how to prevent tick-borne illnesses, and answer the question that many pooch owners have: what does a tick on a dog look like?
Ticks: The Basics
Like spiders and scorpions, ticks are 8-legged arachnids. They're also parasites that feed on the blood of their host to survive. There are around 20 species of ticks that live in the UK with approximately 1.5% of them carrying a harmful bacteria called Borrelia which can cause Lyme Disease in animals and humans.
Where do Ticks Live?
Ticks love to hang out in tall grassy areas, wooded areas or areas with a high density of farm or wild animals. They’re most active and abundant during the warmer months, but can still be found in colder temperatures, so it’s important to be vigilant all year round particularly if you and your fur-friend like exploring these high-risk areas. You can use this tick threat risk map to see the level of risk to ticks in your area.
What Does a Tick on a Dog Look Like?
So, now we know where ticks like to hide out, but what does a tick on a dog look like?
If you suspect that your dog may have a tick latched onto them, here are some ways to distinguish whether they are in fact a tick:
- Shape: Ticks come in all shapes and sizes, but they are generally small and round. If they haven’t been feeding on their host’s blood for long they made be flat and teardrop-shaped. But, if they have been feeding for a while they will be more engorged and plump.
- Size: Ticks expand as they feed on the blood of their host. They can be as small as a pinhead or even as large as a grape depending on how much blood they’ve gulped down.
- Legs: At first a tick might look like an ordinary skin tag on your dog, but if you inspect them closer you should be able to count 8 small legs behind their head.
- Colour: ticks can come in varying different colours but generally they’ll be brown, pink, purple or grey. Some ticks are easier to spot than others, especially if they're engorged with blood which gives them more of a pink or purple hue. However, some ticks can be difficult to spot, particularly if they blend in with the colour of your dog's fur.
- Where to look: Pay close attention to your dog’s ears, under their armpits, and around their tail, as these are the most common areas where ticks will attach.
Now that you know what a tick on a dog looks it, let’s explore how to best remove these creepy crawlies. It's crucial to remove ticks as soon as you notice them on your pooch. If ticks are left on your furry-friend they can transmit diseases to them, such as Lyme disease which is a harmful chronic illness with lifelong implications for your pooch. Ticks can also cause anaemia in dogs if they are left to feed on them for a long period of time.
The best way to remove a tick is by using a specially designed tick-removing tool. This way they can be removed without the risk of leaving the tick’s head behind which can cause infections.
By sliding the tool between the tick and your dog’s skin, you can then gently twist and pull to remove the tick in its entirety. If you don’t have one of these you can use an ordinary pair of tweezers, just make sure you are delicate so you don’t squash the tick and leave its head behind.
If you see a small black spot left where the tick was attached, this could be part of its head or mouth which can infect your furry-friend so it’s best to seek attention from your local vet if this happens.
Once you've removed the tick, clean the area with some soap and water or rubbing alcohol. Be sure to dispose of the tick in a way that it can't reattach to your pet or anyone else. Never try to pull a tick off your dog with your fingers as this risks having the tick bite you or you may crush it and leave its head behind.
The best way to protect your pooch from ticks is to prevent them from latching onto your dog in the first place. Topical treatments or tick collars are great ways to repel ticks and are particularly useful if you live in a high-risk tick area or frequently exercise your dog in scrub and woodland.
Training your dog to walk in line with your heel, or simply “heel” is also a way you can prevent your dog from bounding through high-risk tick areas that you come across on your walks such as long grass. Reward-based training using their favourite healthy dog treat is a way you can teach this to your pooch.
Ticks can transmit a variety of diseases to dogs, some of which can be very serious. Lyme disease is an example of a tick-borne illness that dogs and humans can contract. If you notice any symptoms of Lyme Disease in your dog such as limping or swollen joints, fever, fatigue, reduced appetite, swollen lymph nodes or excessive drinking and weeing, get them assessed and treated by your vet as soon as possible for the best chance of recovery.
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