Ticks are external parasites that feed on the blood of unlucky host animals such as our canine companions. Like mites and spiders, ticks are arachnids. The brown dog tick (Rhipicephalus sanguineus) and the American dog tick (Dermacentor variabilis), examples of ticks that commonly affect dogs, require three feedings to complete their life cycles.
How Are Ticks Transmitted to Dogs?
Ticks are most active in from spring through fall and live in tall brush or grass, where they may attach to dogs playing on their turf. These parasites prefer to stay close to the head, neck, feet and ear area. In severe infestations, however, they can be found anywhere on a dog’s body.
How Do I Know if My Dog Has Ticks?
Ticks are visible to the naked eye. During the warmer months, it’s a good idea to check your dog regularly for these parasites. If you do spot a tick, it is important to take care when removing it. Any contact with the tick’s blood can potentially transmit infection to your dog or even to you! Treat the area with rubbing alcohol and pluck the parasite with tweezers, making sure you’ve gotten the biting head and other body parts. Since it may only take a few hours for disease to be transmitted from an attached tick, it is ideal for your dog to be evaluated by a veterinarian soon after any ticks are found.
Are Certain Dogs Prone to Ticks?
Ticks can be found all over the world. But dogs who live in warm climates and certain wooded areas of the Northeast, where ticks are particularly prominent, might be more prone due to increased exposure.
What Are Some Complications Associated with Ticks in Dogs?
- Blood loss
- Tick paralysis
- Skin irritation or infection
Ticks can also transmit diseases such as Lyme disease, ehrlichiosis and Rocky Mountain spotted fever, all of which can cause serious complications and are potentially fatal without prompt and proper treatment.
My Dog Has Been Bitten by a Tick! What Should I Do?
Remove the tick, as noted above, and consult with your veterinarian, who will help you to prevent future infestation. Your vet may also perform blood tests to rule out diseases transmitted by ticks.
What Is Lyme Disease?
Lyme disease is a bacterial infection that can affect humans, dogs, cats and other mammals. Its primary carrier is the deer tick (Ixodes scapularis), which often feeds on rodents in its early stages. Later, the tick can attach to a dog or human and transmit the bacteria that cause Lyme disease. Clinical signs include depression, swelling of the lymph nodes, loss of appetite and fever, as well as lameness and swollen, painful joints. Renal failure can also be a consequence of Lyme disease.
What Should I Do If I Think My Dog Has Lyme Disease?
Bring your pet to a veterinarian, who will evaluate your dog for Lyme disease. This includes a physical exam, blood tests and possibly radiographs.
How Is Lyme Disease Treated?
Your veterinarian can best determine the optimal treatment plan for your dog. Canine Lyme disease is most often effectively treated with antibiotics. With prompt, proper treatment, your dog’s condition should start to improve within 48 hours.
How Can I Prevent Tick Infestation?
Many of the same products on the market that treat fleas also kill ticks and protect against future infestation. These topical treatments or collars are especially recommended for those dogs who live in areas with high tick populations. Speak to your vet to select the best product for your dog.
The key to any successful tick control program lies, literally, in your own backyard. Ensure a tick-free lawn by mowing it regularly, removing tall weeds and making it inhospitable to rodents by keeping garbage covered and inaccessible.