Help! My dog has a tick
Ticks are parasites and they feed on the blood of the animals they pick out as their hosts. They are attracted to heat created by warm bodies and movement, often seeking out mammals – including dogs and cats, and also cattle and humans.
Ticks tend to hide out in tall grass or plants in wooded areas laying idle waiting for likely hosts. Once a host is found, the tick will climb on and attaches itself to their host by digging their mouthparts into the skin. They will then begin their blood meal, feasting on your dog. Once locked into the place they have bitten your pet, the tick will not detach itself until it is completely engorged and completed its meal.
There are various species of ticks and depending on which species, their life span can be several months to several years. A female adult tick can lay hundreds to thousands of eggs at any one time.
The Dangers of Ticks
Ticks are known carriers of disease, but not all ticks transmit disease. Many of the ticks species do not even carry diseases at all. However, the threat of disease is always present where ticks are concerned, and you should always take the risks very seriously as a potential danger.
Most tick-borne diseases will take several hours to transmit to a host. This means that the sooner you locate and remove any ticks, the lower the risk of disease transmission to your dog.
The warning signs of most tick-borne diseases indicating an infection include the following things:
- Fever, lethargy and weakness
- Lameness and swelling of the joints
- Severe anaemia
The onset of these signs may take a few days, weeks or even months to appear.
Some ticks can cause a short-term condition called “tick paralysis,” which is marked by a slow but sure inception of difficulty walking that develops into paralysis. If you notice these or any other signs of illness in your dog, contact your vet as soon as possible so that proper testing and treatments can begin.
Finding and Removing Ticks from Your Dogs and cats
If you find an embedded tick, be sure to remove it quickly.
Here’s how: Wear latex gloves to protect infecting yourself with any diseases or bacteria. Use a pair of tweezers or buy a specially-designed tick removal tool from your pet care provider or pet store. This will help you to grasp the tick at the point of attachment. Try to do this as close to the skin as as you can possible get.
Be very careful not to squeeze the body of the tick. If the tick bursts, its body fluids may cause bacteria and disease to be injected into the site where it has bitten your dog.
Pull the tick directly out from the skin slowly but steadily. You should not twist or turn your tick remover. Some of your dog’s skin will come off with the tick, still stuck in the tick’s mouthpiece, but this is normal. A little bleeding may occur and if this happens, just apply light pressure to the area until it has stopped.
Sometimes it also happens that a part of the tick’s head stays behind in the dog, embedded in the skin. If this happens, use the tweezers to gently pull it out if it is possible. If it cannot be done, don’t become worried. It will fall off in due course. It could, but rarely causes complications. I usually advise owners to just keep a good eye on the site and visit the vet if they have any concerns at all.
After you have removed the tick and any of the mouthpieces that might have stayed behind, you have to clean your dog’s skin at and around the area where the tick was.
You can use mild soapy water and a disinfectant and dry the skin after. Do watch your dog and the area for a few days to make sure it is all in order. Remember your vet is only a phone call away.
Lastly l want to tell you about a product that l have found on the market. The name of it is “tick away” by the company beaphar. It has a little nozzle that you point directly at the tick and then pull the trigger. It works kind of like a wart freeze. You do not have to pull the tick off in the traditional way and there is no fear of broken skin or mouthpieces left behind. You don’t have to get your hands dirty at all. All you do is spray it on and the tick will fall off all by itself. I use this product myself or recommend it for owners that find touching or working with ticks absolutely unbearable. Regular grooming will help keep your pets clear of ticks and other parasites. Read more in our article about grooming.