June 24th •
Dogs are adventurous and playful animals. This attitude, although adorable to you, puts them at a greater risk of tick bites.
Ticks latch on and feed for multiple days, and can burrow themselves into the skin. This can make them difficult to find with a quick inspection of your dog’s coat.
Ticks can also carry a number of diseases that are dangerous for both you and your dogs. That’s why it’s important that you take steps to prevent tick bites from occurring in the first place.
Dogs love to run around and rub themselves up against just about anything. This playful attitude puts dogs at risk for contact with ticks and parasites.
Ticks hide out in grass, bushes, and trees, waiting for animal hosts to pass by. When your dog rubs themselves in the grass, the tick takes advantage of the opportunity to latch onto their fur and start burrowing into the skin.
Some ticks take a more active approach to finding a host. They’ll actually start crawling toward dogs when they catch wind of their scent. When they get close enough, they’ll grab on around the toes and start feeding.
You should also keep in mind that ticks are not just active during the warmer months of the year, although this is when populations tend to rise. Many tick species can survive cold temperatures, and will still be able to feed on your dog if they get close enough.
Ticks do not have the same behaviors throughout their lifespan, and will often choose different hosts depending on their age.
All ticks start out as larvae, coming from one of thousands of eggs laid by their mother. In the larval stage, ticks will usually feed on a small host, such as a rodent. As they grow, they’ll turn into what is called a nymph, which is the name for a young tick.
Nymphs have slightly bigger appetites than their young larval brothers and sisters. They’ll seek out larger host animals, including dogs, to get blood.
Once a nymph has sucked enough blood, they’ll molt, turning into a full grown, adult tick. These adult ticks are much more likely to bite humans and dogs, and are also more likely to carry dangerous bacterial illnesses.
Adult females and males behave differently. Males will find a host and last on, sometimes until they die, drawing as much blood as they can.
Females tend to gorge themselves so that they can feed the many thousands of eggs growing inside them. Once they have enough, they’ll drop off the host and go find a suitable area to lay their eggs.
There is a wide range of different tick species, not all of which are a threat to dogs. Tick species also vary widely depending on the area where you live.
Here are some of the most common tick varieties:
American Dog Tick
These ticks, as the name suggests, are attracted to dogs. However, they have also been known to bite humans. They are brown, with white streaks that run along the back, although some females may turn grey when feeding.
Young american dog ticks mainly stick to rodents, and only begin to feed on humans and dogs as they mature. They are attracted by the scent of dogs, and will crawl towards them in search of a host.
American dog ticks can live quite a long time without feeding, with many of them staying alive for over a year. They can be found year round in many areas, although populations tend to rise starting in spring.
They do not infest homes, but are found along trails, in grass, and near roads. They often attach themselves to long grass, waiting for a passing human or animal to come close enough. Once the potential host brushes up against them, they latch on, biting the skin and drawing blood.
Once a tick is attached, they can feed for prolonged periods. Males will often continue to suck blood for as long as they can, only stopping to mate. Females tend to fill themselves up and drop off so that they can lay eggs.
American dog ticks are common in many regions throughout the United States, with large numbers in the Midwest, Pacific Northwest, and along the East Coast.
Deer ticks are fairly small, with a brown body and a reddish brown posterior section. They will feed on humans and dogs throughout their life, although adult ticks tend to be the bigger menace, with the young preferring rodents.
Deer ticks mature in the fall, right in time to feed on large populations of deer. They usually live in wooded areas and in forests, which is why they are the tick that most often bites hikers.
They will wait for hosts by clinging to leaves or branches, and then move onto animals as they brush by. Once they’ve attached, they will begin to feed, engorging themselves on the host’s blood.
Deer ticks can stay on for prolonged periods, with females only dropping off to lay eggs. Deer ticks are one of the most common carriers of Lyme disease, as well as a range of other illnesses that can affect both humans and dogs.
Found throughout the United States, deer ticks are most common in the Midwest and along the East Coast, although they can also be found in some regions in the South.
Lone Star Tick
These ticks tend to be a tan or light brown color, with females featuring a white streak along the back.
Young lone star ticks tend to stick to smaller animals, such as birds and rodents. Adult ticks prefer larger game, and will feed on cows and dogs.
They prefer wooded areas with plenty of bush cover, giving them places to hide out as they wait for potential hosts to pass by. Like other tick species, they latch on to passing animals, drawing blood to feed themselves. They are also commonly found next to rivers and creeks, where they wait for deer and other animals to get a drink.
Lone star ticks can be found throughout much of the United States, with high numbers in the Midwest and in the South. They are active throughout the year in warmer climates, although they can survive temperatures just above freezing. Peak activity generally starts in spring and runs through the beginning of summer.
Brown Dog Tick
Unlike the other ticks feature so far, the brown dog tick does not usually bite humans. Instead, it focuses on dogs, using them as a host and as a fuel source to feed their eggs. They’ll bite a dog, then drop off and go lay thousands of eggs.
Brown dog ticks are found throughout the United States. They struggle to survive in colder climates. However, unlike many other tick species, they do set up shop in your house, meaning that they are an infestation risk.
They are often found in kennels or houses that contain large numbers of dogs in a small area. Once they’ve gotten enough blood from dogs, they’ll crawl away and hide, laying large numbers of eggs. They can often be found in cracks, under rugs, on curtains, and under bedding.
Brown dog ticks usually latch on around the toes or ears of dogs, which are the areas they have easiest access to. They can transmit ehrlichiosis, a bacterial infection that causes flu like symptoms.
If you find a tick on your dog, resist the urge to pull it off right away with your hands. Ticks can spread diseases through the mucous membranes, and you could be at risk of infection if you have any open cuts on your hands.
Instead, grab a pair of small tweezers to help you remove the tick. Try to grab the tick at the point where it’s making contact with the skin. This helps you remove all of the tick, avoiding the head breaking off and getting stuck under the skin.
Once you have a good hold on the tick, pull straight back, slowly removing it from the skin. Don’t move side to side to try to get the tick out, as you could break the tick, leaving part of its body stuck to your dog.
When removing a tick, make sure to take your time and gently pull. It may take a few minutes for a tick to detach from the skin, and if you pull too hard, part of the tick’s body could get stuck in your dog’s skin, increasing the risk of infection.
Specialized Tick Removal Products
If tweezers aren’t getting the job done, there are a number of tick removal products that are designed to safely pull ticks off skin. When using these products, you should still avoid any twisting or rapid side to side motions, as these could cause the tick’s head to get stuck in the skin.
There are a number of home remedies that are used to remove ticks, including petroleum jelly and matches. These techniques, however, are rarely effective, and can actually make the damage worse by causing the tick to salivate. This releases disease carrying bacteria into your dog’s blood, increasing the risk of infection.
Go To The Vet
If you are having issues getting a tick removed, or part of the tick’s body gets stuck under the skin, consider taking your dog to the vet or to a groomer. They can help you safely remove any ticks, reducing the risk of infection.
Preserve The Tick
Once you’ve removed a tick, wash your hands and clean off the area around the bite with a mild disinfectant product. You may also want to preserve the tick so that the species can be identified by a vet.
Put the tick in a container with rubbing alcohol, and make sure to note any other information about the bite, such as when and where it took place. You should also see if there is any rash around the bite, as this could be a sign of an infection. Take pictures so that you can show the vet.
There are a number of medications that can be used to prevent ticks, coating your dog’s fur so that ticks won’t bite. Some of these options are over the counter, and can be bought at most pet stores. Others will require a prescription from your dog’s vet.
The most efficient way of warding off ticks is to use a monthly preventative medication. These treatments are rubbed on the back of your dog’s neck, and are effective for keeping away a range of different tick species. Popular brands include Frontline Plus and Advantix.
You can also find more powerful prevention measures that last for up to 3 months, such as Bravecto, another topical medication that is rubbed on your dog’s neck.
If you prefer oral medication over topical treatments, you can find a number of chewable tick prevention products. Nexgard is one of the more popular choices, although there are plenty of different brands to choose from.
You should speak to your vet before choosing a tick prevention treatment. They can help you find one that suits your dog and that’s convenient for you.
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