Preventing and Removing Ticks from Dogs

American Female Dog TickThere is almost a universal agreement among dog lovers that ticks gross us out. In addition to giving us the heebie-jeebies, these blood suckers can pose a serious health risk to dog and human alike; even zombies find them disgusting.

What are Ticks?

Ticks are members of the arachnid family, which is to say they are related to spiders and mites. They also make their living sucking blood which makes them vectors (transmitters of infection) of a number of well-known diseases including Lyme disease, Anaplasmosis, Babesiosis, Ehrlichiosis, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, among others. Their small size coupled with a delay in the onset of symptoms, many of which are difficult to identify as being tick related, make preventative measures one of the best ways to avoid tick borne illness in you and your dog.

Identifying Ticks

Although not a necessity, it’s helpful to be able to identify the type of ticks crawling or (hopefully not) biting you and your dogs. If you pull a tick off of yourself or your dog and want it tested for pathogens, place it an escape proof container before having it checked. Some testing centers require it be in alcohol and others prohibit it. So it’s best to check before dousing it. The University of Rhode Island has excellent website called TickEncounter Resource Center that can help you identify types of ticks.

Preventing Tick Bites On Dogs

Because we can find ticks crawling on our dogs and ourselves long after we estimate we were exposed to them, we may falsely assume that it takes a while for them to attach. This is not necessarily true. According to the CDC’s Life cycle of Hard Ticks that Spread Disease, ticks can attach and begin to feed in as little as 10 minutes. While that’s not always the case, it does underscore the point that preventative measures are to be taken seriously.

Check your Dog for Ticks Daily

A simple game of fetch in your back yard can expose you and your dog to a tick just as easily as a romp through a thick wooded area. To check your dog for ticks, simply rub their fur to with enough pressure to check for any lumps and bumps. Pay extra attention to areas where ticks can hide like the ears, tail, and armpits. If you find anything suspicious, part the hair around the object to see what it is. A magnifying glass may even be helpful for in identifying smaller ticks.

Use of Tick Repellents

Repellents are designed to discourage ticks from coming in contact with your dog in the first place or to put them off their feed if they do hitch a ride. However, repellents can be a highly controversial method for many dog owners as they involve the use of chemicals that in some cases have been reported to produce serious side effects. It is beyond the scope of this article to recommend any tick repellent for your dog. Don’t rely on TV or other forms of advertisement to help make your decisions about these products. We recommend consulting your veterinarian before using any tick repellent on your dog, even over the counter ones.

Use of Pesticides

Pesticides are normally designed to either kill the tick on contact or after the tick begins to feed. They include collars impregnated with the pesticide, powders, and other topical agents. Pesticides are another controversial method of control with many dog owners. Again, instead of relying on TV or other forms of advertisement to help make your decisions about these products, we highly recommend consulting your veterinarian.

Landscaping

In addition to the benefits of exercise and the respect of your neighbors, keeping a well-manicured and clutter free yard for your dog to play in can help cut down on exposure to ticks for the whole family. The Tick Management Handbook put out by The Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station is an excellent resource on reducing exposure to tick associated diseases.

Consult your Veterinarian

By the way, did we mention you should consult your veterinarian? Seriously, your local veterinarian should have the best information about what products and methods are most effective, their side effects, and the types of disease prevalent in your area.

Tick Removal

Even when taking all precautions you may find a tick attached to your dog or even yourself. When that happens there are simple steps that can be taken to successfully remove the tick. One of the things you don’t want to do is try one of the old remedies that call for smothering by Vaseline or some other method. The longer a tick is attached the more chance it has to transmit a disease. Therefore, we suggest the following CDC recommended procedure for tick removal. This applies to humans as well as dogs

  1.  Use fine-tipped tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin’s surface as possible.
  2. Pull upward with steady, even pressure. Don’t twist or jerk the tick; this can cause the mouth-parts to break off and remain in the skin. If this happens, remove the mouth-parts with tweezers. If you are unable to remove the mouth easily with clean tweezers, leave it alone and let the skin heal.
  3. After removing the tick, thoroughly clean the bite area and your hands with rubbing alcohol, an iodine scrub, or soap and water.

The key to successful removal is grasping the tick as close to the skin as possible and applying slow, steady, even pressure as you pull upward. Patience will normally be rewarded with a successful removal, mouth parts and all.

**Note**This video recommends killing a tick with alcohol after removal. However, if you are having the ticked tested for pathogens, we suggest contacting the testing agency before dousing it in alcohol.

Tick Related Resources

There are many highly reliable resources out there for use in identifying and preventing ticks and tick associated diseases; many of which were used as the basis for this article.

  • Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) – Ticks: This page contains a ton of information on prevention and identification. It should be considered an authoritative resource.
  • Tick Management Handbook This handbook produced by The Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station is another excellent government source on the identification and prevention of ticks and the associated illnesses they can produce in you and your dog.
  • Lyme Disease Association, Inc. This website is also a highly recommended resource for tick associated diseases. Although its focus is mainly about avoiding the disease in humans, it is equally applicable to dogs as well.
  • Companion Animal Parasite Control Mainly aimed at veterinary professionals, this website still contains resources that are both accessible and relevant to dog owners as well.
  • DogsandTicks.com Another useful website with good information and an interactive map that allows you to enter your zip code to see how many reported cases of parasitical diseases are in your area.
  • Dog Lover’s Digest maintains a list of State Departments of Agriculture, most of which contain excellent, up to date information about diseases affecting both livestock and companion animals in that state.
  • The University of Rhode Island has excellent website called TickEncounter Resource Center that can help you identify types of ticks.

Notes

This article is not intended to serve as a substitute for veterinary advice and is for informational purposes only. We always recommend that you consult with your veterinary or medical professional for authoritative advice. We do our best to make this information as useful and up to date as possible. If you find any out of date information or links that do not function, please leave a comment below so that we may make corrections. In addition, if you know of any reliable and relevant resources that should be included on this page please leave a comment so we can consider their inclusion.