Tick prevention for dogs is an important topic as we are now doing the summertime walks in long meadow grasses. Knowing about the risks of ticks on dogs is particularly important in later summer and early autumn when tick season is highest.
Here we explore what you need to know about preventing your furry friend from the little blighters that are ticks, and what you need to know about tick removal.
What’s the ticky problem?
Ticks are small bugs dwarfed by even the tiniest pooch so what’s the problem? The issue is that ticks are notorious for:
- passing on nasty diseases
- being tricky to get rid of, even if you spot them straight away.
In fact, ticks are incredibly dangerous and second only to mosquitoes for passing on diseases. They are actually distant relatives of spiders although their six legs categorise them as insects.
Ticks cling on to long grass (a.k.a. blissful summer meadow romps) waving their front legs waiting for your beloved dog to give them a ride. At this stage, they are likely very small (because they are hungry!) and can easily go unnoticed.
They are parasites. This is where it gets particularly gruesome. They need a host for their food, so they bury their head under the skin of the dog (or human) and get sucking.
As they move from one mammal to another, they can spread infectious disease. The two most concerning tick-borne diseases for dogs are Lyme disease and babesia canis.
As they fill up with blood they grow, and can become the size of a baked bean.
How to tell if your dog has ticks
Ticks on dogs are sometimes tricky to spot, especially when they are small. If your dog is experiencing periodic lameness and fever then this could be a sign that a tick has passed on something nasty.
However, you don’t want to get to this stage if at all possible. You, therefore, need to know about tick prevention for dogs.
Long-haired dogs are generally at greater risk of picking up ticks as their coats give the tick more to hold on to. Therefore keep coats short, or check long coats when you get in from walks.
To check for ticks, run a systematic hand and eye check over your dog’s body. Start at their head and pay particular attention around their ears, muzzle and neck.
A tick may feel like a small lump to begin with. Work your way down their body, again particularly checking their belly and groin.
If you spot that your dog has a tick, you must resist the urge to pull it off quickly. This makes things dangerous as you may detach the body without the head or mouthpiece which then remains embedded under the skin, leading to infection and inflammation.
Similarly, resist the temptation to ‘burn’ it off, or use alcohol or Vaseline, as some old wives tales advise, because this can cause the tick to regurgitate the blood along with any other diseases they have from elsewhere.
Instead, carefully part the fur and take a look with better lighting or a magnifying glass to firstly confirm it is a tick. If it is, you will need a special tool called a tick hook. Follow the instructions that come with the tool to ensure you fully remove the tick.
If you’re in doubt as to whether this is possible be a tick, you may need to pay a quick visit to the vet.
If you successfully use the tick hook for tick removal then dispose of the tick by flushing it down the toilet, or putting it down the sink (using hot water). This is essential to ensure it doesn’t reattach to you, or the dog, and can’t lay eggs.
Tick prevention for dogs
Your vet will be the best source of advice on products which can be used to prevent ticks taking hold of your dog. These include sprays, some flea treatments, and treated collars. These products work as an insecticide and kill the tick when it first bites the animal.
When out walking, try to stick to the centre of paths and avoid the longer grass areas. Similarly, in your garden, keep the grass short.
If your pooch does enjoy a frolic in a meadow make sure you groom them afterwards to check for ticks. Brush in all directions, as well as with the growth, and you’ll more easily spot any lurking ticks. The longer a tick feeds on its host, the greater the risk of infection.
Say Goodbye to Ticks on Dogs
Ticks really are tricky little parasites that can cause enormous problems, including fatality. Therefore, it is sensible to use tick defences advised by your vet and focus on tick prevention for dogs to minimise the risk.
Don’t fall foul of thinking they are just another harmless insect.