Ticks are tiny spider like parasites found in the bodies of dogs. They are usually brown to dark brown in colour. They survive by latching on to the bodies of dogs and feeding off their blood. They are most commonly found in tall grass areas, construction debris sites and areas with lots of foliage and vegetation. They can even jump from one dog to the other. 

Due to their body warmth and odours among other things, dogs are highly susceptible to tick bites and tick borne diseases. Their thick fur and coat provides a cover and hiding ground for ticks. 

As a dog parent, you need to know what to do to protect your dog against ticks, how to identify a tick, what to do after you've identified one, some of the symptoms of tick borne diseases and how to prevent them.

What do ticks on dogs look like?

To identify them, you need to know: 

  1. What do ticks on dogs look like? 
  2. What does a tick bite look like?
  3. What does a tick latched to a dog look like?
ticks-on-dogs-attached-wagstays

As you can see from the image above, ticks that are latched in dogs tend to be the size of an apple seed. This is usually when they have not fed. Depending on how long they have been feeding on your dog's blood, their size can be bigger. Below is a rough guide to the size of a tick based on how long they have latched to your dog.

ticks-on-dogs-size-based-on-feeding-duration
Image courtesy: CDC

After they attach to the dog's skin and start drawing blood, they become engorged. It's easy to spot an engorged tick as they become almost the size of your pinky nail.

The following images will help you understand what a tick bite on dogs look like.

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ticks-on-dogs-tick-bite-on-dogs-2


What are some symptoms of ticks on dogs?

These blood sucking parasites are notorious for causing various types of tick borne diseases in dogs and can vary from scratching to the deadly tick fever. In the initial period, it may be difficult to spot them on your dog. Look out for the following signs of a tick infestation:

  • Incessant scratching and itching near the head and ear region
  • Red spots on your dog's skin
  • Spotting a tick in your home. Even a single tick spotted in your home could be an indication of an infestation
  • Bumps or rashes on your dog's skin
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Tick fever is a very serious disease and if not treated on time, can often lead to fatalities. The symptoms can take a few days to show up after the infestation. 

Symptoms of tick fever in dogs:

  1. Gradual decline in food intake and apetite
  2. Vomiting intermittently
  3. Lethargy and dull behavior
  4. High fever in dogs (anything above 101 F, this is usually seen in later stages of tick fever)
  5. Blood in stool

If your dog is showing any of the above conditions, consult with a vet immediately, do not wait!

ALSO READ: When should you consult a vet online and when to visit a clinic.

How to find ticks in dogs?

They can be difficult to find given how small and hidden they are. There are certain steps you can make as part of your daily routine with your dog, to minimize the risk of an infestation. 

  1. Gently move your fingertips through the fur and coat of your dog. What you're feeling for are any kind of bumps or rashes.
  2. Start at the head and neck, including mouth and ears
  3. Continue down their legs and their paws. Don't forget to check in between their toes (paw pads)
  4. Then search the chest, underbelly, back, tail, under the tail and back legs`
ticks-on-dogs-how-to-find


The next step after finding a tick is to remove it immediately. 

How to remove a tick from a dog?

When you find a tick on the dog, avoid plucking it out with your hands. Doing this increases the chances of pathogens being released back into your dog's bloodstream. 

One of the simplest and most effective ways is to remove a tick using tweezers.

  1. Using tweezers, grab the tick at its mouthparts (at the exact area where its mouth is dug into the skin of your dog). Be careful not to grab the tick by the engorged (stomach) part.
  2. After grabbing the mouth area with the tweezer, twist the tick and pluck it away from the skin. Make sure you do not squeeze the tick's body.
  3. After removing it, do not throw it away. It can simply crawl back and latch to your dog again. Do not flush it down the toilet or crush to death either.
  4. To effectively kill it, you can do either of the following methods:
    1. Place the tick on the sticky side of cello tape. Then fold the cello tape onto the tick in such a way that the tick is completely wrapped in cello tape. The sticky side of the cello tape will prevent it from moving around and by folding the cello tape over itself, you are removing the air eventually causing the tick to die. You can safely dispose this in the garbage afterwards.
    2. Take a small glass and pour a little bit of alcohol and vinegar and drop the tick in the glass. The alcohol and vinegar solution creates a disinfectant and will effectively kill the tick.

It is possible that your dog develops the symptoms of tick fever even after a few days of removal of the tick. So do keep an eye out for some of the symptoms mentioned above and consult with a vet if necessary.

How to prevent ticks on dogs?

If you're a dog parent, it is inevitable that you will come across ticks on your dog during their lifetime. However, there are a few things you can do to minimize ticks and prevent tick borne diseases in dogs. Here are a few things you can do:

  1. Healthy Diet:Ticks hate healthy blood. How do you ensure your dog's blood is healthy? With the help of a balanced diet, you can help your dog build their immunity. A canine species appropriate diet will not only help your dog build their immunity, in the long run, it will also help your dog prolong their life and fight off diseases naturally. Research has shown that while dogs can tolerate a vegetarian diet, they are best known to thrive when fed a balanced high protein diet derived primarily from meat.
  2. Apple Cider Vinegar Spray: Before taking your dog out for walks, spray a solution made of apple cider vinegar and water in a 1:1 ratio (equal portions of water and apple cider vinegar). Spray this solution on their body, legs and toes, making sure to avoid spraying directly near the mouth and on open scratches and wounds. You can repeat this step after their walks also. 
    IMP: When choosing apple cider vinegar, make sure you're using the one which has the "mother". It will be mentioned in the label on the bottle

  3. Using anti tick shampoo: There are plenty of anti tick shampoos in the market. Make sure you opt for the one with least or no chemicals and one that is natural and gentle on your dog's skin. You should not bathe your dog very frequently and maybe once in 2-3 weeks.


ALSO READ: Natural home made remedies to prevent ticks on dogs

Whenever you're in doubt, always remember that it's better to consult with a vet to get peace of mind. 

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