Ticks are a type of arachnid that is parasitic in nature and lives on warm-blooded animals and even humans. Ticks extract blood from their host and present dangers to animals and humans due to the wide variety of potentially life-threatening diseases the pests can spread. One of the favorite types of host for ticks are dogs, and dogs of all sizes are susceptible to ticks. With these points in mind, what are the most important things to know about dog ticks?
Ticks on dogs can cause problems if not removed, such as severe skin irritations to dangerous diseases like Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. Ticks perch on blades of grass and branches waiting for dogs to walk by so they can attach to a dog’s skin and feed on their blood.
In this article on Doodles and ticks, we are presenting our comprehensive guide to keeping your dog safe from ticks, and covering the dangers of ticks, how to spot them and prevent them, as well as product suggestions to keep your dog safe.
We will also cover areas where ticks like to live and hide, as well as the warning signs that you should watch out for when it comes to tick-borne diseases for your dog. Read on to find out more.
What are dog ticks?
As mentioned, ticks are arachnids – even though many people commonly think of them as insects. Although fleas are a nuisance and can make dogs sick, ticks are a bit more serious since the diseases they carry can infect humans just as easily as dogs.
Ticks live outdoors and are common to virtually any type of climate and geographic landscape. With this in mind, they are most common and seem to prefer moist and humid environments like wooded areas where loads of vegetation grow throughout the year.
Ticks avoid direct sunlight if they can and prefer to live in areas receiving consistent shade throughout the day, such as under trees, bushes, and on and underneath blades of grass.
Ticks (like bed bugs and mosquitoes), live on blood that both sustains them and is needed for proper reproduction. The behavior of the tick is to latch onto a host (predominantly dogs) and insert a clamp-like beak into the dog’s skin where they remain for days and sometimes even weeks at a time.
If you spot a tick on your dog that is huge and engorged, this means the tick has been in place for at least a number of days. Once the tick has fed successfully, females will typically wait until a dog goes back outside to fall off and find a spot to lay her eggs, although ticks will sometimes fall off indoors and lay eggs in quiet safe places inside the home.
To find a dog (or a cat and a human if necessary), ticks will sit and wait on the edges of grass blades and bushes scenting out a dog’s carbon dioxide emissions and body warmth. Once a dog gets near the tick, it will latch on and find a hidden place on the dog such as in-between toes or under leg creases, to begin feeding.
During the feeding process, ticks can also transfer pathogens and diseases that can be quite serious in nature.
When is dog tick season?
Dog tick season refers to the time of year when ticks are most prevalent in an area. It needs to be understood that ticks can be a problem any time of the year. With that said, a typical season corresponds to an insect season which is the warmest months of the year. March-early November is a good barometer of when you can expect tick activity.
If you live in a region that has 4 distinct seasons, you can expect to start noticing ticks as early as April and as late as mid to late October. For regions that are consistently warm and humid, ticks are a concern year-round, but there may be a small window of non-activity from December-March.
My parents live in Spain and they have found that as the summers are getting longer and the temperatures increasing year on year, their Cockapoo is consistently carrying ticks.
This is why pet owners should plan accordingly based on the typical weather patterns in their individual regions. It’s a good idea to monitor for ticks and continue using tick prevention products on your dog throughout the entire year.
We are heading to Spain from the UK (where ticks are not so prevalent) next month, so I have had to increase our Cavapoo’s preventative cover based on recommendations from our vet.
How do dogs get tick bites?
Tick bites will cause skin irritations typically once a tick has fed and then fallen off. Unlike fleas, ticks do not constantly bite a dog once they successfully get onto a dog.
They will crawl around a dog and find a hidden area that will also be safe from crushing. If they cannot find the right spot, ticks will also feed out in the open and are visible to the naked eye.
Once in these spots, a tick will pierce the skin and latch onto a dog’s fur and skin to hold itself in place. Once a tick falls off or is removed, a small red rash and a tiny pierced hole will be left behind on a dog’s skin. This will cause itching and skin surface discomfort to your dog.
Tick bites can also cause severe allergic reactions in dogs in addition to itching and discomfort. To relieve some of this discomfort, you can treat tick bites on dogs.
Lightly dabbing a cotton ball with alcohol on the bite may cause a sting but this will sanitize and destroy any germs on the skin left behind from the tick. You can also place a bit of antibiotic cream or gel on the bite to help ease the itching and irritation.
How do dogs act when they have a tick?
While ticks are actively feeding on dogs, a dog may scratch excessively but ticks will usually latch on to spots out of your dog’s paw range.
But itching and scratching is only one sign your dog may have a tick, and dogs will also perform this behavior when fleas are present or if their skin is irritated.
One of the major signs that your dog has a tick is if your dog has a fever. Dog ticks can cause a dog’s immune system to go haywire. If your dog is warm to the touch and is showing symptoms like excessive panting, loss of appetite, weakness, or anxiety, this can all be the signs of a fever, and dog ticks that are feeding can cause this.
Another sign is the presence of bumps. Dogs can have growths or bumps that are benign and natural, but this is also a tell-tale sign of a tick. If you feel a bump when petting your dog, place your dog under light and part the skin to thoroughly inspect the bump. Ticks will either be small and apparent or may appear like a green or brown corn kernel.
Our daughter spotted our Cavapoos first tick when she was stroking her. It was buried deep in her curly coat, towards her tummy and felt like a piece of dirt. On further inspection it turned out to be small fawn colored tick which blended in with her fur.
If a dog has a tick that is on or in their ears or the top of the head, they may also shake their head a lot. It doesn’t mean that a tick is a reason for this behavior, but inspect their head and neck and inside and behind their ears thoroughly for the presence of ticks.
More often than not, dogs will act completely normal if they have a tick, which is why doing inspections on your dog during tick season is a good idea.
How to find a dog tick?
Dog ticks prefer to hide but not all the time. When you are inspecting your dog to find ticks, the first step to finding ticks is to do a visual scan of your dog’s body. Ticks can be as small as a dot or as large a dime and you can see them clearly with your own eyes.
To find a tick that is hidden, the most prominent place will be between your dog’s toes. This area is dark and ticks position themselves inside this patch of flesh at just the right angle so a dog cannot squeeze them. It is not uncommon to find clusters of ticks in these areas which is a disturbing sight.
Also, underneath the leg creases is a preferred area for ticks as well. Ticks also like the areas of the face and neck since the skin is much softer. Ticks will burrow into a dog’s ears and can even latch onto the outer rim of eyelids and around the mouth.
Be sure and inspect area’s around your dog’s private parts as well since ticks can also latch onto skin in these areas.
How to remove a dog tick
Tick removal should be done with caution and you should never pull the tick out with your bare hands, since the tick can pass pathogens to your skin.
Removing ticks with tweezers is ideal since this allows you to grasp the tick and remove a tick without touching it. You should also be mindful of your dog’s coat since pulling or yanking too hard could cause your dog discomfort.
Ticks attached to the ear or attached to the inside of the ear near sensitive areas should be removed with extreme caution and care. You have to pull the tick to remove it but you need to be careful not to slip your hand and potentially cause damage to your dog’s hearing.
Always place the tick in a paper towel and fold it down on the tick and squeeze the head of the tick with great force to kill it instantly. Always be sure a tick is dead before disposing of it in the trash or flushing down the toilet. Ticks live near moist environments outdoor so never assume that flushing a live tick will immediately kill it.
Top Tip – If you are looking for an easier solution, we use a tick twister when Rosie has ticks (which is thankfully quite rare although her curly coat makes them difficult to see). We seldom find a tick on Rosie, but we always use this product if we do and rely heavily on flea and tick shampoo (more on this below) for all of her baths.
What happens if a tick goes unnoticed on a dog?
Ticks will feed until they are satisfied and fall off a dog in an environment that is safe for egg-laying. The biggest concern with unnoticed ticks is that ticks transmit disease and certain types of ticks are more prone to pass tick-borne diseases than others.
Your dog having a tick does not automatically mean that they will acquire one of these diseases, but there is no way to tell since different species of ticks transmit the diseases.
Let’s take a look at some of the major tick-borne diseases that ticks carry.
Lyme disease is directly associated with ticks. There is no way to determine if certain species of ticks carry Lyme disease so the current data assumes that any area can have as little as 1% to 50% of the tick population capable of transmitting tick-borne Lyme disease.
Tick-borne diseases are a coin toss, but Lyme disease is by far the most feared and also the most common. The disease is transmitted through a tick bite and can affect virtually any warm-blooded mammal and even human beings.
Since dogs are the domestic animal most associated with ticks, the disease is most common in canines and presents many symptoms. Consistent and alarming shifts in fever, weakness, discomfort, and swelling of joints are the main signs of this disease in dogs.
Lyme disease can be treated with antibiotics under the direct supervision and care of a veterinarian.
Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever
Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever is another serious disease transmitted to dogs (and humans) from a tick bite. This disease is commonly associated with the American dog tick, deer ticks, the lone star tick, and the brown dog tick.
Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever typically causes fever, severe loss of appetite leading to anorexia, muscle and joint discomfort, eye discoloration, and lethargy. The most dangerous possibilities with this disease is that multiple organ dysfunction and even failure can occur.
Deer ticks and the lone star tick (lone star corresponding to Texas) are the most known species of tick to transmit the disease, but nearly all American dog ticks can be susceptible to carrying the disease.
Treatments for this disease include antibiotics and intravenous fluids to help protect the organs.
Do I need to take my dog to the vet after a tick bite?
This is a tricky situation and there is no established answer for this. Ticks biting and feeding on dogs is so common and so variable that it becomes difficult to say. The best thing to do if your dog has been bitten by a tick is to watch them closely to see if they exhibit any of the symptoms we have discussed.
Overall tick prevention year round is the best action to take to ensure your dog is never bitten by a tick. If you feel concerned, contact your veterinarian first and get their opinion.
What kills ticks on dogs instantly?
When determining what kills ticks instantly on dogs, there are a wide range of answers. Certain medicated shampoos that target ticks can kill the parasites outright, but some shampoos may work to repel the ticks until they fall off and crawl away.
Certain medicated dog collars will also release safe and generally non-irritating chemicals to kill ticks on contact. If you come across a feeding tick on your dog, you can remove it like we outlined above or even use a cotton ball soaked with rubbing alcohol to kill the tick upon contact.
Top tips for tick prevention
- Tall grasses represent one of the most common places in which ticks live. Always keep your dog out of tall grass and wooded areas since ticks like these areas best.
- Closer to home, all areas in your lawn or garden that are shaded with lots of bushes and trees are hot spots for ticks. Treat these areas with tick pesticides that are safe for dogs.
- Monitor your dogs outdoor activity and keep them away from any vegetation that can brush up against their body.
- Overall, the best preventative measure to take is to keep your dog regularly washed with a strong, medicated tick shampoo, keep a medicated tick collar on them throughout tick season, and spot on treatments are also great.
Dog tick repellents
There are many different ways to protect and treat your dog from ticks. These include dog tick shampoo, collars and spot on or tablet treatments. Take a look at our top recommendations.No products found.
This medicated dog shampoo for dogs is an effective and affordable treatment for skin scaling caused by seborrhea, mange and other parasitic infections, and fungal infections. With an easy treatment of shampooing 2-3 times per week initially and then less frequently as skin improves, you can give your pet relief from symptoms including an inflamed scalp, greasy skin, rashes, and most important of all, complete safety from tick bites.
The veterinary-grade ingredients in this shampoo for dogs help treat, hydrate and relieve irritation caused by previous tick bites as well. The main ingredient that applies to ticks in the product is Salicyclic acid, which will immediately seap into a tick’s skin once they attempt to bite your dog and cause severe allergic reaction that will lead to death.
When preventing ticks, it is important to have a strong and medicated shampoo to regularly bathe your dog, and this product fits that description and is also ideal because it doesn’t irritate a dog’s skin.
- Gentle and healing
- Kills ticks on contact
- Veterinary recommended
- Has many uses that may not align with just tick control
When it comes to flea and tick control, the Activate II Flea and Tick collar provides vet-quality, whole-body protection without the expense of some of the other leading brands. Each one-size-fits-all dog collar works to kill fleas and ticks, including ticks that may transmit Lyme disease, for six months.
Unlike most collars, this also repels mosquitoes, which is great if you live in areas where heartworms are common for dogs. With two collars included, your dog will be constantly protected for 12 months (6 months per collar).
This flea and tick treatment for dogs also kills fleas, flea eggs, and flea larvae, helping to prevent flea infestations, and is easy to use and waterproof for a well-designed and more secure fit.
- Works through contact, so fleas and ticks die without having to bite your dog first
- Fully adjustable and guaranteed to fit your Doodle
- Each collar provides 6 months of protection
- Fast acting
- May irritate dog’s with sensitive skin
- Can be toxic to cats
Frontline Plus for Dogs has been trusted by veterinarians for flea and tick control for dogs for nearly 20 years. This is the go-to spot on treatment for dogs of all sizes and represents one of the most effective ways to provide constant tick protection for dogs.
This 2-pronged approach provides fast-acting, long-lasting protection and provides flea and tick control for dogs and puppies 8 weeks and older, 5-22 lbs. Its long-lasting formula is stored in the oil glands of the pet’s skin to give non-stop flea and tick protection for a full 30 days.
- Waterproof, fast-acting, and long-lasting
- Kills ticks instantly
- Veterinarian trusted and reccomended
- Absorbs into the oil glands of your dog’s skin
- Can cause skin irritation for dogs with sensitive skin
In summary, ticks represent a potentially life-threatening risk to your dogs and there is no way to know if a disease-carrying tick has bitten your dog. For this reason, it is is highly recommended to prevent your dog from picking up ticks and keep them treated year round with medicated shampoos, collars, and spot on treatments to fight against ticks.
The risk of diseases is far too great, and never forget that ticks also bite and transmit the same diseases to humans as well. Prevention is absolutely necessary.