How Do Dogs Get Ticks?

No one really likes ticks, including your dog. But if you live in some areas you and your dog are likely to encounter them.

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Unlike fleas, ticks are not insects. They are arachnids which makes them relatives of spiders and mites. There are lots of different kinds of ticks in the world (over 850 species), divided into two families: the Ixodidae and Argasidae. The Ixodidae family has a hard outer shell. They include most of the ticks that attach themselves to dogs (and cats and people). The Argasidae have a soft outer shell.

Adult ticks have four pairs of legs that they use for crawling. Ticks have a sensory organ called the “Haller’s Organ.” It senses humidity, heat, and odor. Ticks use this organ to track their food sources. Ticks crawl up on tall grass and, using this organ, when they sense that a food source is walking nearby, they crawl aboard. This is how ticks get on your dog (and you).

A tick’s entire diet is blood. They sink their mouth into the skin and suck the blood. Ticks can transmit a lot of diseases while they are busy sucking blood. Tick-borne diseases infect thousands of dogs each year. Diseases include Lyme disease, Canine Ehrlichiosis, Canine Anaplasmosis, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Canine Babesiosis, Canine Bartonellosis, and Canine Hepatozoonosis. Treatment of tick-borne diseases usually depends on early diagnosis and the use of antibiotics.

Ticks are most often found in spring and late fall. They are more prevalent in some parts of the United States than others, but they can be found in most places if you live near a wooded area or in places where there is brush and high grass.

You can use products that kill ticks and repel them to keep your dog safe. There are once-a-month topicals, sprays, powders, shampoos, dips, and collars to prevent ticks from staying on your dog.

If you live in an area where ticks are common, check your dog daily for ticks, especially in spring and late fall. Run your hands through his fur and check his skin. Feel carefully. Tiny ticks can be easy to miss. Keep your grass cut short and trim tall brush. Use a good tick preventive. Check your dog and yourself if you go hiking or spend time in the woods.

  • If you find a tick, remove it carefully with a pair of tweezers. Using the tweezers, grab the tick by the head where it enters the skin.
  • Pull steadily and firmly outward, away from the dog’s body. Do not jerk or you could leave part of the tick buried.
  • After you have removed the tick, place it in a jar of alcohol to kill it.
  • Clean the bite on your dog’s skin with a mild disinfectant. You can also place a little antibiotic ointment on the bite if you wish.
  • Be sure to wash your hands thoroughly after handling the tick and the wound.

Remember that ticks can carry and transmit disease in their saliva. If your dog’s skin looks red or irritated or if it shows a little swelling, this is not unusual. It is a reaction to the tick’s saliva. It doesn’t mean that part of the tick is left in the wound. You can spray a little hydrocortisone spray on the bite to relieve any itching. The redness and swelling will disappear in a few days.

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