Dogs and Ticks: What You Need to Know

Pet Health and Safety  •   Maggie Dean  •   Aug 30, 2018

 

When is "tick season"?

“Tick season” can vary depending on where you live. In general, summer and fall are peak tick seasons; however, because ticks like warmer climates, those who live in regions that stay warm year-round are at higher risk. This does not mean that you should cease tick prevention when temperatures drop. Most veterinarians will recommend that you continue tick prevention year-round in accordance to the instructions on your tick prevention of choice.

As a general rule, if your area’s average temperature is below 40 degrees, your tick risk is low. If your average temperature is between 40 and 64 degrees, you are at a moderate tick risk. Average temperatures at 65 degrees and above are at a high tick risk.

 

Where do ticks live?

Ticks take up residence in dark, damp areas low to the ground until they find their perfect host on whom to latch. Ticks can be found anywhere from the dog park to your backyard; however, heavily wooded areas and tall grasses are where your dog is most at risk. After going on a hike or romping through the field, dogs should be checked thoroughly for ticks from nose to tail.  

 

 

Where do ticks like to hide?

Searching for ticks is not as simple as running a hand down your dog’s back and legs. Ticks latch firmly onto the skin, so you have to search deep within the fur to find them. Often, they are so tiny, you won’t even feel them. They can also be mistaken for a skin tag, wart or scab. (This is why it is so important to pet, bathe and groom your dog so you familiarize yourself with your dog and know what is “normal” and what is not.)

Long-haired dogs, dogs with dark-coats and dogs with an undercoat pose the most challenge as ticks are hard to feel and see. Just like in nature, ticks like warm, dark areas on your dog too. These are some common places where ticks like to hide:

  • Under front legs: You will commonly find ticks in your dog’s “armpits,” where it is dark and warm. Also, the skin is very thin in that area, which makes it easy for them to penetrate.
  • Inside groin region: Also hidden from view and thin-skinned, ticks commonly latch onto the inside of your dog’s back legs in the flank region.
  • Between toes: Being low to the ground, between your dog’s toes are another good hiding place for ticks. They can be difficult to detect in this location, so be sure to closely examine between the toes and webbing. (For reasons like this, it is important that your dog be comfortable with you touching his or her paws. This handling should begin when your dog is a puppy!)  
  • In and around ears: The delicate folds and thin skin of your dog’s ears make for another easy place for ticks to hide. Ticks here can be difficult to find and often difficult to remove.
  • Around eyes and eyelids: Surprisingly, ticks will often latch onto the thin skin around your dog’s eye and eyelid. This is because often times your dog’s snout is sniffing the ground. Though easier to find, ticks around the eye can be precarious to remove.
  • Under collar or harness: Because ticks like warm, dark places, ticks will often hide under your dog’s collar or harness. Don’t forget to check there!

 

Can ticks make my dog sick?

Just like humans, dogs are susceptible to tick-borne diseases. Below are some of the most common tick-borne diseases seen in dogs:

  • Lyme Disease: One of the most well-known tick-borne diseases, Lyme Disease, is typically transmitted by deer ticks and is most common in the Northeastern and Southeastern United States. Symptoms include a rash around the tick bite, fever, mild lameness, loss of appetite, and lethargy.
  • Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever: Another common tick-borne disease, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, is transmitted by American dog ticks, Rocky Mountain wood ticks and brown dog ticks. It is prevalent throughout all regions of the United States. Symptoms include lethargy, stomach pain, and vomiting. Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever can be fatal if not treated promptly, so if you have any concerns, contact your veterinarian immediately.
  • Ehrlichiosis: Another common tick-borne disease, Ehrlichiosis, is primarily transmitted by brown dog ticks. Brown dog ticks can be found throughout the United States but are most prevalent in warmer climates, such as the South and Southeast. Symptoms of Ehrlichiosis include fever, lethargy, loss of appetite, lymph node enlargement, and sometimes abnormal bruising.

Ticks bites can also cause a local reaction - like a bump, scab, reddening or itchiness - in the area of the tick bite. This may not be cause for concern. If symptoms persist beyond 24 hours after tick removal, worsen or are accompanied by other symptoms, contact your veterinarian.  

 

How do I prevent ticks?

Staying diligent with your tick prevention regimen is key! A variety of prevention methods are available, including oral medications, topical treatments, and collars. Your veterinarian will be able to advise you on what method will be most effective for you and your dog. Region, lifestyle and the individual dog all play a role. Sometimes a method that works for one dog, won’t work for another, so you may have to use trial and error to determine the best method for your pup.

 

What do I do if I find a tick on my dog?

Don’t panic! Most of the time, tick bites do not cause your dog any harm. If your dog is on tick prevention, a tick can still bite your dog but will die before it can cause any negative effects. The tick may fall off on its own or you may notice the tick is not alive when you remove it.

Ticks can transmit disease in as little as 36 hours, so removing them immediately is important. Removing ticks is fairly straight-forward and most pet owners are comfortable with the below process:

  1. Wear latex or vinyl exam gloves when removing ticks to avoid contact with blood if the tick is engorged.
  2. Grasp the tick as closely to the skin as possible using fine, sharp tweezers. In one, fluid motion, carefully pull the tick straight up from the skin.
  3. Check the area to ensure that the full tick has been removed completely. (If a tick is firmly latched on, sometimes the head can remain in the skin.)
  4. Dispose of the tick by flushing it down the toilet, dousing it in rubbing alcohol or trapping it in a piece of tape before placing it in the trash. Ticks are very hardy and could reattach to someone if not disposed of properly! They cannot be disposed of with regular “conventional bug” methods (i.e. in a tissue in your trash can).
  5. Give your dog a treat!
  6. Continue to check the site for several days. As previously stated, some reddening and itching can occur. If reddening worsens, you observe any inflammation or oozing, or it appears that your dog is in pain, contact your veterinarian.

If for whatever reason you are uncomfortable, contact your veterinarian. They will be more than happy to remove it for you or can walk you through the process.

 

To hedge your bets against avoiding ticks altogether, stay diligent with your tick prevention! Follow your veterinarian’s recommendations for a tick-free season! AKC Pet Insurance offers two wellness options for reimbursement on your flea and tick preventative care to keep your dog healthy and happy!

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Maggie Dean

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Maggie Dean

Maggie Dean is the proud owner of a Bichon Frise / Cocker Spaniel mix named Rocco and a Holland Lop rabbit, Bunson. She’s been the Inbound Marketer at AKC Pet Insurance since 2016 but has had a passion for animals her whole life. If you’re an animal lover, don’t forget to follow us on Facebook to keep up with all things cute, funny, and interesting!