Ticks are more than just a seasonal annoyance. These disease-carrying pests can be dangerous for your dog. Find out how to identify and remove ticks on dogs and prevent tick infestations. Have you ever got all comfy and settled down on the couch with your dog only to find she has a suspicious bump in her coat? Because dogs spend so much time outdoors, it’s possible that at some point, your dog will come in contact with ticks.
Warning, this blog might make you feel a serious case of... I believe the technical term is - heeby-jeebies!
The actual process for removing a tick isn’t overly complicated, but they can transmit diseases to dogs, so it’s important to monitor the tick bite site and know when a tick bite becomes troublesome.
This article will walk you through identifying what a tick bite looks like on a dog, complications from tick bites, how to treat them, and how to prevent them. We’ll even go over the best products for treating and preventing ticks so your dog can live his best, healthiest, tick-free life!
What are Ticks?
Before we can get into treating and prevention, it will help if you understand more about ticks and why they are so dangerous.
Ticks are parasitic arthropods that feed on the blood of their hosts. More specifically, ticks are classified as arachnids. Yes, arachnids as in spiders - as if I needed more reasons to dislike ticks!
A tick is very small. Ticks are typically dark brown or black. The actual appearance of a tick depends on its life stage. Larvae have 6 legs, while nymphs and adults have 8 legs.
Like spiders, adult ticks have a segmented body, meaning they have a distinct body and head and 4 pairs of jointed legs. So if you look closely at a tick, they look pretty spider-like. (eek!)
They’re attracted to motion and warmth, causing them to seek out a comfortable home in warm-bodied mammals, including people, cats, and dogs.
Most species of ticks have 4 life stages- eggs, larvae, nymphs, and adults. To mature, they have to feast on blood during each stage. The lifespan of a tick depends on its species, ranging from several months to two years!
How Do Dogs Get Ticks?
Ticks can’t jump, so they typically attach themselves to tall grass and other elevated platforms so that they can opportunistically latch onto your dog or any other mammal that is unfortunate enough to pass by.
When a host passes by, the tick climbs on and attaches to the skin. The tick may feed for several hours to days and won’t detach until it has had its fill! (Yuck!)
This is bad news for your dog. Fortunately, you can take steps to reduce the chances of a tick making a home on your furbaby. You can prevent ticks by using natural tick remedies to keep your dog safe and healthy.
Types of Ticks in Canada
Canada is home to four main types of ticks: deer ticks, brown dog ticks, American dog ticks, and rocky mountain wood ticks. These common tick species usually reside in wooded areas, shrubs, or tall grass, where they wait for prospective hosts.
Heavily forested areas and grasslands may have the densest population of ticks, so activities like hiking and camping will require extra precautions to safeguard your pet and yourselves from these pests.
That being said, ticks can survive in various environments, so that tall grass at your neighbourhood park could also be hosting some unwanted bloodsuckers.
Symptoms of Ticks on Dogs
Catching ticks early is going to prevent larger infestations. Regular grooming routines can help you catch ticks and tick bites before they worsen. However, identifying tick activity isn’t always obvious, especially for dogs with thick undercoats or dogs with allergies that already have skin and coat issues.
Still, it’s important to look out for all of the signs of ticks and other pests. If you start seeing the following symptoms, your dog may have a tick somewhere on their body:
Licking And Chewing
Dogs often lick and chew at a particular area on their body where the tick is located. If your dog already has this habit due to other skin and coat issues, you may find it difficult to differentiate, but keep an eye out for excessive itching in a specific area.
Red, Inflamed Skin
Ticks can sometimes cause the skin around the embedded tick to become inflamed, red, and swollen. If you see anything that looks like a rash, even if you don’t see a bite mark in the middle, it’s best to investigate the cause.
Scabs can indicate a tick embedded in your dog's skin, especially if they seem to occur randomly without any other sort of injury. Once fully embedded, your dog’s skin will heal over, leaving a scab or dry, scaly skin. Look and feel the area to see if there is a lump or dark spot, indicating the presence of a tick.
If a dog, typically a smaller breed dog or puppy, is infested with lots of ticks, the ticks can drink so much blood that the dog becomes anemic. Dogs with ticks may have pale gums and be lethargic. It’s important to pay attention to these signs to best treat and administer first aid to your dog.
Dogs sometimes get ticks in their ear canal, or a tick may latch onto the outer flap of the ear. Ticks on dog ears, of course, can be annoying for dogs and may cause them to shake their heads to get off the tick.
In rare cases, ticks may cause weakness and paralysis of the dog’s legs and body. While it can be super scary, this is temporary. Removing the tick will return function to your dog’s body, but you should always contact your vet to make sure your dog is out of the woods.
This well-known tick-borne disease can cause depression, loss of appetite, fever, swollen lymph nodes, and renal failure. Keep reading to learn more about Lyme disease and other potential complications of ticks.
What Does a Tick Bite Look Like on a Dog?
This is a common question for dog owners who want to do everything they can to keep their favourite furry friend happy and healthy. It’s important to be able to identify tick bites so that you can treat your dog in a timely fashion.
If you notice any type of tick activity on your dog, then you should do a full-body check for other bite marks or pest infestations and then call your vet. Because ticks can carry bacteria and diseases, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Tick Bite on Dog But No Tick Found
It’s not uncommon to find a random bite mark on your dog but not see any actual ticks. These bite marks may just be just a small bump, or they can be a larger rash. Ticks burrow, so the bite will often have a visible entry point.
While wound and infection treatments can help to reduce itchiness and discomfort around the bite site, it’s still advised to have your vet check the wound to make sure that the tick didn’t pass on any serious bacteria.
Embedded Ticks on Dogs
Sometimes you’ll find the live tick on your dog. If the tick has been on your dog for a while, it will appear light brown or grey and might look bloated from feeding on your dog’s blood. This is called an engorged tick.
Ticks are most commonly found near a dog’s head, neck, ears, and creases under their legs. While less common, ticks on dog paws can happen too. These can be most uncomfortable, as the ticks find the delicate skin between the toes and pads.
Most people only find a tick when it has already been attached or locked onto the dog to feed on blood. But, it’s important to know that ticks don’t just stay in one place- they often move around the dog’s body to search for the best place to bite and to feed on blood.
One of the reasons tick bites sometimes go unnoticed because ticks like to burrow under the skin to feed. An embedded tick can often be confused for a cyst or a small skin lump in cases like these.
Embedded ticks may be partially or completely embedded in your dog’s skin. If you find an embedded tick on your dog, it’s important to remove it quickly but correctly. Find out more about how to remove ticks later on in this article.
Complications of Ticks on Dogs
Although not common, ticks can cause complications in dogs, mostly through the spread of disease. Here are a few of the very serious potential complications from tick bites on dogs:
Tick disease symptoms start long after the tick has been gone. They don’t present themselves until months after the tick bite. Symptoms may include tiredness, shifting lameness, pale gums, fever, and difficulty breathing.
Caused by many species of ticks, this disease presents as a fever, poor appetite, low blood platelets, nose bleeding, bruising, and anemia. Signs start about 1 to 3 weeks after the bite of an infected tick. Prompt treatment is key. Dogs diagnosed and treated quickly have a very good prognosis, but those who go on to the chronic phase have a great deal more difficulty recovering.
Lyme disease is a bacterial illness that can transmit to dogs, humans, and other mammals through a certain species of ticks. It is caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi, which is carried inside a tick and then transmitted through a tick bite.
Once in the bloodstream, the bacteria can then travel to different parts of the body and cause problems in different organs or locations, such as joints. It can also cause overall illness.
The earlier Lyme disease is caught, the easier it is to treat. You may see symptoms of Lyme disease in your pet, but a proper diagnosis from a vet is the first step to recovery.
Lyme disease commonly mimics symptoms of other dog conditions, so getting your dog tested by your vet early is vital.
How are Dogs Tested for Lyme Disease
Veterinarians make diagnoses for Lyme disease based on a combination of physical signs, diagnostic tests, and the pet’s history. The 2 blood tests for diagnosing Lyme disease are called the C6 Test and Quant C6 test. Veterinarians perform both to best diagnose your furry friend.
The C6 test detects antibodies against a protein called “C6”. The presence of the antibodies suggests an active Lyme infection. The C6 antibodies can be detected three to five weeks after an infected tick bites a dog and may be found in the bloodstream even before the dog shows signs of illness.
The next step is to do a Quant C6 test. This, along with urinalysis, will help determine if antibiotic treatment is necessary. Doing these will help to determine if your dog has Lyme Disease so your furry friend can get the best treatment and outcomes.
How to Get Rid of Ticks on Dogs
Of course, you want to get rid of ticks on your dog, which is an important part of treating ticks, but you’ll also want to immediately address any health problems that a tick can cause in your dog.
How to Remove an Embedded Tick on a Dog
Removing a tick as soon as you find it is important. The longer the tick stays latched on to your dog, the more difficult it will be to safely remove it. To help you properly remove ticks, here are a few tips:
1. Grab a pair of tweezers, ideally ones specifically designed for tick removal, but any tweezers you have on hand will do in a pinch.
2. Next grab the tick by the belly and back with the tweezers, applying gentle pressure. You want to get a good hold, but not squish the pest if possible. Try to get as close to your dog's body as you can.
Crushing the tick will release any toxins directly in your dog's open wound. This increases the chance of infection or irritation.
3. With light pressure, pull the tick straight out; at the same angle that it burrowed in, if possible. Avoid twisting or tilting the tweezers to ensure the whole tick comes out in one go.
4. Sometimes, the head and mouth won't release with the body. If the head or mouth are visible at the surface of the skin, you can reach in with the tweezers and attempt to remove them, but if the leftover parts are too embedded, do not try to pry, cut, or squeeze them out.
This could lead to further irritation. Instead, let the wound heal with the pieces left behind. Your dog's immune system will dispose of the organic debris as the wound heals.
5. Clean the wound with a pet-safe antiseptic. Iodine or Neosporin can be used to disinfect, but be careful of your dog licking the area. Other more natural treatments can be used to keep the wound clean and allow for healing. We'll talk about some of these treatment options in the next section.
6. Keep an eye on the bite site while it heals. Call your vet if you see signs of infection.
Once the tick is removed, place it in a sealed plastic bag or a jar of alcohol and call your vet for inspection and identification. Upon tick inspection, your veterinarian may recommend blood testing to look for tick-borne disease.
If your dog acts lethargic, spikes a fever, or experiences other uncharacteristic symptoms, the vet may give antibiotics for several weeks. This should help your dog feel better in several days. Further management will be given if necessary and full recovery will depend on the severity of the damage.
Treating Tick Bites on Dogs After Tick Removal
Once you've removed the tick, the bite mark left behind is still going to be a nuisance for your dog while it heals. Properly treating the bite wound can help to prevent infection and soother discomfort, like itching or swelling. Here are a few products that can help to heal your dog's skin:
1. Thrive Silver Shield
Historically, silver has been praised for its healing properties since the ancient Greek and Roman Empires. Its antimicrobial, antifungal, and antiparasitic properties make it an ideal disinfectant solution.
- Support wound healing
- Eliminates bacterial and viral organisms
- Safe to ingest
- 200 ml spray bottle
2. Pet-Tek Coconut Oil
Coconut oil is another natural antibacterial and antifungal ingredient that can be helpful for healing wounds and infections. Pet-Tek extra virgin coconut oil is safe for use in dogs and cats, both topically and internally.
- Lotion-like consistency makes it easy to apply
- Helps disinfect and heal wounds, hot spots, and bug bites
- Soothe itch and reduces inflammation
- Available in 500 ml tub
Check out The Benefits of Coconut Oil for more uses of this natural healing food.
This is a fast-acting itch relieving conditioner. This medicated soap-free formula includes Salicylic Acid, which stops itching and helps heal all common skin problems.
- Ultra-soothing medicated conditioner
- Stops itching, controls flaking
- Treats & heals seborrhea & other common skin problems
- For dogs & cats, all breeds
- Available in 592 ml (20 oz) bottle
Best Products to Get Rid of Ticks on Dogs
When deciding on the best tick prevention, it is important to consider what you are using tick prevention for and what ingredients you want on your dog. There are many great products on the market that use gentle ingredients while protecting your dog from tick bites. Here are a few of our favourite products for tick prevention in Canada:
This is a long-lasting and fast-acting pest control shampoo suitable for dogs and cats. It kills off several different species of ticks.
- This effective shampoo has been enriched with gentle ingredients, such as coconut oil, lanolin, aloe, and oatmeal, which are soothing and generally safe for sensitive skin.
- Cleans and conditions the pet's fur, leaving them feeling soft, clean, and fresh
- Zodiac recommends repeating use every month for residual problems and weekly for more severe flea situations.
2. Apple Cider Vinegar
For a more natural solution for mild tick infestations, apple cider vinegar can be used to scare off these annoying pests. Applying a diluted apple cider vinegar mixture topically will make a less hospitable environment for ticks that have already set up shop on your dog’s skin.
It may even help loosen some of the embedded ticks, allowing you to remove them safely with tweezers. So while this solution won’t kill the ticks, it can help to evict them.
Tick Prevention for Dogs
Prevention is always the best policy. Regular treatments to ward off ticks and other pests will be the safest way to protect your pet from infestations. Here are a few products that can help you do that.
1. Bayer Advantix II Tropical Flea and Tick Treatment
This is a once a month easy-to-use topical treatment specifically designed to prevent tick infestation or to help control a tick infestation.
- Vet recommended
- Kills ticks at all life cycles and stages
- Starts to work 12 hours after application
- Protects your dog for up to a month
- Fragrance-free and waterproof 24 hours after application
- Suitable only for dogs
2. Baie Run Diatomaceous Earth
This is a natural way to help control pests that are bothering your pet. Diatomaceous earth, also known as silicon dioxide, is an odourless and non-staining powder made from fossilized aquatic organisms. This works by coating infested areas with the powder. When ticks and other insects crawl over the fine powder, it scrapes their exoskeleton, allowing them to dehydrate and die.
- The diatomaceous earth remains effective for as long as it is present and dry.
- Available in 350 g (12.3 oz), 600 g (21.2 oz), and 1.2 kg (42.3 oz) container
- Made in Canada.
3. Citrobug Insect Hunt
This is a top-rated, easy-to-use spray bottle with 100 percent natural ingredients that protect your best friend from ticks and other pesky critters.
- Made from essential oils such as camphor, pine needles and geranium
- 100% natural ingredients- Uses no deet, paraben or harmful ingredients
- Suitable for all dog breeds and horses - Not suitable for cats or other animals
- Available for 125 ml and 1-litre bottles
- Made in Quebec, Canada
4. Avoid Tricks
While this may not be the ideal solution based on your activities and neighbourhood, avoiding tall grass, wooded areas, and bushes and shrubs can limit your dog’s exposure to ticks. Paved walking trails, sidewalks, and grassy areas that are routinely landscaped are going to be better.
This may not always be possible and is not a fool-proof solution, so other preventative measures are recommended.
Tick Every Box
Keeping your pooch safe from the dangers of ticks doesn’t have to be hard. With the right prevention methods and the knowledge to identify and treat tick infestations, your pup can get back to his favourite outdoor activities.
In most cases, your dog will be fine after a tick bite. They are very common. However, they can lead to a lot of complications. You can reduce your dog’s chance of being bitten by ticks using regular tick treatments and by checking your dog thoroughly after playing outside or walking.
Tick prevention in dogs requires multiple steps:
- Check for ticks after outdoor activities
- Use preventative topical treatments
- Avoid areas with high tick activity
- Keep an eye out for signs of ticks on your dog
- Remove ticks as soon as you spot them
- Disinfect any and all bug bites
- Check with your vet
Using some of our recommended products drastically reduces the chance of your dog getting a tick in the first place, and this blog should give you the information you need to deal with ticks should they lay claim to your dog.
As a result, you’ll save not only time and money but also the very health of your favourite furry friend.
How do you keep your dog safe from ticks? Share your tips, stories, and struggles with us in the comments below!