They're small, hard to spot and can be found virtually everywhere outdoors. Although ticks can survive year-round, they're most commonly evident in the summer months, and can really take the fun out of your summer plans.
So what can we do to keep both us and our pooches safe from the potential dangers of tick bites? First, lets discuss how to spot them.
Where do you check for ticks?
In humans and dogs, once on the body, ticks head for a warm, moist place to bite. For dogs, that can be the space under their front and back legs. However, ticks can also be found between a dog’s toes.
More obscure hiding places for ticks include in or around a dog’s ears and eyelids. They can also bury themselves in our under your dog’s tail. Regularly running your hands over your dog's body and keeping attention on these areas - especially after outings - will ensure that you're doing your part to keep tabs on if your dog has been bitten.
What does a tick bite look like?
More often than not, you will find a tick bite while the tick is still attached to your skin (gross, we know.) ticks have small heads that essentially bury into your skin at the bite point, so their mouths act as little locking mechanisms that allow them to hitch a ride while feeding. If you notice a bite that has a black bump or dark center, that could be a tick bite from an insect that has left the area. This can also come in the form of a "bullseye rash" that can appear if you have an allergic reaction to the bite. Ticks can stick around for a bite anywhere from 3 to 6 days - and the longer they do, the higher the risk of infection. If you spot a tick on you or your dog, the best thing is to remove it immediately.
How do you remove a tick bite?
- Use clean, fine-tipped tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin’s surface as possible.
- Pull upward with steady, even pressure. Don’t twist or jerk the tick; this can cause the mouth-parts to break off and remain in the skin. If this happens, remove the mouth-parts with tweezers. If you cannot remove the mouth easily with tweezers, leave it alone and call your vet.
- After removing the tick, thoroughly clean the bite area and your hands with rubbing alcohol or soap and water.
- Never crush a tick with your fingers. Dispose of a live tick by
- Putting it in alcohol,
- Placing it in a sealed bag/container,
- Wrapping it tightly in tape, or
- Flushing it down the toilet.
The above instructions are provided by The Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
How do you tell if your bite is something serious?
You should call your vet if you notice signs of infection, such as:
- Increased pain, swelling, warmth, or redness around the bite
- Red streaks leading from the bite
- Pus draining from the bite
- A fever or flu-like symptoms
- Your dog develops a new rash after the bite
- Your dog appears to have new joint pain or stiffness
- Your dog shows an abnormal level of fatigue/ tireness
- Your dog has any symptoms for more than 4 days
The biggest concern with a tick bite is the spread of Lyme disease, TBE and Babesiosis. These diseases can have the potential to be life threatening if left untreated, so it's best to get professional medical help as soon as possible if you notice signs of illness in your dog. Your vet offers various protective repellents that your dog can either ingest or wear externally to fend off ticks and the diseases they can spread. Talk to your vet about what options would best suite your dog based on their previous medical history!
To ensure that you're not promoting a safe haven for ticks, make sure to keep your lawn maintained and at a low profile. Ticks love hiding in tall grass/ weeded areas, where there is more opportunity for them to stay safe and attach to passerby's.