What Are Ticks?
Ticks, also known as Deer Ticks, are just one of the many annoying pests that can cause harm to your pet. These round or pear-shaped parasites are small and often difficult to see in the grass, on you, or on your dog or puppy. However, when ticks are engorged with blood, they can be larger than a pencil eraser.
Ticks easily attach themselves to passing hosts as they walk through tall grass or wooded areas. Once attached to your dog, they can pass along deadly diseases, such as Lyme Disease, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and Ehrlichiosis. A tick’s bite, saliva and the transmission of disease can all cause medical problems for your dog.
How Do Ticks Bite?
Ticks thrive in woodlands, tall grasses and forests, but they’ve been reported throughout the entire United States. They can’t fly or jump, so instead they climb onto leaves, blades of grass or branches and lay in wait for a host to come by. When they sense a nearby host through carbon dioxide emissions, heat and moisture, they’ll assume a “questing” posture, lifting their two front legs and waving them in the air.
When your dog brushes by, the tick makes a grab and hangs on, quickly climbing in close to the skin and locking into place. The tick will use their mouth to latch onto the skin and insert a barbed feeding tube into the bite. This might sound painful, but the truth is that your dog will have no idea a tick has bitten them. The compounds found in a tick’s saliva are known to increase blood flow, prevent clotting, suppress your pup’s immune response and anesthetize the bite so the host feels nothing.
Once a tick is locked into place, it won’t detach from your dog until it’s fully fed and engorged. If left undiscovered, a tick can feed for days, leaving ample time for pathogens to infect your dog and cause serious health complications.
How Do I Keep Ticks Out of My Yard?
To protect your dog from tick bites and the complications that follow, you can take preventive measures to keep ticks and other pests out of your yard. Follow these easy steps to protect your dog from ticks and to discourage ticks from entering your yard:
- Pesticide Treatment: Keep your yard tick-free by spraying it twice each year with a pet-safe outdoor pesticide. The pesticide should be made specifically to repel ticks.
- Build a Natural Barrier: A fence is not enough to keep ticks out of your yard. Especially if you live near a wooded area, line your yard with gravel, wood chips or mulch to create a barrier that prevents ticks from migrating onto your property.
- Yard Maintenance: Overgrown trees, bushes and uncut grass are the ideal place for ticks to lie in wait for an exploring dog. Keep your lawn neatly trimmed and manicured on a consistent basis to discourage ticks from establishing a home.
- De-clutter: Ticks like to hide out in underbrush, leaves, rocks or woodpiles. Clear your yard of these so ticks don’t feel safe to nest.
- Check Their Coat: Remain attentive to your dog’s behavior and check their coat after spending time outdoors. Ticks on dogs can be hard to spot, so take a few minutes to comb through their fur.
- Year-round Checkups: When you bring your dog in for their twice-yearly checkups, ask your veterinarian about tick-control medications to protect them from ticks and other parasites, such as fleas.
What Do I Do if I Find a Tick on My Dog?
If you find a tick on your dog’s body, you must remove it immediately. Typically, infection can be avoided if the tick is removed within 48 hours of latching onto your pup. Use tweezers to remove the tick from your dog’s skin, getting as close to the attachment point as possible. When the tick has been removed, disinfect the wound, tweezers and your hands. Try to save the tick in a jar and bring it to your veterinarian, as this can help them diagnose any sudden symptoms.
NOTE: When removing a tick, do not:
- Use your fingers
- Try to flick the tick away
- Jerk or twist the tweezers, as the tick’s mouthparts could get left behind
- Squeeze the tick’s abdomen (stomach contents could burst and cause more infection)
- Use nail polish, petroleum jelly, rubbing alcohol or a hot match to loosen its grip
Ultimately, your pet is dependent on you to protect their health. If your dog is bitten by a tick and they start exhibiting any signs of illness, contact your veterinarian right away.