Ticks are spider-like creepy crawlies that suck on the blood of other animals. Many of us find them repulsive, but it’s a good idea to know what they look like in case you or your dog is bitten. Especially during these summer months when we’re often out exploring tick-rich woodland.
Ticks aren’t always easy to spot and are sometimes mistaken for lumps or skin tags. But it’s important to remove them quickly as they can pass on diseases and make your dog unwell.
What does a tick look like on a dog?
As part of the arachnid family, ticks have eight legs and range in size from 1mm to 1cm. These tiny blood suckers are generally oval in shape and increase in size as they gorge on the blood of their host.
The appearance of a tick all depends on how long it has been feeding on your dog. You may see a small, dark brown speck if the tick hasn’t fed yet, or you could see a grey, coffee bean sized creature if the tick has fed for a few days.
How do I check for ticks on my dog?
It’s a good idea to check your dog for ticks regularly. Some areas of the UK have higher tick populations than others. So if you know your area is one of those, it’s especially important to conduct regular checks.
Ticks are big enough to spot with the naked eye but can easily be missed in long haired breeds, so be vigilant.
After every walk, run your hands over your dog’s body and feel for any small bumps. Ticks often migrate to areas with less fur to begin feeding. Pay special attention to your dog’s ears, neck, head, groin, feet and armpits.
How do I remove dog ticks safely?
Ticks can be removed at home but you should proceed with caution. It’s important not to panic or try and pull the tick out by hand. You could leave the head inside your dog, or expel blood back into your dog which would increase the risk of infection or disease.
You can buy tick removal devices from pet stores that will twist the tick away cleanly. But if you don’t feel confident doing this yourself, get your dog to the vet as soon as possible and they will remove it for you.
Should I protect my dog against ticks?
Ideally you should use a tick treatment on your dog all year round. There are various options available, including spot on treatments, collars and chewable tablets. Speak to your vet if you’re struggling to choose the best method for your dog.
Tick treatments will either repel ticks or kill the tick when they attach. They can sometimes cause inflammation and localised infection around the bite wound. But the biggest concern is Lyme disease.
Lyme disease can progress into a debilitating condition if left untreated. It can cause serious nerve and joint problems, and in some cases heart disease and seizures. Which is why it’s extremely important you recognise the signs early on so your dog can get treatment.
Symptoms of Lyme disease include swollen and painful joints, lameness, loss of appetite, fever and lethargy. A four week course of antibiotics is only effective if used early on, which is why prevention is always the best course of action.
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