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Ticks are parasites and they feed on the blood of the animals they pick out as their hosts. They are attracted to heat created by warm bodies and movement, often seeking out mammals – including dogs and cats, and also cattle and humans.
Ticks tend to hide out in tall grass or plants in wooded areas laying idle waiting for likely hosts. Once a host is found, the tick will climb on and attaches itself to their host by digging their mouthparts into the skin. They will then begin their blood meal, feasting on your dog. Once locked into the place they have bitten your pet, the tick will not detach itself until it is completely engorged and completed its meal.
There are various species of ticks and depending on which species, their life span can be several months to several years. A female adult tick can lay hundreds to thousands of eggs at any one time.
The Dangers of Ticks
Ticks are known carriers of disease, but not all ticks transmit disease. Many of the ticks species do not even carry diseases at all. However, the threat of disease is always present where ticks are concerned, and you should always take the risks very seriously as a potential danger.
Most tick-borne diseases will take several hours to transmit to a host. This means that the sooner you locate and remove any ticks, the lower the risk of disease transmission to your dog.
The warning signs of most tick-borne diseases indicating an infection include the following things:
- Fever, lethargy and weakness
- Lameness and swelling of the joints
- Severe anaemia
The onset of these signs may take a few days, weeks or even months to appear.
Some ticks can cause a short-term condition called “tick paralysis,” which is marked by a slow but sure inception of difficulty walking that develops into paralysis. If you notice these or any other signs of illness in your dog, contact your vet as soon as possible so that proper testing and treatments can begin.
Finding and Removing Ticks from Your Dogs and cats
If you find an embedded tick, be sure to remove it quickly.
Here’s how: Wear latex gloves to protect infecting yourself with any diseases or bacteria. Use a pair of tweezers or buy a specially-designed tick removal tool from your pet care provider or pet store. This will help you to grasp the tick at the point of attachment. Try to do this as close to the skin as as you can possible get.
Be very careful not to squeeze the body of the tick. If the tick bursts, its body fluids may cause bacteria and disease to be injected into the site where it has bitten your dog.
Pull the tick directly out from the skin slowly but steadily. You should not twist or turn your tick remover. Some of your dog’s skin will come off with the tick, still stuck in the tick’s mouthpiece, but this is normal. A little bleeding may occur and if this happens, just apply light pressure to the area until it has stopped.
Sometimes it also happens that a part of the tick’s head stays behind in the dog, embedded in the skin. If this happens, use the tweezers to gently pull it out if it is possible. If it cannot be done, don’t become worried. It will fall off in due course. It could, but rarely causes complications. I usually advise owners to just keep a good eye on the site and visit the vet if they have any concerns at all.
After you have removed the tick and any of the mouthpieces that might have stayed behind, you have to clean your dog’s skin at and around the area where the tick was.
You can use mild soapy water and a disinfectant and dry the skin after. Do watch your dog and the area for a few days to make sure it is all in order. Remember your vet is only a phone call away.
Lastly, l want to tell you about a product that l have found on the market. The name of it is “tick away” by the company beaphar. It has a little nozzle that you point directly at the tick and then pulls the trigger. It works kind of like a wart freeze. You do not have to pull the tick off in the traditional way and there is no fear of broken skin or mouthpieces left behind. You don’t have to get your hands dirty at all. All you do is spray it on and the tick will fall off all by itself. I use this product myself or recommend it for owners that find touching or working with ticks absolutely unbearable. Regular grooming will help keep your pets clear of ticks and other parasites. Read more in our article about grooming.
Future Prevention & Control Measures
Fleas and ticks are a major problem. These can be really itchy which causes our dogs to scratch most of the time. Too much scratching can result to lesions and breaks in our dog’s skin. This can also lead to another infection and other skin problems. This can be really challenging especially if we have long haired dogs.
Our dogs need to have a healthy skin for them to enjoy and live a full life. It has always been said that prevention is better than cure but then there are times when it is beyond our control. Here are some control measures as well as treatment options for fleas and ticks.
- Clean your house. If you are still planning to get a dog or if you already have a dog, it is of utmost importance that you keep your house clean. Fleas don’t only live in your dogs; these can also be found in the surroundings. If your house is carpeted, fleas can flourish within the fibers so it would be best if you vacuum as often as you can. If you don’t, the fleas in their early stages of development will continue to stay lodged in your carpet and your dog can get it anytime especially when they’re lying down on your carpeted floor. Always clean your house; not just the living room but every single nook and cranny.
- Insecticides. If you think that vacuuming and cleaning are enough, then you are wrong. To really decrease the chances of your dog getting any fleas, it is also helpful if you spray insecticides on the carpet, the rugs, and other areas of your house especially those dark, damp areas. Do not also forget to spray underneath the beds and furniture as well as the baseboards. If you are going to buy an insecticide, always check the label and go for one that contains active ingredients that inhibit the multiplication of flea and tick eggs.
- Outdoors. Do not just limit your cleaning to the insides of your house; it is also important that you clean your yard and any surrounding areas around your house. Remember that your dogs go out too. Ticks and fleas can survive almost anywhere so it is for sure that these will be able to survive the outdoors. After you clean the outdoors, do not forget to spray insecticide all around the surrounding area of your house.
- Of course, do not forget your pet dogs. Use flea control products on them. These products will help control the multiplication and eventually eliminate the fleas thriving on your dog especially if your dog has already been harboring them. But in case your dog is still flea-free, you can still use these products to keep the fleas from making a home on your dog’s fur.
- Always keep your dog as clean as possible. Do not let them play with dogs that have skin diseases and are infested with ticks and fleas because these can easily transfer to your dog. You can always use a flea comb whenever you are brushing your dog’s hair because this type of comb is made especially to remove ticks and fleas stuck on your dog’s hair.