Ticks are 8 legged bugs that are commonly found in dogs, cats, and livestock. They are whiteish brownish but turn black after a blood meal. They are also oval-shaped. They are common during spring and autumn though they can be found all year round.
Ticks crawl and attach themselves to dogs. They are commonly found on the head, ear, neck and in between the toes. Once they have had a blood meal, they fall off to lay eggs and later crawl on to another animal.
Ticks transmit various diseases in both men and animals which are life-threatening. It’s important to know how to remove ticks to prevent transmission and future infections from occurring. Disease transmission usually occurs twenty-four to thirty-six hours after a tick has attached. Below we discuss the best ways to remove ticks.
Types of Ticks
Ticks are usually grouped into the following classes:
- Hard ticks: This group of ticks usually has a hard exterior called scutum than covers the entire abdomen. Ticks in this group include:
- The American Dog Tick: It is brownish with white to grayish markings. It is also oval and flat measuring a length of 15 mm when engorged with blood and 5mm when unengorged. It’s common in America except in rocky mountain areas. Commonly found in grass areas and gardens. They are attracted by the smell of animals. They prefer living in areas of low vegetation and grasslands. They usually feed for 7 to 10 days. They later drop and hatch approximately 6, 500 eggs within a period of 14 to 32 days. They spread various diseases such as Rocky mountain disease and tularemia. Their saliva also contains toxins which when injected into the body cause tick paralysis. They take a day or two to latch their mouthparts into the skin, therefore, they should be removed as soon as they are spotted.
- Lone Star tick: This is a three-host tick found in America. It’s brown. Females have silvery-white spots on their backs while males have scattered white spots. It is commonly found in woody and forested areas. It is also found in scrubland. It attaches mostly to domestic animals e.g. cattle, sheep, goats, etc. They lay eggs 7 to 16 days after a blood meal. They later lay approximately 3000 to 8000 eggs that take 30 days to hatch. They also pass Rocky Mountain Spotted fever, Tularemia and tick paralysis.
- Deer/Black-legged tick: This tick is commonly found in North America. It thrives in areas of high humidity and mild winter temperatures. They transmit Lyme disease and ehrlichiosis in dogs.
- Brown ear tick: They are brown and thrive in tropical weather conditions. They vary in size depending on their state of feeding. They are about 1/8 inch long after a blood meal and about ½ inch long without feeding. They like to attach in the ears and in between the toes of dogs. They are the only ticks that can thrive indoors and can be found in between crack, radiation vents, kennels and under rugs. They do not attach to humans. They transmit a rickettsial disease known as ehrlichiosis.
- Soft Ticks: This group of ticks has a soft abdomen lacking a hard exterior and has more rounded bodies. This includes:
- Spinose ear tick: This group of ticks is common in arid areas. All stages of the tick’s life cycle i.e. larvae, nymph and adult stage all feed on different hosts. Found deep in the ear canal. Infestation lasts for several weeks. Their spiny cuticle causes a lot of trauma on the skin tissue of the dog which can be painful and often leads to the formation of hematomas. They, however, do not transmit any diseases to dogs.
Danger Ticks Present to Dogs
Ticks are ectoparasites that attach to both animals and humans. Ticks insert their mouthparts deep into the skin of animals. Areas of attachment cause trauma, pain, and inflammation. Ticks thereafter suck blood from the animals which may lead to anemia which can be life-threatening.
Ticks produce a sticky substance that allows them to attach to the body of dogs for a while. The saliva of female ticks contains a neurotoxin which when injected into the dogs or animal causes a disease called tick paralysis. It causes paralysis from the hind limbs to the forelimbs.
It can be fatal when it causes respiratory paralysis. It is usually transmitted by the Rocky Mountain tick, Lone Star tick, Deer tick and the American dog tick. Tick paralysis usually occurs between April and June. Dogs usually appear unsteady and with time become immobile due to paralysis of the limbs.
Infected ticks also transmit a disease known as ehrlichiosis. It is caused by an organism known as Ehrlichia canis. It is mostly transmitted by the brown ear tick. It is also known as tracker dog disease or tropical canine pancytopenia. Ehrlichia organisms usually infect and multiply in white blood cells known as monocytes. The incubation period of the diseases is 3 weeks after which the dog starts to show symptoms of the diseases. This includes:
- Lack of appetite
- The dog may bruise or bleed easily
- Enlarged lymph nodes
- Inflammation of the eyes
If left untreated the dog appears to get better but slips into the subclinical stage where symptoms are not apparent. This stage may last for years and may progress to the chronic stage which is harder to treat and may lead to death.
Lone star ticks also transmit canine granulocytic ehrlichiosis. Symptoms include:
Another tick-transmitted disease is babesiosis. It may also be transmitted through blood transfusion. Babesia organisms infect the red blood cells where they multiply and later cause the red blood cells to burst open. This often leads to anemia and other signs such as:
- Loss of appetite
- Dark urine
- Tarry colored stool
- Pale mucous membranes
- Swollen lymph nodes
Lyme disease also affects dogs bitten by ticks. It is the most infection transmitted by a tick in the USA. It is characterized by lameness due to inflammation of the joint and lethargy. It also causes inflammation of the kidneys. Other common symptoms include:
- Difficulty breathing
- Sensitivity to touch
- Enlarged lymph nodes
Rocky Mountain spotted fever is also transmitted by ticks. It often attacks purebred dogs and German shepherd dogs. Common symptoms include:
- Blood in urine
- Lack of appetite
- Purple spots on the skin
- Irregular heartbeat
- Difficulty in blood clotting
- Fluid retention on the limbs
Anaplasmosis is also a tick-borne disease. It’s transmitted by the deer or black-legged tick. Common signs of infection include:
- Difficulty breathing
As indicated above, ticks not only cause anemia but also other life-threatening diseases. The good news is that it takes about 24 to 36 hours for them to transmit any infection to your dog. If one lives in woody, grassland or tick-infested areas it is important to check your dog daily for ticks to remove them.
One should be able to do so in such a way not to inject toxins or infectious organisms into the dog’s body. Dog’s that have thick or double-layered hair coats can be hard to visualize. Using a hair drier on cool setting and running it through the hair coat, can part it in sections enabling you to see the ticks.
Ticks like to attach in the ear canal, between the toes, eyelids, neck, and tail and groin area. Some ticks may also hide in cracks or radiation vents indoors so fumigating the house once in a while can come in handy.
Ticks usually detach themselves after a blood meal but by this time they have already transmitted disease. One should therefore not wait but remove them as soon as they are spotted.
How to Remove a Tick from a Dog
- Make sure you have put on gloves. This helps prevent the tick from biting you and transmitting disease just like in the dog.
- Make sure the dog is still and is calm. It’s preferable if he or she is lying down in a comfortable position. This allows you to get a good grip on the tick reducing the risk of squeezing the tick while detaching it. Squeezing the abdomen releases harmful toxins and parasites into the dog’s body. You might also mistakenly leave mouthparts of the tick on your dog’s body which can cause a lot of irritation and inflammation.
- Gentle part the hair of the dog with one hand to get a good visual of the tick. The other hand should aid in detaching the tick using your tweezers.
- Gently slip the tweezers beneath the tick and pull upwards gently at one go. Do not squeeze the tick’s abdomen at all costs. Tweezers (tick twisters) are usually available in chemists as well as in the veterinary clinics.
- Carefully dispose of the tick by putting it in a tightly fitted jar and disposing of it. Dispose also the glove and wash your hands thoroughly. You can also dispose of it by killing it in alcohol and flushing it in the toilet.
- Apply an antiseptic at the bite site and also disinfect the tweezers. This should be done with all ticks.
- If one lives in a tick-infested area it is advisable to seek veterinary help on long term interventions. Various products are available in the market. Some work by repelling the ticks from attaching on the dogs while others are given and accumulate in the bloodstream killing the ticks instantly when they attach to your dog.
How to remove a tick from a dog without tweezers
One can also opt to use tick magnets.
- Place the widest part of the tick magnet over the tick
- Slowly slide the magnet key until the tick is in the narrowest part of the key.
- Continue sliding the key in the same direction along the skin. This will cause the tick to come out slowly with no much trauma on the skin.
What not to do with tick removal
- Do not remove ticks with your bare hands. Please use either gloves, paper towel or tissue paper. This prevents you from coming into contact with any fluids from the ticks which may contain infectious pathogens.
- Do not squeeze or crush the tick during removal. Doing this injects fluids into the dog’s body which contains infectious organisms leading to disease.
- Don’t dispose ticks in the trash can or sink as they may crawl out and reattach to another host. Kill them using alcohol or flush them in the toilet.
- Don’t apply repellants or Vaseline on the tick in the hope that it will suffocate and die. This will only make them vomit into the dog’s body transmitting pathogens that cause diseases.
- Don’t place a burning matchstick on the tick as this also can cause vomiting as well as accidentally burn the dog.
Best Way to Prevent Ticks
Ticks can be prevented by clearing unwanted bushland and vegetation around your home. This is because they provide good hiding places for the bugs.
One can also opt to fumigate the kennel and the house compound to kill all insects including ticks.
Veterinarians also prescribe various pharmaceutical products that help to keep off ticks. This includes brands such as Frontline, Advantix, Advantage which are applied directly on the dog’s skin and repel tick from attaching on them.
Oral options such as Nextgad, Bravecto, etc. are available. They circulate in the dog’s bloodstream and once ticks come in contact with the dog’s blood the chemical attacks the ticks’ nervous system leading to death.
Acaricide washes can also be used while bathing which helps to kill ticks.
These chemicals should be given under the guidance of a veterinarian since they can cause adverse side effects if overdosed or given in inappropriate ways.
Natural Prevention of Ticks
Natural methods of prevention can also be utilized. This includes:
- Garlic, when given at the correct dose (1/3 of a tablespoon per 10 lbs), repels ticks when excreted through the dog’s skin.
- Giving your dog ½ a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar per 25 lb body weight is also a good option. Apple cider vinegar makes the skin more acidic which helps repel ticks. Herbal collars/powders, citreous repellants, nematodes, etc. can also be used.
Ticks are common ectoparasites found in grasslands, woodlands and areas of low vegetation. They affect both animals and humans. They not only suck blood which can lead to anemia but also pass harmful pathogens which often lead to life-threatening diseases such as babesiosis, Rocky Mountain fever, ehrlichiosis, anaplasmosis, tularemia, tick paralysis among others.
Ticks pass these harmful pathogens after approximately thirty-six hours. It is therefore important to remove them as soon as they are spotted. This can be done using either a tick twister or tick magnets.
After removal ticks should be disposed of appropriately to prevent them from crawling back and reattaching to dogs again. Care should always be taken not to squeeze or crush the tick during removal.
It is also important to prevent an infestation in the first place. This can be done with the help of your veterinarian where spot on’s, tick shampoos, collars, and oral medications can be prescribed.
Natural preventative methods are also available such as feeding your dog garlic or apple cider vinegar. Nematodes also help in breaking the tick’s life cycle by feeding on the larval stages of ticks which are normally found underneath leaves or in the soil.