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Ticks on dogs

Health & Wellness

Ticks on dogs: types, how to remove them and prevention

They’re not always easy to spot

You’re home after a hike with your pup and are considering checking them for ticks. Depending on where you live, it’s probably a good idea, as these harmful bugs can spread some intense bacterial infections. Dr. Aliya McCullough, veterinarian and pet health advocate, shares all the different tick types, the diseases they can carry, how to protect your dog and what to do if your dog gets a bad bite.

Why ticks on dogs are unsafe

When a dog gets bitten by a tick, it can cause a variety of bacterial infections including Rocky Mountain spotted fever and Lyme disease, among several other infections. 

Different types of ticks

There are several different types of ticks, each from various environments that cause several different illnesses. Here are the most common ticks, where they’re located and the diseases they carry:

  • American dog tick (also known as a “wood tick”): located east of the Rocky Mountains and transmits Rocky Mountain spotted fever and tularemia. 
  • Black-legged tick (also known as a “deer tick”): found across the eastern U.S. and transmits Lyme disease, Anaplasmosis, Ehrlichiosis, Babesiosis.
  • Brown dog tick: found worldwide but transmits Rocky Mountain spotted fever around the southern U.S. and along the U.S. and Mexico border. 
  • Gulf coast tick: found mainly in coastal areas of the U.S. along the Atlantic coast and the Gulf of Mexico and transmits rickettsiosis, which is a type of spotted fever caused by bacteria.
  • Lone star tick: found in the eastern coast of the U.S. and transmits Ehrlichiosis and Tularemia.
  • Rocky Mountain wood tick: found in the Rocky Mountain states and southwestern Canada and transmits Rocky Mountain spotted fever and Tularemia. 
  • Western blacklegged tick: found mainly in northern California and transmits Anaplasmosis and Lyme disease.

Symptoms of ticks on dogs

Unfortunately, there aren’t outstanding signs associated with a tick being attached to your dog. Ticks generally go unnoticed and dogs often can’t feel the tick burrowing. Symptoms typically appear weeks later because of the development of Lyme disease or other bacterial infections. 

What does a tick bite look like? 

Ticks typically attach themselves to dogs’ ears, tails, eyelids, underneath their collar, on the legs and between their toes. Swelling and redness may occur around the area of the bite. 

How to get a tick off of a dog

Here are a few steps you can take to safely remove a tick from your dog: 

  • Use fine-tipped tweezers and get as close to the surface of your dog’s skin as possible, then pull upwards. 
  • Be careful not to crush the tick to avoid exposing your dog (and yourself) to infection that the tick may be carrying.
  • Avoid using matches, alcohol or petroleum jelly to remove the tick, as they’re ineffective and potentially dangerous. 
  • Talk to your vet about commercial tick removal devices. 

If you find a dried, dead tick on a dog, it should be removed (using the steps above). Talk to your vet, too, as they may want to send it to a lab to make sure it wasn’t carrying a bacterial infection.

Best tick prevention for dogs

One way to treat ticks bites is to prevent them from ever attaching to your pup. Some tick preventatives include: 

  • Talk to your vet about prescription oral or topical tick preventatives 
  • Check your dog for ticks regularly and remove them immediately
  • Ask your vet about prevention strategies depending on your lifestyle and where you live
  • Reduce the chance of ticks in your backyard by mowing often, clearing tall grasses around your house and removing anything that may give ticks a place to hide (like old furniture or trash). 

Are dog ticks harmful to dogs? 

Yes, all ticks should be removed from dogs immediately because they’re parasites that carry and transmit harmful diseases. 

What happens if you don’t remove a tick from a dog? 

It’s important to remove ticks as soon as you spot them because the longer they’re on your pup, the higher the chance of them spreading diseases. 

Ticks aren’t always easy to spot, but with our tips, you can keep your pup safe throughout all of your outdoor adventures.

The Dig, Fetch Pet Insurance's expert-backed editorial, answers all of the questions you forget to ask your vet or are too embarrassed to ask at the dog park. We help make sure you and your best friend have more good days, but we’re there on bad days, too.

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