The dog ticks are external parasites which feed on your dog’s blood, causing irritation and illness. They belong to the arachnids family (just like spiders) and, when adult, have 8 legs. They are very small, but when they finish feeding they become much bigger. They are also responsible for spreading several diseases, such as Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Lyme disease, ehrlichiosis, relapsing fever.
Dog ticks have a harpoon-like structure in their mouths, with which they attach themselves to their prey, usually around the areas of the head, chest, belly, and front legs. The female tick needs to suck on blood for feeding and also for mating.
When they “hunt” for a victim, ticks stay several feet off the ground, on top of grass and vegetation along roadsides and paths. They remain there waiting for someone to come along. They don’t jump on the victim, but physical contact with it is needed. After they finish feeding (which might take several days), they drop off their host. In order to give the dog ticks fewer chances to attach themselves to your pet, always keep your grass and weeds trimmed below ankle height.
Besides causing skin irritation and itching, ticks can cause severe damage to a dog. Certain types of dog ticks release a poisonous substance that can actually paralyze their hosts. Among these types are the scrub ticks and the bush ticks.
The Lyme disease is transmitted by deer ticks to dogs. In many cases when humans got this disease, they get it from their pets. Symptoms of the canine Lyme disease include: fever, listlessness, and sudden start of lameness, together with pain, warmth and swelling of the joints. A circular area or skin inflammation around the tick bite may be visible, sometimes it may be hard to detect because of the dog’s coat.
For more info about the canine Lyme disease and in general about dog health, I recommend this site: The Dog Health Guide which provides practical advice on the symptoms, diagnosis and treatment of common canine illnesses.
The chance to get Lyme disease depends on how much time the tick remains attached to the victim’s flesh. The best way to minimize the risk of infection is to take it out immediately.
For tick removal, grab the exposed part of the tick’s body, near the dog’s skin, using tweezers. Pull it very gently, with a smooth, steady pressure. You shouldn’t pull the tick with your fingers, as it could be carrying a disease that is toxic to humans. For additional protection after removing the dog ticks, you should rub the infected area with an antibiotic ointment or with a topical antiseptic.
You can also use some special flea and tick products to remove unwanted guests, just make sure to check with your vet first.
When removing dog ticks, NEVER use a match, a cigarette or anything that can burn your dog. Using fire does not work, because this solution can only cause harm to you and your pet.
In case you wonder what do dog ticks look like, click here.