Can Dogs Feel Tick Bites?

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Introduction

Dogs get sick. It's an unfortunate fact of life, but luckily, most of the diseases and things that affect dogs are curable. Additionally, dogs usually "tell" use that they aren't feeling well. While that's not through their words (although many of us wish our dogs could talk to us!), dogs that feel sick usually let us know through their behavior and actions.

Sometimes, though, our woofers may not be able to tell us that they're sick because, frankly, they don't feel it! For example, sometimes a fever, which can indicate another more serious illness, can have no symptoms. The flu or a cold may not show symptoms for a bit, as well, until it gets serious enough to have to take your pooch to the vet. 

Regardless, whether or not your dog feels sick or exhibits symptoms depends on the disease or affliction that they have. And when it comes to ticks and tick bites, your dog can almost always feel them, and as a result, will tell you pretty quickly that they have an uninvited guest on their fur! So it's important that you keep an eye out for symptoms your dog may be showing that are particular to ticks and tick bites, so we can get them healthy again as quickly as possible!

Signs Your Dog May Have a Tick

The symptoms of a tick bite in your pupper may be different not only depending on the type of tick, but also on the type of dog. Regardless, most of the time, your dog is going to be able to feel the bite, and as a result, you're going to be able to tell that there's one there. 

For one thing, a dog that's been bitten by a tick is going to be super itchy. The place where the tick has latched on may get very red and inflamed, and your dog is probably not going to be able to stop itching it or touching it, whether it be with their paws or their tongue. As a result, areas that have tick bites may look red, your dog may scratch or lick the hair partly off so they're bald in one certain place, or the spot may also be puffier than the rest of the skin surrounding it. 

In regards to other types of symptoms, some ticks carry diseases with them, and as a result, a bite can make your dog sick in other ways. For example, "many dogs experience mild to high fevers, loss of appetite, pain, lethargy, and depression as a result of tick bites." While these symptoms may come and go rather quickly, others last for much longer and require medical attention in order to relieve and/or cure the disease. 

Of the diseases that ticks carry, the most common are tick paralysis, Lyme disease, ehrlichiosis, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, and encephalitis. These are all scary-sounding words, but luckily, most are curable if addressed by your vet in a quick matter. The symptoms vary, but if you notice that your dog is lame or unable to move, take your woofer to the vet immediately, as that's a symptom of tick paralysis. Additionally, all these diseases can cause gastrointestinal issues, as well as general inflammation, so keep an eye on your dog's "business" as well. 

Regardless of what type of tick bite or disease your dog got from a tick, every dog who isn't feeling well is going to act differently from the way they normally do, or to put it in medical terms -"off" (just kidding, vets use way longer and scarier words)! As a result, it's important to note your dog's normal behavior and practices, so you'll notice quickly when your dog seems different and be able to bring them to the vet shortly thereafter. 

Body Language

If you think your dog may have been bitten by a tick, watch for:
  • Sleepiness
  • Licking
  • Shake off
  • Weakness
  • Scratching
  • Chewing
  • Shaking
  • Lack of focus
  • Raspy panting

Other Signs

Some other signs that your dog has a tick bite are:
  • Depression or lethargy
  • High fever
  • Scratching or chewing at one area
  • Red or inflamed skin
  • Hair loss
  • Paralysis or partial paralysis/lameness
  • Stomach issues
  • Acting generally different than normal
  • Loss of appetite
  • Shaking their head or ears

The History of Ticks and Dogs

Ticks have been around bugging humans and dogs alike for a long time. Even before dogs existed, ticks were bothering wolves, and continue to do so. When dogs evolved from wolves into the little floofs we know and love today, ticks did so as well. 

As a result, the pool for potential tick-borne disease victims is relatively large - it includes, dogs, wolves, and us as well! So it's very important that if we see a tick on our pooch or they seem to be acting strangely or different from normal, we get that tick off or get them to the vet right away. Because ticks can pass from doggos to humans, it's for our safety as well!

The Science Behind Ticks and Tick Bites

To get scientific about it, "ticks are parasitic arthropods that feed on the blood of their hosts. They are attracted to warmth and motion, often seeking out mammals." Because our pups move around so much and have fur covering their bodies to keep them warm, it's no wonder ticks love our pooches! 

The life stages of a tick are egg, larvae, nymph, and adult. Anything beyond an egg has the potential to draw blood from its host. And while most ticks will detach themselves from their hosts within three or four days after feeding, they actually have an overall lifespan of between several months to even years. While many to most don't carry any diseases, those that do can transmit their disease to a host within hours. 

So, it's important that you keep an eye out for ticks since your pupper can't. The most common ones in North Ameria are deer ticks, brown dog ticks, lone star ticks, and American dog ticks. 

How To React if You Think Your Dog Has a Tick:

  • Remove the tick: with tweezers, take the tick as close to your dog's skin as possible and pull in a straight, steady, and slow motion.
  • Disinfectant: after removing the tick, there will be a little hole where the tick used to be. Make sure to dab some antibiotic ointment on it so that it doesn't get infected!
  • Go to the vet: if you don't trust yourself to take the tick out, your dog has many that you don't think you can take care of, or is starting to show symptoms of a tick-borne disease, your vet will definitely be able to help you out! It's better to be safe than sorry when it comes to our furry little BFFs.

Safety Tips Regarding Ticks and Tick Bites:

  • Make sure to give your dog a full body check anytime you're out in the woods. Use both eyesight as well as your sense of touch and look for lumps.
  • There's tick treatment you can get for your pooch. By using this type of medicine, ticks are less likely to latch onto your woofer!
  • Track the tick risk level in your area through websites, and try to avoid woody areas during times of high risk!
  • Keep the grass in your yard cut short. Ticks like to live in longer grass, so depriving them of a habitable place to live will help limit their exposure!
  • Try to stay on paths when you're hiking, if you can. Again, woodsy areas are notable for ticks, so the more you avoid them, the happier your pup will be!