Picture it: You've just spent a beautiful day in the summer romping around in the great outdoors with your four-legged friend. You've had the best day ever and so did your pup, rolling around in the meadows, sprinting through tall grasses, and playing around in his favorite spots. With the day coming to a close, what's the most important way to finish off the perfect day?
Checking your dog for ticks! Ticks are far more than just annoying, painful creatures that feed on your dog's blood, they're disease-spreading and virus carrying, and the last thing you want is your dog to suffer because of them. Make sure you're always checking your pup for ticks that have made their home on his legs, body, tail, or neck. Vector-borne diseases are no joke, and they can have a massive effect on your dog's health.
Ticks can spread Lyme disease, ehrlichiosis, anaplasmosis, and rocky mountain spotted fever to your pup, so it's important that you ensure he's always tick free.
Signs Your Dog Has a Tick
When it comes to ticks, you don't want to mess around. Your dog can contract things like Lyme disease, canine ehrlichiosis (an infection of the white blood cells), anaplasmosis (an infection of the blood platelets that leads to bleeding disorders) and even rocky mountain spotted fever (an arthritic, stiffening, fever and condition).
Because of these risks, it's important to make sure that your dog is tick-free at all costs. But what happens if you can't see one, or if you miss a tick? How can you tell if your dog has one if you glance over it? Look out for certain signs your dog may be giving you to let you know that he has a tick on him and causing him pain.
For example, your dog might have a tick if you notice a lot of head shaking. Ticks really like to hide in the canals or warm, damp places, so it's possible they're hiding in his ears, or even under his front legs or near his groin. If your dog has a fever or a lot of unexplained scabs, these are also good indicators that your dog might have ticks.
A tick bite may cause your dog to nip, lick, or bite at the site where the ticks at, causing a lot of scabs. While fevers can be caused by a lot of other illnesses, any dog with a fever shouldn't be overlooked for ticks. Another sign that your dog has a tick is feeling small bumps on his skin. Don't ignore a bump on your dog's skin, always look closer for ticks!
The History of Dogs and Ticks
Though it's common knowledge that ticks can spread diseases to people, it's not always been noted that animals can catch diseases from ticks. In order to combat this lack of awareness, researchers at the Big Tick Project have been exploring and testifying to the why and how ticks are infecting dogs with diseases like Lyme disease, rocky mountain fever, ehrlichiosis, and anaplasmosis.
To further this research, this group removes ticks and runs tests on them, and even encourages you to send in the ticks you find on your dogs for analysis. The Big Tick Project also puts together case studies for you to view to get a better idea about Lyme disease and other conditions that can be contracted from ticks.
For example, in a video they produced, they tell the story of Paula Kent and her dog Chaos, who, after having a tick removed, was diagnosed with Lyme Disease 18 months later. Paula noted that her dog Chaos started showing signs about three months after the tick was removed, and noted she was stiff, had bruised feet, fever, and stiff shoulders.
The Science of How Ticks Spread Disease
To understand how ticks can affect your dog, it's important to understand how ticks work and how they spread disease. Ticks transit pathogens through their feeding process and depending on the tick species and its stage of life, can take different amounts of time.
When a tick finds a spot it wants to feed, it grabs on the skin and cuts into the surface of the skin. The tick will insert its feeding tubes into its host - in this case, your dog - and secrete a cement-like substance that keeps the tick in place while it feeds. The tick's saliva is secreted, and with it, an anesthetic property that numbs your pup to the pain.
The tick will suck the blood from your dog for days, allowing any virus the tick contains to enter into the host's bloodstream. Typically, the tick will drop off once the feeding is over, however, if it's attached for two or more days, the odds of your pup catching a disease from the tick are increased significantly.
How to Train Your Dog to Deal With Anti-Tick Treatments
Because of the painful and threatening conditions that can be caused by ticks, it's important that you train your dog to deal with the precautions that come along with ensuring he doesn't get them. Make sure your pup is comfortable with the topical treatments that you'll put on him to help reduce tick activity. Ensure that he knows commands like "no" and "leave it" when putting the treatment on so he won't lick the areas it's been applied.
Make sure your dog is also comfortable with full-body exams after you've come in from a day of playing. Your pup should be fine with you checking all the areas you think ticks would be and should be trained to be patient while you do it. Use rewards when your dog has been good with dealing with these situations so that he has a positive association with tick-checking.
In the event your dog does contract a tick-disease, make sure that he's comfortable and able to take antibiotics. Teach your dog a throw-and-catch game with his pills, teach him to gently take the pill from your hand, or mix it in with his food.
By a Great Dane lover Hanna Marcus
Published: 02/06/2018, edited: 04/06/2020