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You may have experienced walking through fields of grass and noticing a tiny bug running around on your skin, or even worse, digging into your skin. This is not an average bug. It's a tick.
Ticks feed on the blood of mammals, and aside from that, they can also spread diseases like tularemia or Lyme disease.
Identifying a tick is not too difficult. Although they initially look like tiny spiders, you should know that they radically change appearance once they're engorged with blood. You should search for images of ticks that are local to your area. You might be surprised to see the difference between an unfed tick and an engorged tick, but it's the same external parasite. Learn to recognize them.
It's recommended to wear pants and long sleeve tops when you go hiking or if you live in grassy areas. You can also use certain insect repellents and keep the grass around your house cut short. Should you also take precautions to protect your dog from ticks?
Can Dogs Get Ticks?
In fact, given a choice, ticks will rather go after your four-legged buddy than you.
Does My Dog Have Ticks?
Dogs are common hosts for ticks. Even if your dog spends most of his time indoors, ticks can still find him and attach themselves to your dog's skin. They will crawl around, trying to find the right spot where your dog won't be able to scratch it off, then latch on and proceed to suck blood until engorged. While this happens, your dog's skin may become irritated, and your pet may try to scratch herself to find some relief. However, ticks will attach themselves to areas where your dog can't reach them, so don't expect to see your dog scratching a lot as a symptom.
A tick isn't as harmful by itself, but in extreme cases, a tick infestation may suck so much blood from your dog that he may become anemic. Also worth considering is the fact that ticks can carry and transmit diseases like Lyme disease , Rocky Mountain Fever or Canine Ehrlichiosis , among others.
If you notice a tick crawling around your four-legged friend, remove it and dispose of it. If it already started to suck blood, it will feel like a little bump on your dog's skin.
How Do I Treat My Dog's Ticks?
There are things you can do to ensure that your dog does not become a host for ticks. First, you can take a look at your yard space and try to prevent ticks from invading the area. Cut the grass and place gravel as a road so you can walk over it instead of walking over tall grass. This can reduce the risk, but it won't be enough. You will still need to constantly check your dog for ticks by running your hands over his entire body. Any small bumps or lumps will alert you to their presence. Examine around your dog's head, neck, ears, chest, feet and between their toes. And if you get used to finding them in a particular spot, know that they won't always appear there. If anything, they'll know not to go there anymore and will find a new spot. So don't limit your search to certain areas. Be thorough. And if your dog is mostly outdoors, check for ticks daily.
Once spotted, use tweezers to remove them. Do not squeeze their bodies as infected blood may be injected back into your dog's body or part of the tick can remain inside your dog's skin. After removing it, clean the area with antiseptic or any particular tick cream your vet may recommend. Consult your veterinarian for tick removal devices and products, as well as the best removal practices depending on your dog's coat type.
Owners should be aware that it may take months for a dog to show any of the symptoms of the diseases mentioned.
There are products and collars designed to prevent ticks or limit their harm. However, they can also cause side effects. Consult your veterinarian to know your options, depending on the area you live and risk of infection.
How are Ticks Similar in Dogs, Humans and Other Animals?
Ticks feed off blood, and they can get that from dogs, humans, cats, and other animals as well. Ticks are often on low-growing plants and grass. They wait patiently for an animal or human to walk by before they attach themselves to their clothes or skin. Then they travel all over this new host to find the perfect place from which to start feeding. The way they feed is the same with all hosts.
A tick bite can be relatively harmless, but in some cases, humans and dogs may develop allergic reactions such as rash, blisters, a burning sensation, etc.
How are Ticks Different in Dogs, Humans and Other Animals?
As humans, we're able to reach a bigger percentage of our body by ourselves, and we're able to remove ticks from our own bodies. A dog will have a much harder time trying to remove a tick, even if he's able to reach it. That's why ticks may prefer going after your pet, instead of you.
Both humans and dogs may contract diseases from infected ticks. People tend to show signs of these diseases earlier than dogs normally do. Some of these signs include rash, neck stiffness, a headache, chills, and fever, among others.
Also, if the tick was able to transmit Lyme disease, 8 out of 10 humans will develop the classic Lyme disease rash, which is a circular red rash with central clearing that slowly expands. It eventually resembles a bullseye. Dogs infected with Lyme disease from a tick will likely not develop this bullseye rash.
There's a heated debate on whether you should use a year-round tick preventative product on your dog since detractors argue that those products will bring more harm to your pet, with all their short and long term side effects. On the other hand, some dogs can get dozens of ticks every day, just by running around a field.
In that regard, there are areas of the country where ticks can be more harmful than others, considering the risk of transmitting diseases. No simple solution will work for everybody, so you should consult your veterinarian to determine the risk in your area and decide the most appropriate action.