by Michelle Wachs
Welcome to tick season!
Spring and summer are often many people’s favorite time of year. The sun is out, the air is warm, and the flowers are in full bloom. Unfortunately, we are not the only ones that love this season. It happens to be the favorite time of year for one of the most commonly overlooked creepy critters as well, the tick. Ticks can be a threat to both us and our canine companions, and all we can do is be prepared.
So how do we do that? In this post we’ll learn about the types of ticks to look out for in your area, where and how to check your pup for ticks, how to safely remove them, and how to care for the aﬀected area afterward.
What is a tick?
A tick is a very tiny 8-legged parasite (roughly 3/16th of an inch in size) that feeds on the blood of warm-blooded animals, like our dogs…and us. They become active in the spring when the weather turns warmer. The types of ticks you’ll find can vary based on your location, the wild animals in your area, the time of year, and more. Let’s break down what to look for.
Types of Ticks
American Dog Tick (AKA Wood Tick)
- Color: Reddish-brown with white spots or streaks on their backs
- Location: Midwest, Pacific Northwest, Eastern US
- Hiding places: Roads, paths, trails, recreational areas
- Present: Year-round, most common in spring
Lone Star Tick
- Color: Shades of brown or tan, females have a single silver/white spot on their backs; males have scattered white spots
- Location: Midwest, Eastern and Southeastern US
- Hiding places: Wooded and brushy areas
- Present: Year-round, most common March - July
Deer Tick (AKA Black-Legged Tick)
- Color: Reddish-brown with a dark brown/black shield shape between their mouth and body
- Location: Midwest and Eastern US
- Hiding places: Wooded areas and trails
- Present: Spring and Fall
Brown Dog Tick
- Color: Reddish-brown
- Location: Kennels and homes throughout most of the US
- Hiding places: Cracks, behind radiators, under rugs, furniture, drapery, etc.
- Present: Year-round
- Color: Reddish
- Location: East and Southeast US
- Hiding places: Brush
- Present: Spring and Summer
How To Prevent A Tick Bite
To be candid, your dog will more than likely come into contact with a tick, especially if you’re located anywhere in the Midwest and Eastern portions of the United States. So, what can we do to protect them? There are a wide variety of veterinarian-recommended, over-the-counter (OTC) medications that help prevent ticks from feeding on our pups. They are often found combined with flea prevention. Ask your vet which flea and tick prevention they think would work best for your pup!
Where To Check Your Dog for Ticks
Although OTC products can help in repelling ticks, none of them are 100% effective. So, be sure to stay vigilant and check your pup’s body to make sure they’re in the clear. The following are some of the most common places you might find a tick on your dog.
Head and Ears
Ticks love to hide on brush, bushes, leaves, etc., and dogs love to sniff everywhere and everything. Thus, the nose, head, and ears are easy targets for ticks when your pup comes sniﬃng around their homes.
Ticks love a dark, preferably moist corner to hide in, so ears can be an excellent hiding place. If you notice your dog starts to scratch at their ears more often and/or shake their head, it could be a sign that there is a tick in there.
Ticks look out for themselves, so they’re aiming to be in hard-to-find places. In between toes is one of those places. If your dog is licking or chewing their paws more than normal, it could be that a tick has found a nice spot in there.
If they are licking and chewing at their paws, and it is not due to a tick, try applying a coat of Lavengel to soothe the irritation they’re feeling. Within minutes, your dog should stop licking.
Another inconspicuous area for them to hide is the tail – especially the underside. It’s not an area we tend to check, and therefore, it makes for a superb hiding place for ticks. During high tick season, be sure to check here more frequently.
This is another concealed area that’s often overlooked. Just like the tail, it may not be the place you care to pet or search the most, but it can be an easy target for a tick.
The folds of an eyelid can make for a great hiding place for a tiny creature. Ticks can often be mistaken for a skin tag or a good-old eye boogie. During tick season, be extra sure to examine that area twice, as it may not be what you think it is.
Under the Collar
We’ve said the head and ears are easy for a tick to get to - well, so is the collar. It is an easy thing for a tick to crawl onto, and right beneath the collar is a perfectly hidden, kind of sweaty area that a tick would love to make a home out of. The collar is also something that is rarely removed, so when you get home after a walk or hike, consider taking their collar oﬀ briefly for a quick tick-check to see if one may be crawling on or beneath it.
This is another semi-covered area that’s hard for a dog to reach. All of these areas that provide a dark, damp area that your dog has a hard time reaching with its nails or teeth should be given extra attention when doing a tick-check.
How To Check for A Tick
Start by running your fingers through their fur (or hair) with gentle pressure. Feel for any small bumps or anything out of the ordinary. Even if you are aware of an existing skin tag, be sure to double check.
If your pup has a thicker coat or longer hair and it’s not easy to get underneath it all, try using a fine comb. You’ll feel a small snag on the comb if a tick is present.
How To Remove A Tick
You will need gloves, clean tweezers (or a tick remover), a disinfectant or antiseptic, and isopropyl alcohol.
- Wash your hands, make sure your tweezers have been cleaned with isopropyl alcohol, and apply gloves.
- With tweezers, grasp the tick as close to your dog’s skin as possible (without pinching their skin).
- Once you have a grip on the tick, pull it out slowly in a straight, steady motion. Do not jerk the tweezers, it is very important to get the full tick out – including the head. Any pieces left behind could lead to an infection. If using a tick remover, gently press the remover against your pet’s skin near the tick. Slide the notch of the remover under the tick to pull it free.
- Drop the tick into isopropyl alcohol to ensure they are no longer a threat.
- We suggest taking a photo of the tick and write in your notes the date/time you found it. If any health issues arise after the tick is removed, this is extremely helpful information to give your veterinarian or physician.
- Wash your hands and clean your pet’s wound with antiseptic. Be sure to clean your tweezers with isopropyl alcohol afterward as well.
- Keep an eye on the aﬀected area. If there is any residual redness or irritation, apply an antimicrobial gel (AKA Lavengel) to the area to help soothe the irritated skin and rebuild healthy skin tissue. If you notice any long-term eﬀects or changes in your dog’s behavior, be sure to notify your vet.
Common changes in behavior to look out for after a tick bite are low appetite, low energy, joint pain, and general signs of being ill.
Ticks can carry and spread some very real and threatening diseases and illnesses. A tick left on the skin for over 48 hours greatly increases the chance of contracting Lyme disease and/or serious infections.
The smartest things to do are to get your pup on some preventative care, know about the ticks in your area, check their (and your own) hair and skin meticulously (especially after long walks/hikes), remove a tick as soon as you find it, and monitor their skin and behavior afterward for lasting eﬀects.
Most importantly: Stay calm, stay vigilant, and enjoy the long, warm days ahead!
Let us know how these tips have worked for you - you can reach out to email@example.com or via social!