Ticks On A Dog: Everything You Need To Know As A Pet Owner

Updated: November 11th, 2022

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Ticks on Dogs

Ticks on dogs are a pain in the neck! These pesky little creatures will take away your comfort and that of your pooch, put both of you at risk of developing serious diseases, and cost you a lot of time and money.

Any pet parent who’s fought these bloodsuckers will tell you it is an experience they don’t want to ever go through again. If you’re here, then you probably can relate to this! I could go on and on about the dangers of ticks on your dogs, but I’m sure what you really need is a solution.

I’ve found what works and compiled plenty of valuable information you wouldn’t want to miss out on as you fight off these parasites. From what ticks look like and the different types of treatments available in the US to the symptoms you should watch out for and even how to get a tick off a dog, join me as I walk you through all the answers to these important questions!

What Does A Tick Look Like On A Dog?

Normally, a tick on a dog is about the same size as a small spider or flat sesame seed when they haven’t recently taken a blood meal. You will need a keen eye to spot them in this state because they can bury themselves deep into your pet’s fur and firmly latch on to their skin.

Soon after sucking on an unfortunate animal’s blood, ticks ‘grow’ up to 10 mm long and about as wide as your little fingernail. However, because they go through four distinct phases in their lifecycle, not all ticks will look the same.

It can be tricky to determine exactly which phase of their life cycle a tick is in just by looking at it. Of course, an adult mature tick will always definitely be larger (and will move a lot faster) than a larva or egg. Eggs and larvae can be especially difficult to spot due to their small size.

Colors, too, will vary based on the tick’s particular species. We’ll cover the different types of ticks your dog is likely to encounter below.

Where Do Ticks Come From?

Where Do Ticks Come From?

When there’s no nearby host to latch onto, ticks retreat to areas that are dark, warm, and low to the ground. It can be easy to miss them in especially wooded or grassy areas. In fact, these areas are exactly where your dog is more likely to be infested by a tick.

Many ticks will often crawl up tall pieces of grass, shrubs, or other plants and then wait for the right moment to strike and latch onto a new host. Despite their small size, they hardly ever miss their target!

Notably, ticks can sense nearby heat and carbon dioxide, so as soon as your pet approaches, any nearby ticks will be on high alert. It only takes them a few seconds to climb up a host, crawl to a comfortable place, and bite. This could happen any time of the year, of course, but the risk is much higher in spring and summer.

There are plenty of risky areas ticks tend to frequent that you should be particularly wary of, like your backyard, your house, your pup’s dog crate, and outdoors at busy local parks where they’re likely to find new hosts. Ticks, as well as their eggs and larvae, can easily find their way onto an ideal host at any of these places, reproduce, and grow to massive numbers within a surprisingly short period.

What Are The Different Types Of Ticks That A Dog Can Have?

There are many different species of dog ticks in the United States. It helps to become familiar with each of them so you will know what actions to take if they find their way onto your pet. Some, for instance, are more dangerous than others. Talk to your vet for more in-depth information beyond what I’ve shared below.

American Dog Tick

These common ticks are spread across the Pacific Northwest, Midwest, and Eastern United States. They can also be found in eastern Saskatchewan in Canada. Prime target hosts for these ticks mainly include dogs and humans.

American dog ticks are most often spotted in recreational areas and hiding amongst plant growth close to paths, roads, and trails. Although they don’t transmit Lyme disease, these ticks still carry infections and diseases that can be deadly to both dogs and humans.

Another important thing to note is these ticks can release a toxin that can lead to tick paralysis on the host.

Lone Star Tick

Lonestar ticks live in the underbrush, specifically in heavily wooded areas and near rivers and creeks. Host regions include the East, Midwest, and Southeast regions of the United States. In Pennsylvania, they have even been spotted near more urban areas.

Just like the aforementioned American dog ticks, Lonestar ticks can transmit serious diseases such as Tularemia and Ehrlichiosis to dogs and humans.

Blacklegged Ticks

Blacklegged ticks are a bit different from Lonestar and American dog ticks; they can transmit Lyme disease and other potentially dangerous diseases such as Anaplasma and Ehrilia to both dogs and humans.

Initially, they were only present in the Northeast regions of the US, but in recent years, they have been reported as far south as parts of Virginia and Pennsylvania. You may encounter them in wooded or suburban areas.

Brown Dog Ticks

Brown dog ticks aren’t as fatal as blacklegged ticks, but they can still cause significant trouble for your dog, the least of which is skin irritation. What’s more, when they assemble in large numbers to feast on your dog’s blood, anemia becomes inevitable due to massive blood loss.

These tricks are common across the United States, Canada, and Australia. However, unlike the other tick species mentioned here, these ones rarely bite people.

Other Types Of Ticks

Other tick species found in the United States, as reported by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), include:

  • Groundhog ticks
  • Gulf coast ticks
  • Rocky mountain ticks
  • Soft ticks
  • Western blacklegged ticks

Consult your vet to learn more about the types of ticks present in your area and how to spot them. You can also use the CDC map to see the geographical distribution of ticks in the US.

Signs Your Pet May Have Been Bitten By A Tick

Signs Your Pet May Have Been Bitten By A Tick

Ticks are masters at hiding, and your pup unfortunately won’t scream when a tick squeezes a blood meal out of them. In fact, at first, there may not be any symptoms that something is wrong, and this could go on until your dog is at risk of contracting a life-threatening illness.

A tick bite on a dog will also not be openly visible to your eye, which is why it is so helpful to know what signs to watch out for. Various tick species will have their own unique symptoms.

Brown dog ticks, for instance, often cause small bumps on the host’s skin, irritation, or worse, anemia. Your dog may chew or lick at a specific part of its body where the tick is hiding. She may also wince or yelp when patted.

Paralysis ticks, on the other hand, usher in a long list of conditions, including:

  • Weak or wobbly hind legs
  • Retching or vomiting right after the tick bite
  • Rapid or labored breathing
  • Scabs
  • Loss of appetite
  • Coughing
  • Lethargy after the tick bite
  • Red, inflamed skin

What Diseases Can Be Transmitted By Ticks?

The various diseases spread by ticks all present themselves differently. Signs often show up months after the bite and typically include fever, difficulty breathing, pale gums, tiredness, or shifting lameness.

Even though there are plenty of them, the three most common tick-borne diseases are:

1. Lyme Disease

Of the three, this is the most common in the US, especially the Southeastern and Northeastern parts. It is a severe tick-borne disease that causes loss of appetite, depression, renal failure, swollen lymph nodes, and fever. Both dogs and humans can contract Lyme disease. Call your vet immediately if you suspect your pet has Lyme disease.

2. Ehrlichiosis

Ehrlichiosis is another severe tick-borne disease primarily carried by brown dog ticks. Signs include fever, loss of appetite, abnormal bruising, lethargy, and lymph node enlargement. As soon as you encounter these symptoms, take your pup to the vet for immediate treatment.

3. Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever

Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever is transmitted by American, brown, and Rocky Mountain dog ticks. It’s common throughout the United States and has multiple symptoms, with the most common ones being vomiting, lethargy, and stomach pain. Early treatment doubles the chances of faster recovery, so speak to your vet immediately if you notice these symptoms.

How To Remove Ticks On Dogs

When you find a tick on a dog, the first thing to do is not to panic. Although it will eventually fall off on its own, it is best to remove it right away.

Even a dog that’s on prevention treatment can still be infected, but the good thing is that the tick will not be able to cause any trouble for them if removed properly. For those without prevention medication, the risks are higher.

It’s fairly easy to remove both alive and dried dead ticks on a dog. Just follow the steps below. If you’re still unsure how to go about this, talk to your vet first.

Things You Need:

  • Latex or vinyl gloves
  • Tick removal tool
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Sealable container

Step 1: Wear proper gloves (latex or vinyl)

Step 2: Apply rubbing alcohol to the area and use a suitable tick removal tool to grab the tick

Step 3: Twist off the tick and then detach it from the pet.

Step 4: Examine the area to be sure the tick has been completely removed

Step 5: Store the parasite in a sealed container for examination by your vet. If you choose to dispose of it, trap and seal it with tape before throwing it in a trash can.

Alive and dried dead ticks aside, what is an embedded tick and how does one go about removing it?

Just as the name says, that is a tick that has embedded itself deep in your dog’s skin. Such ticks should be removed as soon as possible. You don’t want a tick embedded in your dog’s skin for long because this might double up the risk of tick-borne infections.

Just to be more specific on how you should go about this, follow the following steps:

  1. Spread the dog’s fur and then grasp the embedded tick’s head as close to the skin surface as possible
  2. Using fine-point tweezers,  pull out the tick in a steady slow motion
  3. In the unfortunate event, that the mouth parts remain, use a sterile needle to pluck them out
  4. Clean the bite area with a disinfectant or water and soap
  5. Wash your hands thoroughly

Do not make the mistake of using your fingers, household tweezers, or tools that are not recommended for this task because you might tear the embedded tick and spread infections in the bite area.

Also, remember not to be rough when removing embedded fully ticks on dogs. Be gentle so as not to hurt your dog or cause more trouble. In addition, don’t try to suffocate the tick or burn it off. Even if you kill the parasite, your dog will still be at risk of bacterial infections.

That said, even after removing the tick, continue to monitor your dog for symptoms of tick paralysis.

How To Prevent Ticks On Your Dogs

Two things are for sure when it comes to tick prevention: one, you can’t wipe them off the earth, and two, your dogs will definitely encounter them at some point in the outdoors. This leaves you with no option but to outsmart them.

The good news? You have plenty of tick treatment options to help you do that. It may seem like you are just helping your dog stay healthy and out of danger, but the prevention treatment will actually benefit you as well! You and your family will be safe from tick-borne diseases.

Different Types Of Treatment For Ticks

Treatment options available to you for tick prevention include:

Don’t make the mistake of buying these treatment options over the counter and administering them to your adult dog or puppy without your vet’s approval. Consult with them first just to be sure that you are using the best possible treatment option.

There’s still more you can do to keep these pesky parasites away from your pet. Here are a few bonus tips:

  • Check your pup regularly for ticks
  • Uproot tall weeds from your backyard and mow your lawn often
  • Thoroughly clean and treat your house and everything in it as soon as ticks show up
  • Have a vet carry out regular checks on your dog for tick-borne diseases

FAQs About Ticks On Dogs

Are ticks dangerous for humans?

Ticks can be quite dangerous to humans as well as dogs. Lonestar and Blacklegged ticks can bite and even transmit some serious diseases to humans. However, you will not get tick-borne diseases from dogs.

Signs you have been bitten by a tick include red and irritating areas on your skin. Children are the most vulnerable and may actually suffer tick paralysis.

How do I check my dog for ticks?

Simply running your hands down your pup’s legs and back isn’t always enough to locate ticks. Remember, these bloodsuckers can bury themselves deep in your dog’s fur and latch onto the skin firmly.

To thoroughly check your dog for ticks, start with a regular bath and grooming to get them used to you touching and cleaning them. Next, feel and thoroughly run your hands over areas where ticks love to hide, such as around the eyes and eyelids, in and around the ears, under the front legs, between the toes, and inside the groin region.

Lastly, be on the lookout for the symptoms I mentioned earlier. They might just point you in the direction of ticks.

Can ticks jump from dogs to humans?

Ticks do bite humans, but it is rare for one to jump straight from your dog to your skin. However, you are likely to pick one outdoors or in your house. This can happen at the park, a camping ground, in tall, dense bushes, or along a walking or hiking trail.

Your pet can also carry these parasites into your house, where the ticks can then hatch, grow, and reproduce. Eventually, they may find their way to your skin, even if they’re really focused on infecting your dog.

What does an embedded tick look like on a dog?

It’s easy to confuse a tick on a dog for a skin lump or cyst, especially if you can’t tell how they look at their different life stages. Actually, that’s a subject you have to spare time to learn as a pet owner (in case you haven’t).

Nonetheless, it would still help you a great deal to know how an embedded tick looks on a dog. More often, it resembles a dark skin tag or mole. For the uninitiated, moles are small, dark brown spots on the skin that can either be flat, rough, or raised.

But what distinguishes embedded ticks from skin tags or moles is that they will appear to be sticking out of the dog’s skin. Also, they are a bit hard and oval-shaped with eight legs.

Ticks And Dogs: A Summary

It is almost guaranteed that your dog will run into ticks at some point, be it at home or while in the great outdoors. Your role as a pet parent is to make sure that your pup remains healthy and comfortable if they do get infected. That’s where tick prevention treatments come in and are especially useful.

Remember to discuss with your vet about available options. You don’t want to treat your dog only to realize later that you made their tick problem even worse.

Some other significant points to note:

  • Tick bites can cause serious health problems to your dog if left untreated
  • Ticks bite humans, too. Caring for your dog, therefore, helps you stay healthy, too!
  • Talk to your vet anytime you are unsure whether your dog’s symptoms are a result of tick bites

In summary, ticks are dangerous parasites, but for a pet parent who knows more about them, including how to get a tick off a dog and prevent them, you won’t have much to worry about. Always stay informed and be as proactive as possible.

Written By

Wendy is a self-employed beauty therapist, mother of two, life-long pet parent and lover of dogs who somehow manages to squeeze in the time to satisfy another of her loves - writing. Wendy is the founder, main contributor to and editor of TotallyGoldens.

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