Ticks are a problem for dogs and people; know how to protect you and your pup
You might think that you only need to worry about your dog getting ticks if you live in a wooded area. After all, ticks like to hang out in the woods, tall grass, and other areas with dense foliage, but the truth is, ticks live pretty much all over the place in the United States. Your dog can pick up ticks after walking through someone’s yard that has high grass or even by rolling around in a tempting pile of leaves.
It’s true that some locations are more prone to ticks than others, but it always pays to be vigilant. If you spend a lot of time in overly wooded areas, then you need to be extra-vigilant. Plus, there are all different kinds of tick species, some of which cause more problems than others. Therefore, unless you really want to become an expert on identifying ticks, your best bet is to try and prevent your dog from getting any ticks in the first place.
What Is a Tick?
Did you know that ticks are distant cousins to spiders? Ticks are arthropods and are members of the arachnid class; the same class that includes spiders, mites, and scorpions. There are hundreds of species of ticks; one of the most popular is the Deer Tick, or black-legged tick, which is the species responsible for Lyme Disease. Deer Ticks are found throughout the central and eastern US, and like other ticks, they feed on blood and their bite transmits diseases to both animals and people.
How Do Ticks Get on Dogs?
You might think that if you live in an urban environment, or you don’t take your pup into the woods, that you don’t have to worry about ticks. While it is true that some situations are more likely scenarios for your pup to pick up ticks, it’s important to understand that it can happen anywhere. Ticks do not fly, and unlike fleas, ticks cannot jump; instead, most ticks wait patiently for a potential host to pass close by so that they can grab hold. Once ticks climb aboard, they hold on tight with powerful legs.
Here’s a quick glance at how ticks can find their way onto your pup:
- Other Animals - Other animals like raccoons, squirrels, and even feral cats can introduce ticks into your dog’s environment. So, even if you and your pup haven’t been in an area with ticks, assume that other creatures have, and that they carried their pesky friends with them into your dog’s domain.
- Other People - Yep, ticks can catch a ride on a person too. For example, if your friend goes camping and picks up a tick on his shoe, then visits you while wearing the same shoe, that tick is now in your home and looking for a warm host. It almost sounds like something out of a horror movie, doesn’t it?
- Being Out and About - Yes, being out in the woods will likely pose more of a risk for ticks than going to the vet, but anytime your pup goes out he can be exposed to ticks. If you take a trip to the park, visit the lake, or even simply take your pup for a walk around the block on his leash, then you have to assume you could have been around ticks.
The Reason You Want Ticks Off of Your Dog
Ticks carry a number of different diseases, and the type of disease depends on the species of tick. One of the most common tick-borne diseases that you hear about is Lyme Disease. Some of these diseases can be easily treated, while others can cause serious complications and even death. If your dog lives in an area that puts him at a higher risk for contracting Lyme Disease, there is a non-core vaccination that is available. However, it’s critical to discuss with your vet whether it’s a good option, as the vaccination itself carries several risks.
8 Ways to Prevent Ticks on Your Dog
Just like training your dog helps prevent future undesirable behavior, your best course of action when it comes to keeping your pup safe from tick-borne illnesses is to prevent ticks in the first place. Keep these 8 tips in mind, especially if you’re in an area that is known to have ticks, to keep the little buggers off of your pooch:
- Identify tick-prone areas - Although ticks can be anywhere, they are mostly found in areas with tall grass, woods, low shrubs, or even piles of leaves. If you know you will be in an area that has some of these elements, make extra sure to properly prepare yourself and your pooch with tick repellant and other methods.
- Check yourself (and your pooch) - After you spend time in areas that are likely to contain ticks, or even playing around in your backyard, be sure to check you and your pup thoroughly for any ticks as soon as possible. Finding ticks quickly allows you to remove them before they can infect you or your pup, plus you won’t risk an infestation in your home.
- Give your dryer a spin - If you and your pup spent some time somewhere with ticks, toss your clothes, dog blanket, and anything else that might have picked up ticks, into your dryer on high heat for at least five minutes; ticks can’t survive, which means they can’t spread.
- Pay attention to landscaping - Don’t underestimate the likelihood of ticks hanging around your house. There are plants and shrubs that are natural tick-repellants, but simply keeping your yard neat can make a big difference. Cut your grass regularly, pick up leaf piles and garden clippings quickly, and keep the area around your home free from groundcover and other tick-friendly habitats.
- Stay sunny - When possible, stay in the sunshine; ticks mostly stick to shady, moist areas. If you stay on the sunny side of life, it can help prevent exposure to ticks.
- Dress for success - It isn’t just about your dog, you can pick up ticks too. When you are in areas that are more prone to ticks, make sure to wear pants, long-sleeved shirts, tall socks, a hat; basically, keep yourself covered, and protect your clothing and gear with a tick repellant. Tuck your pant legs into your socks to avoid low-lying ticks hopping on board and climbing on up for a meal. Plus, wear light-colored clothing; this will make it easier to spot ticks that do make it onto your clothes.
- Tick repellant - To protect yourself from ticks, use an appropriate repellant, containing DEET, permethrin, or picaridin.
- Prevention medication - For your dog, flea and tick prevention medicine is the best way to protect your pooch from unwanted pests, so make sure to add it to your puppy checklist. Talk to your vet about what options make the most sense for your dog.
What To Do If a Tick Is on Your Dog
Even with your best efforts, your dog might end up with a rogue tick. If you spot any ticks on your pup, early removal is essential. Certain infections, like Lyme Disease, can only be transmitted if ticks remain attached to their host for 36 hours. If you notice any ticks on your dog, try these steps to free your pup from the tiny invader:
- Use a pair of fine-point tweezers to remove the tick. You want to use the right tool for the job to avoid damaging the tick, as this can spread infection. There are even special tools designed specifically for removing ticks.
- Grasp the tick as close to your dog’s skin as possible and slowly pull upward. You don’t want any part of the tick to break off in your pup’s skin.
- Get rid of the tick by placing it in alcohol, wrapping it up in tape, putting it in a sealed container, or flushing it down the toilet.
- Clean your pup’s skin with rubbing alcohol and wash your hands thoroughly. You might also want to give your pup a tasty treat after putting up with the whole experience.
- Bring your pooch to the vet for a follow-up to ensure that no part of the tick is still in your pup.
- Monitor your dog for several days, maybe even weeks, after removing the tick. If you notice any changes in your pup’s behavior, bring him back to the vet immediately.
Prevention is always the best medicine, especially when it comes to parasites and other small creatures that can cause distress for you and your pooch. If you take the time to put these practices into play ahead of time, you can potentially save you and your pup a lot of hassle in the future. For more tips on how to help your pet thrive, check out the rest of our blog; at Neater Pets we strive to give you the info you need to be a well-informed pet parent.