This post is written by our holistic veterinarian at "I and love and you", Dr. Angie Krause, DVM, CVA, CCRT.
Finding a tick on your dog ranks as one of the yuckiest things ever. It’s even worse when you find several. You may feel unsure of the best way to remove the tick, and worried over the potential dangers that tick poses to your dog’s health. In this article, I am going to walk you through everything from removing the tick, watching for signs of tick borne disease, and preventing the next tick bite.
How to Remove a Tick from a Dog
If the tick is still attached to your pup, it’s time to remove it. This can be done by removing the tick manually or using tick prevention and waiting for the tick to die and fall off. I prefer to remove ticks right away to lessen the risk of the tick passing a disease to your dog. You can use tweezers, forceps, or your fingers (gross, I know) to grab the tick. If you want to be extra prepared, you can purchase a special tool used to remove ticks from your pup. Grab the tick as close to your dog as possible and pull the tick off gently and slowly, without twisting. You can keep the tick in a small container to take to your veterinarian for testing. If you decide not to bring the tick to your veterinarian for testing, be sure to kill the tick before tossing it in the garbage.
How to Treat a Tick Bite
Tick bites can stay inflamed and tender for several days. I recommend keeping the area clean and preventing your dog from licking or scratching. This isn’t usually a problem. Depending on your geographical location, your veterinarian may want to test your dog for diseases that ticks carry in several weeks. Your veterinarian may also recommend monitoring your pup for 6 months. Symptoms of diseases spread by ticks vary widely and can be non specific. Dogs may become stiff and sore in their joints, tired, have a fever, may be anemic or may generally feel sick.
What Diseases Do Ticks Carry?
Ticks in certain areas of the US can carry diseases like Lyme’s Disease, Anaplasmosis, Ehrlichiosis and more. These diseases can cause no symptoms in some dogs and can be life threatening in others. Because symptoms, such as fever and lethargy, can be caused by many other diseases, these tick borne illnesses may go undiagnosed for some time. For this reason, it’s important that you tell your veterinarian if your dog has had one or more tick bites in the last six months. Once diagnosed, these diseases are easily treated with antibiotics.
Rarely, ticks can cause reversible paralysis (a.k.a. not being able to walk) in dogs. These are scary situations because the paralysis will continue to get worse and will become fatal if the tick is not removed. When the tick is removed, the weakness in their legs improves. I have only seen one of these cases in 14 years of practice. If you find yourself in a situation where your dog suddenly becomes weak, it’s a good idea to look for ticks.
How to Prevent Tick Bites?
Preventing ticks is important in order to prevent the diseases they may carry. If you live in an area that is heavily infested with ticks, talk with your veterinarian about the most effective product to prevent ticks. Ticks in certain areas may become resistant to many over the counter preventatives. Some of the stronger, more effective prescription strength preventatives carry a warning about possible neurological side effects. Discuss the benefits and risks with your veterinarian.
As a veterinarian in Colorado, where we don’t have a huge problem with ticks, I find products like Frontline and other natural products to be effective. When my patients go to the Northeastern US in the summer, I prescribe stronger, more effective preventatives. The ticks in those areas have mutant superpowers and are completely resistant to Frontline.
Being a pup parent is gross sometimes, right?! I hope you rarely find yourself pulling ticks off your dog, but if and when you do, I hope that this article helps!
Lots of love,