Dogs

Ticks on dogs – your complete guide for this summer

Ticks on dogs – unfortunately, something every dog owner has to deal with. Dogs are especially susceptible to tick bites, but cats can (and often do) get ticks as well. And you need to be careful since animals can carry ticks into your house.

I was doing a night shift at my university hospital when a lady came with her hamster. The hamster had a tick. She came at 1 am and was willing to pay the university night shift fee just to have “the thing” removed as soon as possible. And she wouldn’t do it herself, she could barely look at it.

Once, while I was opening our vet practice early in the morning, I got a phone call from a half-hysterical lady. She kept telling me that her dog had “A TICK!!!” and asking me what should she do now. I was trying to explain to her how to safely remove a tick from a dog and she just kept telling me that the tick was “alive on the dog” 😕 🤷‍♀️ 

It took a few minutes of confusion on both sides before we understood each other – the tick was just crawling on her dog and wasn’t attached yet. Her next exact words were “It was just there, crawling, and I..I…I removed it and… I… I KILLED IT!”. She was so proud of herself ☺️ and a bit freaked out. 

So we talked about tick prevention and what to do if she finds a new one. She was a first-time pet owner and got so scared and overwhelmed when she saw a tick on her pet.

And I can understand that most people find ticks disgusting. There is a good reason for it. We are genetically programmed to find things that might be dangerous for us disgusting (spiders, snakes, flies on rotten food). It’s evolution. And ticks are dangerous. And it’s something we as veterinarians need to explain properly so people will not underestimate them.

So here’s my tick-prevention guide ☺️



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While I am a veterinarian, this article is not intended to replace professional veterinary advice. If you have any medical concerns about your pet, consult your vet immediately. Always seek professional assistance if you are unsure of your pet’s health.


cute white dog


What are ticks and what is their life cycle

Tick infestation is a typical seasonal problem every pet owner knows. Although I must say that due to climate change the “tick season” is getting longer and longer. 10 years ago we had ticks for a few warm months, but now I see dogs with ticks in autumn or during warm winters.

Everyone knows that ticks are parasites, but did you know that they are actually arachnids? Yep, they have 8 legs and no antennae, same as spiders.

As parasites, they feed on the blood of their host, which makes them effective carriers of various dangerous diseases.

There are several different types of ticks, depending on where you live. But generally, they can be divided into 2 categories – hard ticks and soft ticks. Sounds weird, I know… 

Hard ticks have a hard shield behind their mouth parts and when unfed are shaped like a seed.  Soft ticks don’t have this hard shield, so their head is smaller and harder to see. They are also shaped like a raisin when unfed.

Tick life-cycle:

All ticks have 4 different life cycle stages:

  • Egg
  • Larva with 6 pairs of legs
  • Nymph with 8 legs
  • Adult

Females lay their eggs in a small protected hole in the ground. One female can produce 3.000-6.000 eggs. After hatching the larvae seek a host, later morphing into larger nymphs.

Nymphs also need blood from a host to be able to morph into adults. Adult ticks feed and mate directly on the host. Female ticks fall to the ground after engorging themselves on the blood, where they lay eggs and the whole cycle begins again.

Their life cycle is usually completed in 2-3 years, but can be shorter depending on the weather conditions and if they find enough hosts.

printable pet planner

How do dogs get ticks?

Ticks wait for host animals in the grass and ground-based vegetation. They climb to the tip of the leaves and when an animal brushes against the grass they quickly climb on them. Contrary to popular belief, ticks can’t fly or jump, they can only crawl.

How to check your dog for ticks:

You should always check your pet after a walk in the park or somewhere where there is a lot of grass.

Ticks on dogs like to latch on soft skin. There are a few places where you can start looking if your dog has a tick but always examine the whole body.

Start with the head – around (and sometimes even in!) the mouth, around and in the ears, around the eyes, under the collar, between the front legs, between toes, around the base of the tail, between the back legs, around genitalia and again between toes.

You can also check for signs of itching, pain, or swelling.

As I mentioned before, larvae and nymphs are smaller. However, adult ticks (especially females) can feed on blood until they’re almost 1 cm long.

ticks on dog - favorite hiding places

Why are ticks dangerous: Tick-Borne Diseases in Dogs

Depending on where you live, there are different tick species. I’m not going to go into detail and write about different species and how to recognize them. There are just too many and I think that it’s better to treat any tick as a potential disease carrier.

It’s a well known fact that ticks can cause tick paralysis or transmit potentially fatal diseases. 

There are several tick-borne diseases, again, depending on where you live and the tick type. I’ll just mention the most important ones:

  • Lyme disease (also called Borreliosis in Europe) is caused by Borrelia burgdorferi. It is a dangerous disease that can affect both dogs and humans and cause serious health problems. It’s also harder to detect with unspecific symptoms such as fever, loss of appetite, lameness, generalized stiffness or pain, and joint swelling…that can progress to kidney failure or neurological or cardiac effects. 
  • Canine Ehrlichiosis is caused by Ehrlichia canis. The infection causes loss of blood palettes, which results in blood clotting problems. 
  • Canine Anaplasmosis – caused by Anaplasma platys, is similar to Ehrlichiosis. It causes loss of blood palettes and problems with blood clotting. 
  • Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (Tick fever) – caused Rickettsia rickettsii. Signs may include high fever, vomiting, diarrhea, swelling of the joints, abdominal pain, and difficulty breathing.
  • Babesiosis – Babesia causes the breaking down of red blood cells (“hemolysis”) 
  • Hepatozoonosis – is another life-threatening disease that your pup can get after he ingests an enlarged tick. And for whatever reason, they love to do that 🤷‍♀️

Sometimes it takes 1-3 weeks after your dog had a tick for the disease to develop.

If you are interested, here you can find a list of tick-borne diseases in the USA and tick-borne diseases in Europe.

If your dog has a tick, can you get infected?

If your dog has a tick-borne disease, you can’t get infected. Your dog cannot infect you. However, people can get infected during tick removal.

It’s extremely important to consider each tick a potential health hazard and use proper hygiene measures when removing it.

You cannot get a tick-borne disease from your dog, however, there are other diseases you can catch from a dog you should be aware of.

How to safely remove ticks from a dog

If you find a tick on your dog it should be removed as soon as possible, since time is a relevant factor for tick-borne diseases.

Use clean fine tweezers or any tick removal tool you are comfortable with. Grab the tick as close to the skin surface as you can. Pull the tick straight out with steady pressure, even if it doesn’t release immediately. Just keep pulling. Do not twist or jerk the tick, this may cause the mouth parts to break off and remain in the skin. After removing the tick thoroughly disinfect the whole area.

Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water (you know, covid-style 🙂).

AVOID direct contact with the tick – ticks on dogs can carry disease agents that can infect humans.

Do NOT apply any home remedies such as petroleum jelly, oil, or grease. They cause the tick to salivate, which increases the risk of infection.

DO:

  • use fine tweezers or other tick removal tools
  • pull the tick straight out
  • disinfect the whole area after removing the tick
  • wash your hands thoroughly

DO NOT:

  • touch the tick (before, during, or after the removal)
  • apply any home remedies
  • twist or jerk the tick
  • squash the tick with your fingers

After removing the tick, inspect it thoroughly to be sure the mouth part didn’t stay in the wound. If you find a part of the tick is still stuck in the wound, take your pet to a vet.

If the wound starts to itch, swell, or get red, take your dog to a vet.

Do's and don't when removing ticks from your dog


How to prevent ticks on dogs

The best way to prevent tick-borne diseases is to prevent the tick from latching onto your dog.

There are several different topical or systemic tick-control treatments on the market.

Some products offer dual protection against ticks and mosquitos as well, which is useful if you live (or travel to) a heartworm-endemic country. You can read more about Heartworm in dogs here ☺️

As I said, prevention is the best way how to protect your pup. There are several very good products on the market you can choose from.

You can buy specialized spot-on, pills or flea & tick collars.

Each has its own advantages and disadvantages and you need to decide what is best suited for you and your furry friend. 

Flea & Tick spot-ons:

Spot-ons are easy-to-use liquid topical treatments for dogs and puppies, that kill existing fleas and ticks and prevent future infestations. The active ingredients are stored in the oil glands of your pet’s skin and work usually for 1 month, depending on the manufacturer. They are a safe and convenient option if your pup isn’t a big fan of pills.

The most popular spot-ons for dogs and puppies are Advantage for Dogs, Frontline Plus for Dogs, or Bravecto Topical for Dogs.

Flea & Tick chewables:

Chewables are chewing tablets with an aroma and flavor profile most dogs find very appealing. They kill existing external parasites and offer reliable protection for 1 month.

The best-reviewed chews against fleas and ticks are Nexgard for Dogs or Bravecto Chew for Dogs.

Flea & Tick collars:

If you are like me and need 3 reminders for every little thing, giving your pet a pill or a spot-on each month is probably too much work for you. I personally use Flea collars. You can put them on and forget about them for the next few months. Convenient, isn’t it? 😎

I personally like the Seresto Collar for Dogs (in Europe it’s called Foresto Collar for Dogs), which works against fleas for 8 months! Just be careful, the protection duration can be reduced to 5 months if you bathe your pup more than once a month.

Another popular choice is Scalibor Tick Collar for Dogs, which will protect your pup against fleas and ticks for 3 months, and Kiltix Tick Collar for Dogs which offers protection for 5 months.

All-in-one products against external and internal parasites:

As you know, it’s important to deworm your dog or puppy regularly. Not just for their but also for your own protection.

And because we live in such an awesome age, you can now buy products that will kill the most common intestinal parasites, and protect your pup against fleas, ticks, and heartworm.

There are several products on the market you can choose from, for example, Revolution for Dogs (spot-on), Advantage Multi (Advocate) for Dogs (spot-on), or Credelio Plus for Dogs (chewable).

You only need to be aware that while they are effective against roundworms, whipworms, and hookworms, they don’t treat tapeworm infections!

However, while these products are very good, nothing can offer you 100% protection. So maw your lawn regularly and check your pup for ticks after every walk.

ticks on dogs

If you own a pet, you probably had to deal with one (or few) ticks already.

They live in grass, climb to the tip of vegetation and crawl on dogs when they brush past them. It can take a tick up to a few hours to find the optimal place to latch. They like soft skin but you should always check the whole body.

They feed on the blood of their host, which makes them effective carriers of various dangerous diseases.

You should be very careful when removing them since you can get infected too. Your best option is to use tick-control products and check your dog daily.

Here are a few more summer safety tips for you and your dog 🙂

Stay safe and enjoy your summer days together ❤️

PS: If you are as crazy about animals as I am and want to get more pet health tips, subscribe to my newsletter! Today you will get a free pet planner as a bonus 🤗



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6 Comments

  • Danika

    This is absolutely fantastic information, and I am so glad you shared it! I learned some new things, and I have been reminded of some things that I once knew but have since forgotten. I hope that many puppy owners and friends of puppy owners stumble upon this post because it is so valuable! Thank you for looking out for our fuzzy friends 🙂

  • Dana

    I have two cats, but my mom has a dog, and we see them often. Your detailed information about ticks on dogs is so helpful because we live in an area where there are a lot of ticks. Thank you!

  • Angela

    I’m so happy I came across this article. I just found a tick on my dog today and now I feel confident about how to properly remove it.

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