TICKS ON DOGS: PREVENTION AND TREATMENT
Ticks are small vampire mites, which survive on the blood of other animals. These little beasts can be found everywhere in nature and very easily attach themselves to our furry friends. Tick bites cause usually harmless skin lesions, but the danger lies in the transmission of viruses, bacteria, or micro-parasites from the tick’s saliva into your dog’s bloodstream. Ticks on dogs can therefore spread diseases to the body, the consequences of which are fatal if left untreated. So, how do you protect your dog from ticks? What tick-repellent products can you use? See all our answers below.
Why Are Ticks on Dogs Dangerous?
Ticks are blood-sucking, eight-legged mites found in green spaces: tall grass, bushes, forests, even in gardens and city parks. There are many different kinds of ticks, some of which have truly terrifying names:
Dermacentor reticulatus, also known as the ornate cow tick
Ixodes ricinus, the castor bean tick
Rhipicephalus sanguineus, commonly called the brown dog tick
All of these ticks need blood to feed on to lay their eggs. This is why a tick will instinctively cling onto your furry friend's skin and spend several days there feeding on its blood. Beware: these parasites also feed on human blood! They are mainly active between spring and autumn, but it is becoming less and less rare to find ticks on dogs during the winter, especially when the temperature is mild.
Ticks on dogs can cause an allergic reaction or even inflammation of the skin at the location of the bite. However, these mites are much more dangerous than just that. Through their saliva, ticks on dogs can transmit pathogens such as viruses, bacteria, and parasites to their host.
The main diseases transmitted by ticks on dogs are:
Piroplasmosis, or canine babesiosis
Unfortunately, these diseases can become very serious if left untreated. These pathogens are also what’s known as zoonoses, which means that they can be transmitted from animals to humans. The consequences of these infections in humans are much less severe than in animals, but children and the elderly could be more susceptible.
The diseases transmitted from ticks on dogs mainly attack the red blood cells in the body. This not only causes general depression, a great deal of fatigue, weight loss, fever, etc., but also deterioration of the immune system and various organs, including the kidneys, liver, and heart. Some of these illnesses can take several years to develop and are not always easy to diagnose. As such, it's important to try and prevent tick infestation with effective acaricide products.
How To Treat Ticks on Dogs
The best way to treat ticks on dogs is by using preventive tick-repellent products. These products must be used regularly to protect your pooch all year round. Remember to check your dog's coat after each walk; this can be a cute bonding moment that also helps to prevent the spread of disease.
Here are some preventive products that we strongly recommended using to keep ticks away from your four-legged friend:
Tick-repellent spray, which is used all over the body
Pipettes or "spot-on" treatments, which are applied at the nape of the neck and spread throughout the skin
Tick collars, which release tick-repellent product little by little
Antiparasitic tablets, a type of repellent medication
Tick repellents are ineffective if misused - your dog should not lick the product, for example. If it rains, the repellent may also wash off and not work. Pay particular attention to dogs that spend most of their time outdoors, for example, hunting dogs who live in packs and are therefore more at risk of infection.
→ Most tick-repellent treatments for dogs are very toxic to cats. So don't use them for any other animals.
Some essential oils are natural tick repellents that can be applied directly to your dog's skin and coat. Just make sure you dilute them first with any skin cream or oil. White vinegar is also a natural substance that can be used to prevent ticks on dogs.
How To Remove a Tick
Ticks on dogs can be tiny before they've eaten - about 3mm in length. Once full of blood, they grow an incredible amount and can measure up to 2cm! Ticks on dogs are very easy to recognise: they have 8 legs and their head will be buried under your dog’s skin. After a tick has had its fill of your pooch’s blood, it will naturally fall off its host.
To prevent diseases being transmitted by ticks on dogs, it's important to regularly check your dog's coat. Usually, ticks find their way up to the neck, head, or ears, where the skin is thinner. Simply run your hand through their coat to check for small bumps.
If you do find a tick on your dog, it's important to know how to react as quickly as possible. When the tick falls off, usually after about 48 hours, this is when it salivates and transmits pathogens into the blood. A simple reflex can prevent your pooch from serious complications! Here are the steps to take to safely remove a tick from your dog:
Use a tick removal tool - this will be shaped like a small hook (do not use tweezers!)
Place the tool against your dog's skin, alongside the tick
Carefully slide the tool underneath the tick, trapping the tick in the wedge of the hook
Do not use products like alcohol or ether - the tick will simply be pulled off by the tick remover
Clean the wound after removing the tick
In the unfortunate case that your dog is infested with a lot of ticks at once, take them to the vet to help you remove them properly and give your pooch a thorough check-up.
What Do I Do if the Tick's Head Gets Stuck Under My Dog's Skin?
If you accidentally cut off the tick's head and it remains stuck under your dog’s skin, the risk of contamination is much higher. You risk the tick evacuating saliva and therefore pathogens, which can then enter freely into your dog's blood cells. In this case, you must consult your vet as soon as possible; a trained professional is the only one who can help you.
PUBLISHED 23.12.2020 - HECTOR KITCHEN, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
By the Hector Kitchen medical and scientific team
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