Ticks are not actually insects, they’re arachnids and are related to scorpions, spiders, and mites. Ticks have eight legs and have no antennae, whereas insects have six legs and one pair of antennae. Ticks are parasites that feed on the blood of their host, which can be an animal or a human. Ticks are very efficient carriers of disease because they attach firmly when sucking blood, feed slowly and may go unnoticed for a considerable time while feeding. Ticks take several days to complete feeding.
Where Ticks Live
Ticks typically live in dark, damp areas low to the ground until they find a perfect host. Ticks can be found anywhere from a hiking trail to your own backyard, and they tend to prefer heavily wooded areas and tall grasses. After going on a hike or romping through the field, dogs should be checked thoroughly for ticks from nose to tail.
Where Ticks Like to Hide on Dogs
Ticks latch firmly onto the skin, so you have to search deep within the fur to find them, and sometimes they’re so tiny, you won’t even feel them. Ticks can also be mistaken for a scab, wart or skin tag. Fluffy and long-haired dogs, dogs with dark-coats and dogs with an undercoat create the greatest challenge when looking for ticks. Although you can find ticks anywhere on your dog, ticks typically prefer areas around the ears, between the toes, in the armpit and groin areas, around the eyes and around the neck and tail.
Ticks Can Make Your Dog Sick
Just like humans, dogs can get tick-borne diseases. Here are some of the common tick-borne diseases seen in dogs:
Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever
Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever is transmitted by the American Dog Tick, the Rocky Mountain wood tick and the Brown Dog tick. This disease is common throughout all regions of the US, and symptoms include lethargy, vomiting and stomach pain. Sadly, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever can be fatal if not treated promptly, so if your dog has been bitten by tick and he’s acting sick, contact your veterinarian immediately.
Lyme disease is transmitted by deer ticks and is most common in the Northeastern and Southeastern US. Symptoms of Lyme Disease are a rash around the tick bite, fever, mild lameness, lethargy, and loss of appetite.
Ehrlichiosis is transmitted by the Brown Dog Tick, and these ticks can be found all over the US, but they’re most common in warmer parts of the nation, such as the South and Southeast. Symptoms of Ehrlichiosis include fever, lymph node enlargement, lethargy, loss of appetite, and sometimes abnormal bruising.
This disease is caused by a protozoal parasite called Babesia, and is most often transmitted by the Deer Tick/Black-legged Tick. This parasite invades the red blood cells and can cause anemia. Symptoms include fever, weakness, pale gums, lethargy, dark urine and swollen lymph nodes.
This disease is caused by a bacterium which is transmitted through bites of the Deer Tick and Western Black-legged tick. Symptoms include lethargy, fever, joint pain, lameness and no appetite.
Common Ticks in the US
There are many different species of ticks in North America, and below are listed the most common types.
Lone Star Tick
The Adult Lone Star Tick can be brown or tan in color. The females have a single white spot on the back, and males have several white spots on the back. After a feeding, a female Lone Star Tick can measure up to 1/2” long. The larvae and nymphs parasitize small wild animals, birds, and rodents, while adults feed on larger animals such as dogs and cattle.
The Brown Dog Tick
This tick is often reddish brown in color, is probably the most commonly found tick on dogs. It is found all over the US, and the world, but typically prefers warmer climates. This tick is known to transmit Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Canine Babesiosis and Canine Ehrlichiosis.
Deer or Black-legged tick
This species of tick is typically orange-brown in color with black legs, and it will feed on both dogs and people. The Deer, or Black-legged tick is of particular concern, because it can transmit Lyme Disease and anaplasmosis.
This species of tick was first detected in 2017 in New Jersey, and as of August 2019, these ticks have been found in 11 other US states. These ticks have been found on cats, dogs, livestock, and people. While it is not entirely clear if these ticks carry bacteria and viruses that could cause disease in North America, in other countries, the Longhorned Tick can cause a high fever and thrombocytopenia syndrome virus (SFTSV) in people. These ticks are unique in that the female tick reproduces and lays eggs without mating.
Tick bites can cause a local skin reaction, such as redness, irritation, itchiness, a bump or a scab in the area of the tick bite. If you notice a tick bite on your dog, and you have questions or concerns, contact your veterinarian.
How to Prevent Ticks on Dogs
There are a variety of tick prevention applications available, including oral treats, topical treatments, and collars. Your veterinarian will be able to advise you on what’s best for your dog. Where you live and the lifestyle of your dog may influence what type of prevention you’ll choose. Sometimes a method that works for one dog, won’t work for another, so you may have to do a little experimenting to determine the best method for your dog.
Here is a list a several tick preventatives that are available from your veterinarian or over-the-counter:
Once-a-Month Topical Preventatives
These preventatives are typically applied to the skin at the back of the neck or between the shoulder blades. They provide a convenient method of tick control (and some provide flea control as well). Brands include Frontline Plus® and Advantix®. There is also another topical on the market called Bravecto® that lasts for 3 months.
Flea and Tick Collars
Typically, flea and tick collars bought over-the-counter are not as effective in controlling ticks, but Bayer provides a collar called Seresto® that provides flea and tick prevention for up to 6 months.
Chewable products such as Credelio®, Nexgard® and Simparica® are given monthly, and the chewable Bravecto® is given every 3 months.
Your veterinarian will make recommendations to as to which type of preventative is best for your dog. Call Kryder Veterinary Clinic at (574) 277-6533 to talk with your vet about the best tick prevention for your dog!