How to prevent and treat tick bites on your dog

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If you think it’s too early to worry about finding ticks on your dog, think again. I found one on my mostly-indoor chiweenie last week.

The increasingly warm, wet winter conditions in Ohio are making ticks a year-round concern for pet owners. Some types of ticks can become active if the temperature reaches 45 F and the ground is not wet or icy.

Because tick bites can irritate your pet and transmit disease, it’s important to give your dogs flea and tick preventative medications, check them for ticks after they’ve been outdoors and remove any ticks that have become attached.

Types of ticks

In Ohio, pet owners should keep an eye out for the backlogged deer tick, American dog tick and, in southern Ohio, the lone star tick. In Pennsylvania, pet owners should watch for the backlogged deer tick, lone star tick, American dog tick, brown dog tick and Asian longhorned tick — an invasive tick species from Asia found in eastern and central counties within the state.

Blacklegged deer tick. This tick species is well-known for carrying Lyme disease, which can be transmitted to both dogs and humans. However, it can also cause canine anaplasmosis.

Lone star tick. The lone start tick, along with the American dog tick, carries a pathogen that causes tularemia. This tick species can also transmit Ehrlichiosis in humans and dogs and, in humans, southern tick-associated rash illness (STARI), which has symptoms similar to Lyme disease.

American dog tick. In addition to spreading tularemia, the American dog tick carries pathogens that cause canine ehrlichiosis in dogs and Rocky Mountain spotted fever in dogs and people. Additionally, some dogs may react to the saliva of female American dogs ticks by experiencing progressive paralysis that is reversible once the tick is removed.

Brown dog tick. The brown dog tick has been known to transmit the organism that causes canine babesia — a mild infection of a dog’s red blood cells that can be more severe in young animals.

Asian longhorn tick. Although bites from Asian longhorn ticks have been known to make humans and animals seriously ill in other countries, according to the CDC, no harmful germs that can infect people, dogs or cats have been found in the ticks collected in the United States as of Aug. 1, 2019. This species of tick has been found in Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Kentucky, Maryland, North Carolina, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia.

All tick bites. Tick bites can cause irritation and sometimes become infected.

Checking for ticks

Tick prefer to attach themselves in areas that are warm, protected and have thinner skin, but they can be found anywhere on your dog’s body.

Common attachment locations include:

  • Between back legs (groin)
  • Under front legs
  • Around eyes
  • In and around ears, including the small pocket on your dog’s ear flap
  • Under collar
  • Between toes
  • Around tail
  • In between any skin folds

How to remove a tick from your dog

Once you find a tick on your dog, remove it immediately to prevent the spread of disease. Follow these steps:

  1. Use a pair of fine-tipped tweezers to grasp the pest and pull upwards with firm, consistent pressure. Be careful not to squeeze the tick too hard when removing it as it could regurgitate potential pathogens into your dog through the bite site. Additionally, don’t apply anything to the tick before removal, including oils, petroleum jelly, heat or fire, paint or nail polish remover.
  2. After the tick is removed, double-check the bite site on your dog to make sure you didn’t leave part of its mouth behind, which could cause infection.
  3. Completely sterilize the wound left behind at the bite site.
  4. Use a match to burn the tick, smother it with mayonnaise or freeze it.

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