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What You Need to Know:

Ticks are small gray dots that appear on a dog's skin. There are several tick species that cause problems in dogs, with the Deer tick best known because of its relationship to spreading Lyme disease. Ticks are found in moist, dark parts of the body such as between the toes, ears, eyes, neck, armpits, hind legs, and at the tail base.

There are 6 major types of infections associated with ticks. As ticks take a blood meal they become enlarged, making them easier to spot on the skin. Not all ticks carry Lyme disease and only 5% to 10% of exposed dogs show any symptoms. Problems usually occur from May through August, but can happen on any day that is above the freezing mark.  Treatment involves removing the tick as quickly as possible since studies suggest that for most infection types, the time to infection is 5 to 72 hours depending on the type of tick. Dogs can be protected via the use of a spot-on or collar.

Ticks on Dogs Pictures

Ticks on Dogs Pictures (left to right), On Toe, Ear, Neck, Eye

Tick Time to Infection

If a tick is removed from a dog before these time frames there is little to no risk of infection. For this reason it is important to continually check your dog and remove ticks immediately.

Infection Tick Time to Infection
Borrelia burgdorferi (Lyme Disease) Ixodes ticks (also known as Deer Ticks or Black -legged Ticks) 48 - 72 hours, less in B. afzelli
Rickettsia rickettsii Dermacentor ticks (also known as the American Dog Tick or Wood Tick. 5 - 20 hours
Ehrlichia canis and other Ehrlichia species Lone Star Tick (primary carrier) Unknown
Babesia gibsoni and other piroplasms Deer Ticks (primary carrier) Unknown

engorged tick on dog picture
Enlarged Engorged Tick on Dog Picture

Types of Ticks

Several types of ticks that attach to dogs. These include:

American Dog Tick

American Dog Tick
Source: American Veterinary Association

The American Dog Tick is found in the eastern U.S. and the plains States. It can also be found on the West coast. Diseases associated with the American Dog Tick are:

  • Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever ((Rickettsia rickettsii):  bacterial disease that causes fever, lethargy and respiratory issues such as cough.    
  • Ehrlichiosis: bacterial disease causing lethargy, appetite loss, fever.
  • Babesiosis: caused by protozoa which cause jaundice/yellowing of the skin, vomiting, fever and weakness.
  • Tick paralysis: paralysis starts with hind legs and then causes chest and diaphragm paralysis .  This toxin will cause death if the tick is not removed.

Treatment for Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever is with tetracycline derivatives for 14 to 21 days. The prognosis for dogs with Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever is fair with death occurring in less than 5% of dogs.(2) 

Lone Star Tick (Amblyomma americanum)

The Lone Star Tick is found in the South, Midwest and Eastern United States in areas where you find white tailed deer. This tick can transmit several types of bacteria to dogs such as ehrlichiosis (canine monocytotropic ehrlichiosis), a bacterial disease that causes enlarged lymph nodes, bleeding, vomiting and lethargy.

Unexposed ticks must feed on a dog with the disease to become infected and then perpetuate the disease. Clinical symptoms in dogs is rare. Most symptoms are due to immune system reaction to the organism.

Treatment involves supportive care using antibiotics such as doxycycline or tetracycline. Doxycycline is provided for at least 28 days. It is unknown if ehrlichial infections are cleared by treatment. Antibody tests (titers) usually become negative after 1 year in therapy.

Deer Tick (Black-Legged Tick, Ixodes scapularis)

The deer tick is found in the Northern MidWest, East and Southeast Canada. It can cause several diseases in dogs, the best known being Lyme Disease. Blood tests can detect exposure but do not prove the presence of illness. Tests can stay positive for months ot years after treatment. 

Dogs that test positive and that have clinical signs of disease are generally treated with doxycycline (10 mg/kg q24h for 1 month). Some dogs might need to be treated for a longer period of time as well as receive a special diet if there are any signs of kidney disease.

The Lyme Disease vaccine is controversial and is not generally administered by Veterinarians.

Magnified Deer Tick

How to Remove a Tick From a Dog

Removing ticks from dogs should be done within 24 hours to prevent the spread of bacterial or parasite infection from the tick to the dog. The best way to remove a tick from a dog is to follow these easy steps. Even if the tick is attached longer, the odds of infection are small.

Veterinarian Dr. Jones shows you how to remove ticks from a dog.

What You Will Need

  • Cotton balls
  • Tweezers or a removal tool such as the Tick-off Remover (tool is under $10).
  • Small clear container that can be sealed.
  • Skin Disinfectant such as hydrogen peroxide, rubbing alcohol or an antibiotic ointment.
  • Gloves such as latex kitchen gloves

Steps for Tick Removal from Dog Skin

1. Put on the gloves and soak the cotton balls with hydrogen peroxide. Wipe around the area where the tick is located to keep any bacteria that is outside the bite area from entering the area where you remove the tick. Write down the time and date you are removing the tick for future reference by a veterinarian if needed.

2. Using tweezers that have a thin end or a commercial tick removal tool, grasp the tick at the head and pull at a 90 degree angle (straight out) from the body. Press against the skin of your dog, but don't pinch the skin. Don't squeeze the tick so hard that fluid can escape from the tick. The tick should come right off.

If the head is buried deep into the skin, it may not come off when you pull. If you can't easily remove it, leave it in place. A small red bump may form over it which will go away in 2 to 3 days. Place the tick into a clear container.

Once the tick is removed put it in alcohol, flush it down the toilet or if live, put it in alcohol, seal the container and dispose of it.

Picture of Dog Tick Removal
Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

3. Clean the Area where the tick was removed with the ointment or hydrogen peroxide. Keep an eye on the area to ensure that it doesn't become infected.

Do not use tick folk remedies such as using hydrogen peroxide alone for tick removal, nail polish or Vaseline (petroleum jelly), or using heat to make the tick detach from the skin. Always remove a tick as soon as possible.

Removing Multiple Ticks from Dogs

If your dog is outdoors and is covered with multiple ticks, considering using a Preventic collar. It will kills and detach ticks as well as sterilizes fleas and kills flea eggs for three months. Effective within 24 hours and continues to actively kill for three months as long as the collar is worn.The only problem is that you'll have to continually clean your dog's bedding and vacuum the area to ensure that the dead ticks are picked up.

With the collar you may also want added protection of a spray such as Frontline Spray or a shampoo designed to kill and repel ticks. Products can be used in combination, however, you should check the labels to make sure each is compatible with the other.

As an alternative to remove ticks dog, you can buy a dip. A dip is messy to use and creates toxic fumes. You can purchase one to use at home or have this done at your veterinarians office.

Dog Tick Prevention

If you dog only stays around your property, then the key to tick prevention is to remove tick food, which is small and large mammals. This includes everything from deer (which is why they are called deer ticks) to small mammals such as mice. While fences can be used to keep deer way, mice are a bit trickier. One humane and safe approach is to buy a product called Eco Health Damminix Lyme Control Packs. These packets are placed around your backyard and attract mice. The mice then bring them back to their nests as building material. Each packet contains a poison that only kills the ticks, not the mice.

You can also help prevent ticks by keeping your yard free of tall grass and debris where ticks might hide.Ticks prefer being on higher ground to make it easier to jump onto a host. It is harder for a tick to jump on your dog if the grass is cut low to the ground, plus they prefer to stay out this type of area.

You can also protect your dog before she goes outside. This can be accomplished with products such as Frontline Plus and other products that contain ingredients such as pyrethrins, permethrin or D-limonene.

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(1) Understanding the transmission of infection by ticks and new strategies for control. Susan E. Shaw BVSc(Hons), MSc, Dip ACVIM, Dip ECVIM-Ca, FACVSc, MRCVS, Department of Clinical Veterinary Science, University of Bristol, Langford, North Somerset BS40 5DU, UK.

(2) CANINE TICK BORNE DISEASES; Michael R. Lappin, DVM, PhD, Diplomate ACVIM, The Kenneth W. Smith Professor in Small Animal Clinical Veterinary Medicine, College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, Colorado State University, Fort Collins Colorado.