As the days get warmer and longer, your furry friend is bound to want to spend more time outdoors enjoying the sunshine. During this time of year, it's important to check your dog for ticks. Ticks are parasitic arachnids that feed on blood.
They attach themselves to a host by means of their long legs which contain specialized organs for piercing skin and extracting blood from your dog or cat. Some ticks wait in vegetation by the roadside for passing hosts while others climb up blades of grass, placing themselves in an ideal position for an ambush when an unsuspecting animal brushes past them on its way through the grass.
They can also be carried onto your property with firewood or mulch so you should always inspect new items delivered to your home before bringing them on to your property.
After catching a ride on its host, ticks quickly crawl upward where they position themselves along the hairline at the back of your dog's neck and upper spine where they will attach themselves securely with strong mouthparts that are barbed in order to suck blood from deep within the tissue. This area is also known as the scruff area because it is where mother dogs grab their pups by the scruff (the loose skin on top of their neck).
This "scruff" region is one of the best places to check for ticks on your dog. Search carefully through the long hair in this area for any ticks that may be attached close to the skin's surface where they will be more difficult to detect.
Also check under the chin, inside the ears and around all four legs including between each leg and along their belly. Other areas are also possible but these are among some of the more frequently overlooked tick hiding spots.
You can use a fine-toothed comb or steel pet flea comb if you find it difficult to get your fingers into thick fur caused by matting. If you still think there is a chance that your dog has ticks make sure he gets a thorough physical exam from your veterinarian who can also provide additional advice regarding
How Ticks Find Their Victims
Ticks can sense the carbon dioxide and warmth a potential host emits. They also have a built-in GPS system that allows them to detect certain chemicals in their hosts, such as octanol which is found in the flatulence of wild animals like deer and rabbits. Once they've locked onto an animal carrying these chemicals, they jump from vegetation or other surfaces onto your dog, attach themselves to his skin and begin feeding on its blood. Any organism that feeds on blood must be able to track down its source quickly before it starves to death.
Ticks are most active during the warmer months of the year, spring through fall although some species can remain obligate ectothermic throughout their entire life cycle which may last two years or more.
1. In the Groin Area
Ticks are tough enough to survive many days of adverse weather conditions, even if this means they must stay attached to a host. If you find a tick on your dog's groin area, check carefully around the anus and the base of the tail for additional ticks.
Warning: Never pull a tick from its perch on your dog's body by its legs as you might leave behind some of its mouthparts which could lead to infection and/or disease transmission. You can use fine-tipped tweezers or special tick removal devices that grasp and remove the entire head along with the mouthparts without leaving anything behind in your dog's skin.
Many dogs who come in contact with ticks during their outdoor adventures show signs of tick-borne disease symptoms, even if they're current on their monthly heartworm prevention medication. They can also develop skin irritation from a reaction to tick saliva or become infected with Lyme disease by ingesting a deer tick that carries the Borrelia burgdorferi bacterium under most circumstances. In rare cases, ticks have been known to transmit Anaplasma phagocytophilum which causes anaplasmosis in dogs and humans as well as tularemia bacteria via Francisella tularensis.
2. In The Ear Flap Area
Ticks may be found feeding on your dog's ear flaps where they can cause pain, discomfort and damage to the cartilage.
3. In Your Dog's Backside
Ticks usually crawl up a dog's leg and onto his back, shoulders and head before attaching themselves to the skin in the region of the groin or anus. If you have a long-haired dog, check around your pet's genitals for any ticks that may have crawled through the thick hair around the base of his tail where it meets with his body.
4. In The Armpit Area
Many dogs find tick bites particularly irritating because they're sensitive areas with thin or delicate skin that can be prone to infection if not handled properly.
5. In The Paw Pads
Licking its paws after being outside might cause a tick to detach from a host and fall onto your dog's paw pads where it could again once he licks it off.
How to Remove a Tick From Your Dog Without Leaving Behind Tick Mouthparts
You can assist your dog in removing an attached tick by using fine-tipped tweezers or one of the new devices like the K9 Advantix ® II Flea & Tick Squeeze-On for Dogs & Puppies once you've confirmed it has latched onto his skin with its mouthparts. These specialized tools allow you to grab the head and remove it without leaving behind any of its mouthparts which might lead to infection or disease transmission. Many veterinarians recommend dipping the tool in alcohol before use so that way all parts are killed instantly when you squeeze it closed on the tick's head.
Remove Ticks As Soon As You Find Them
No matter which method you use, it's important to remove a tick as soon as you spot it on your dog.
The longer a tick remains attached to your dog, the more time it has to feed on his blood and transmit disease organisms into his body. Since ticks like to attach near warm areas where blood flows close to the skin, they should be removed before they can dig their heads under your dog's skin and begin feeding for several days. Some species might even lay eggs in moist or wet areas after taking blood if allowed to remain on his body for an extended period of time.
It takes only 48 hours for Lyme disease bacteria (Borrelia burgdorferi to enter your pet's bloodstream via a feeding tick. Lyme disease symptoms in dogs can include loss of appetite, lethargy, arthritis and lameness which might lead to a chronic condition with recurring symptoms if not treated early on or after a prolonged period of time.
Tick Prevention Tips
There are many products available that help you reduce the risk of ticks attaching to your dog's skin by disrupting their sensory mechanisms for detecting carbon dioxide released from warm-blooded hosts as well as the chemicals found in pet urine that attract them. You can also safely apply ADVANTAGE Multi ® (imidacloprid + moxidectin topical solution) on your dog's body monthly which kills adult fleas, is highly effective against all of the American dog tick, lone star tick and deer tick stages prevent heartworm disease and treat and control ear mites.
For additional information on how to protect your dog from ticks year-round by using topical preventatives with fipronil or permethrin along with the new oral chewable products available for dogs that are highly effective against all stages of American dog ticks, please speak to your veterinarian. As a pet parent, it's vital you learn as much about these parasites as possible so that you can keep your four-legged family member safe, happy and healthy at all times.
Now that you know where ticks like to hide, be sure and check your dog regularly. You can also use a tick remover tool or ask your vet for help removing them safely if they're found. The most important thing is making sure the area around where ticks are hiding doesn't become infested with these pests! With our tips and tricks, we hope this information has been helpful in understanding how to find those pesky little critters on your pooch so he'll stay healthy and happy all summer long.