How to protect your dog from the dangers of ticks

dog tick prevention

Ticks are something that all dog owners must be aware of, as they can occur all year round and be a serious danger to your dog’s health.

Ticks are small parasites that feed on human and animal blood. In Australia there are about 70 different types of ticks but most bites are caused by the paralysis tick, which can cause severe illness and, unfortunately, are often fatal. These ticks release a neurotoxin and after prolonged attachment, the engorged tick transmits the toxin to its host. Daily checking for ticks will go a long way in ensuring they can be removed before they have done too much damage.

Ticks range in size from as small as a pin head to as big as your little fingernail and they come in different colours from shades of brown to reddish brown and black. They thrive in warm weather, so it is important to be particularly mindful during the summer months. Generally, tick season is from October to March although mild winters and lots of rain at the beginning of spring and summer can contribute to a rise in tick cases outside this window. It is safest to assume that ticks can affect your pet all year round.

The paralysis tick is found on the east coast of Australia from Victoria to North Queensland. Other common but less dangerous ticks found in other parts of the country include the bush tick, brown dog tick and cattle tick.

Tick poisoning requires urgent vet attention: know the symptoms

If your dog exhibits signs of heavy, noisy breathing, coughing, vomiting, wobbly back legs or collapse do not delay seeking help.

Where to look for ticks on your dog

Head and ears
With so many crevices, the ears are an ideal hiding place for ticks. Make sure to look on the outside of your pup’s ears and deep into the ear, as ticks can get attached and go unnoticed for a long time.

Eyelids
Ticks on eyelids can be easily missed as they get mistaken for skin tags. They can even embed themselves inside the eyelid so be sure to check pupper’s eyes.

Armpits
High up where your pup’s front legs meet their body is what we often refer to as the armpit region. It’s nice and dark here and the perfect spot for a tick, so be sure to check this area thoroughly and regularly.

Toes
Ticks often embed themselves in-between the toes or even on the bottom of the foot near the pads. 

Tail
Ticks like dark, moist areas, so the underside of the tail is a notable hiding spot and an area where they can go unnoticed for some time. A thorough search with a fine comb will likely catch a tick that’s attached itself under the tail.

Groin
Because this area is moist and dark and hidden by the tail it is a great hiding spot for ticks. Be sure to keep a close eye on this area.

Under the collar
Don’t forget to check this area. It is worth getting into the habit of regularly removing pupper’s collar and doing a thorough check as ticks can easily go unnoticed for quite some time here.

Most doggies love a good scratch so try and make your daily tick check fun for your pupper. You can comb through their fur with your fingers. Press gently so you can feel any bumps on the skin. Ticks come in many sizes ranging from a pin head to grape. If you find a bump, part your dog’s fur so you can see their skin. Look for a black, brown, or greyish-brown bug. You might only see the tick’s body but other times you will also see their legs.

dog ticks

How to safely remove a tick

If you find a tick it is important that you remove it immediately and in the right way.

The best way to remove a tick is with a pair of fine-point tweezers. These are needed to avoid tearing or breaking the tick and spreading infections into the bite area. We also recommend wearing a pair of latex or rubber gloves so you can keep the area as clean as possible.

Spread your dog’s fur and grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible. Use a gentle slow and steady motion to pull the tick straight upward. Pulling in this direction will minimise the chance of breaking the tick’s mouth off so that it remains stuck in your pup’s skin.

After you have removed the tick

Place the tick in a glass jar or something that you can seal. Add a teaspoon of rubbing alcohol to kill the bug and save it for a few weeks.

Wash your hands thoroughly and clean the bite site with rubbing alcohol. Always clean the tweezers with disinfectant and keep an eye on the bite area of the coming weeks in case it becomes irritated or infected.

Regardless of whether your dog shows symptoms of more serious poisoning, you should always call your vet to report the discovery of a tick and ask whether they should be physically assessed, as this is usually a good idea and highly recommended. Take the tick in it to your vet so it can be identified.

Important

We recommend you have a discussion with your vet to assess the risks versus benefits of tick prevention options. Unfortunately, most natural methods such as need oil and scalar collars are unlikely to be appropriate for protecting against paralysis ticks found in Australia. If your dog is showing signs of tick poisoning seek immediate attention from a vet.

Never remove a tick with your fingers as this method may cause more poison to be released into your dog’s skin.

If you don’t feel confident removing the tick call your vet and arrange for them to remove it for you. This is a good opportunity for a professional lesson on how to do it yourself.

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