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dog parent must-knows

The essentials 

  • A tick bite is serious — Ticks are little disease-causing parasites that dogs can pick up outside during certain times of the year.
  • The signs your dog has a tick may be subtle — Look out for both the physical tick and for other symptoms, like licking and head shaking.
  • It’s important to remove your dog’s tick ASAP —  Follow steps for removal carefully and use soothing products when the tick is gone.
  • Ticks are preventable— Use tick prevention products and check your dog’s body daily.

Ticks are small disease-carrying parasites that are typically found in wooded landscapes. These small parasites need a host body in order to feed, and they attach to either humans or animals to consume blood. If your dog spends lots of time outdoors in brush and woods, they may be more prone to ticks.

Watch out for these common signs of a tick

You may not actually notice the physical parasite on your dog’s body. There are several other signs your dog may exhibit if they have a tick:

  • A small bump or blood on the skin (where the tick buried itself)
  • Excessive licking, scratching, or head shaking
  • Trouble walking
  • Lack of appetite or difficulty eating
  • Paralysis

👉 Most commonly, a tick will appear on a dog’s neck, ears, or between their toes and limbs. If a tick has already bit your pup, the skin will surface blood. 

Dog with a tick

Tick embedded in a dog’s skin. 📷 by Wikimedia Commons

🚨 Regardless of whether or not you find a tick on your pet, if they exhibit any of these symptoms you should get them to the veterinarian right away.

How to remove a tick in 6 steps

If you spot the tick itself, you should remove it right away. In fact, you shouldn’t wait to get your dog to the vet before removing the tick. By removing a tick from your dog as quickly as possible, you could be protecting them from developing a dangerous disease. Remain calm and soothe your pup while following these steps:

  1. Wear gloves to protect your skin.
  2. Locate the tick and gently part the hair around it.
  3. Use a tick removal tool and fasten it firmly underneath the tick.
  4. Twist clockwise until the tick is loose.
  5. Make sure the tick is completely removed.
  6. Dispose of the tick in rubbing alcohol.

👉 Don’t use tweezers or your fingers to remove a tick from your pup. You can put both yourself and your pup at risk. And don’t attempt to kill the tick when it’s still on your dog’s skin!

Our favorite tool for tick removal

We recommend a specific tool for tick removal. Consider getting these tick keys before tick season so you’re prepared. They’re easy to bring along with you and come in a pack of 3 so you can keep one at home and on the go!

Once the tick is removed, your dog may still be experiencing some discomfort. To soothe the affected area, use a balm like Skin Soother, with organic ingredients such as lavender, chamomile, and cocoa butter.

We also recommend calling your vet to let them know your pup was bitten by a tick. They may want you to bring in your doggie for a check-up.

Ticks can cause disease

Ticks are dangerous because they can carry the following potentially life threatening diseases:

  • Lyme disease. This is one of the most common bacterial infections that ticks carry. If you notice your dog has lost their appetite, has a fever, or displays overall weakness after contracting a tick, it could be Lyme disease.
  • Cytauxzoonosis. This is a lethal infection caused by ticks. Your pup will likely have a high fever or loss of appetite and these symptoms will rapidly progress.
  • Anaplasmosis. You may also hear this referred to as “dog tick fever.” In addition to fever and lethargy, it can cause your dog to vomit or in dangerous cases to experience seizures.
  • Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. When treated, this particular illness doesn’t typically last too long. If your dog has a fever or develops skin lesions, they may have this disease transmitted from the Rocky Mountain wood tick.

Different types of ticks

There are 15 different kinds of ticks in the United States alone. Some ticks are more harmful to dogs than others because of the specific diseases they carry. The severity of the damage a tick can do to a dog also depends on the gender and how mature the tick is. The following ticks are extremely dangerous to dogs because they can carry infectious diseases:

Type of tick Where they live Greatest risk of bites
Blacklegged/deer ticks Eastern US Spring, summer, and fall in the Northeast Upper Midwest, and mid-Atlantic
Brown dog ticks Worldwide Dogs are the primary host, risk of bites year-round
American dog ticks East of the Rocky Mountains, limited areas of the Pacific coast Spring and summer

Where and when are ticks found?

Ticks are more likely found in moist regions with brush, tall grass, and woodlands. They tend to live in vegetation so they can latch onto dogs or humans as they walk by. Depending on where you live, tick season occurs at different times of year.

On the West Coast, you should look out for ticks all year. In the North and Midwest, tick season tends to fall between spring and fall.

👉 Use this list from the CDC to learn which types of ticks live in your area. 

🚨 If you notice any symptoms that could signal one of these diseases, you should get your dog to the vet as soon as possible. The sooner you get them checked, the more likely you could save them from life threatening consequences.

How to protect your dog from tick bites

There are things you can do to prevent your dog from becoming a host to a pesky tick. You should be especially concerned with tick prevention during tick season. Follow these steps to prevent your dog from contracting dangerous ticks:

  1. Give your dog flea and tick medicines as recommended by your vet. Vets recommend long lasting oral products which are able to kill ticks before they spread disease.
  2. Treat the yard or outdoor area for ticks with pet-friendly pesticides.
  3. Keep an eye on dogs when they’re outside, especially around tall grass and woodlands.
  4. Check your dog for ticks daily (especially after coming in from the outdoors), feeling around their neck, ears, and joints.
Diagram showing where to check for ticks on dogs

Where to check your dog for ticks. Source: cdc.gov

Frequently asked questions

Are ticks deadly?

Ticks can be deadly if you don’t act as soon as you spot them. Remove the tick and take your pup to the vet to make sure they haven’t contracted disease.

Should I take my dog to the vet if I find a tick?

You should still take your dog to the vet even if you have removed the tick and think your dog is healthy. Your vet will be able to check that the tick is fully removed and your dog has recovered from the tick bite.

How common are ticks?

Ticks are very common in wooded, grassy areas, especially in the spring, summer, and fall. The CDC monitors tick activity in the United States. To learn more about which types of ticks are in your area, check out their tick surveillance resources.