Many of us know about ticks and how they can affect our dog’s health. But what do ticks look like on dogs when they’ve embedded themselves for a feed?
Furthermore, why do ticks threaten a dog’s wellbeing?
At certain times of the year, and depending on area, our dogs can come into contact with ticks often.
Perhaps you’ve heard about them but don’t really know what they are. Or maybe you’re concerned your dog has been in a tick hotbed.
In this post I’ll explain what ticks are and why they pose a health risk to dogs.
I’ll also try to demonstrate what ticks look like when they’re embedded on dogs!
As a disclaimer, ticks make my skin crawl. Consequently, I suspect this may not be an article for the faint hearted!
As a further warning, I’ll provide photographs of ticks embedded on dogs to demonstrate what they look like. This may help when checking your four-legged friend’s skin for bumps that shouldn’t be there.
Table of Contents
- What Are Ticks?
- Why Are Ticks Bad?
- What Do Ticks Look Like On A Dog?
- How Do You Remove Ticks From Dogs?
- Summary – What Do Ticks Look Like On Dogs?
- Related Posts
What Are Ticks?
Ticks are a type of small parasite belonging to the arachnid family. Hence, they’re related to spiders and scorpions. They’re a type of external parasite that lie in wait until a potential host comes close. When close enough, they crawl onto and embed themselves into the skin to feed on the host’s blood.
There are a large variety of ticks within the species and they live all over the world, though they thrive in warmer climates. Additionally, ticks tend to live in rural areas, fields and woods where they wait for passing animals as potential hosts.
Ticks range in size between 3mm to 5mm, so they’re often hard to spot on dogs. However, you can see them most easily when they’ve embedded themselves in a dog’s skin. At this point they may become engorged and swollen and easier to notice.
Why Are Ticks Bad For Dogs?
The reason we’re concerned about ticks is they often harbour bacteria that cause certain diseases.
Some tick-borne diseases can be extremely serious and many present with very similar symptoms:
Anaplasmosis is a bacterial infection whereby dogs can present with flu-like symptoms, lameness, pain in joints, lethargy, and loss of appetite. Treatment is via antibiotics and the long term prognosis after successful treatment is very good.
Bartonellosis is a bacterial infection causing fever and more worryingly, inflammation of internal organs such as the heart. It’s rarely a fatal illness but fast diagnosis and treatment ensures your dog will suffer the effects less.
Babesiosis can be a very serious disease resulting in death. This protozoan infection causes symptoms such as lethargy, listlessness, loss of appetite, fever, darkened urine, jaundice, anaemia and seizures. Treatment depends upon the severity of the disease but may include hospitalisation.
Ehrlichiosis is a bacterial infection that causes fever, lethargy, lameness, weight loss, vomiting, diarrhoea, coughing, gagging, abnormal bleeding and loss of balance. Depending upon the severity, a veterinarian will treat ehrlichiosis with antibiotics so the affected dog can stay at home. Sadly, severe cases may require hospitalisation and chronic infection can be fatal.
This can be fatal within months if left untreated. Hepatozoonosis isa protozoan infection that presents as fever, lethargy, loss of weight, muscle / joint / bone pain,stiffness and eye discharge. Sadly, hepatozoonosis isn’t curable and treatment is based upon managing the disease to prolong life and maintain life quality.
Perhaps the most well-known of tick-borne diseases and certainly the most common in the world. Lyme disease is a bacterial illness that causes lameness, fever, swollen joints, loss of appetite, lethargy and breathing difficulties. In severe cases, it causes kidney failure and heart problems. Treatment is via antibiotics but it doesn’t always completely eradicate the bacteria.
Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever
Another bacterial infection that causes lethargy, fever, loss of appetite and weight loss, dehydration, swollen joints, swollen legs, coughing and vomiting. Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever is a serious disease for dogs and can lead to fatality. Treatment is antibiotics-based and sometimes there’s a need for hospitalisation to manage fluids and pain.
What Do Ticks Look Like On Dogs?
Ticks look like mites or small spiders and just like spiders, ticks have eight legs. As a rule they are brown, black or red and can be quite difficult to see, especially on dogs with thick or dark coats.
Because ticks like warmth, you might normally find them on or in dog’s ears, around the neck, between folds of skin or on dog’s paws between the toes. However, although they prefer warmth, a tick will embed itself on any part of the body to feed.
So what do ticks look like on dogs?
Well… prior to feeding an adult tick looks like a sesame seed (in fact the deer tick is also known as the sesame seed tick). It’s the size of ticks that make them a real health threat as they’re so hard to see.
Furthermore, if a tick has embedded itself into your dog’s skin, you might not even realise it’s a tick and perhaps mistake it for a skin tag.
However, when a tick is fully fed, they become much easier to see. Indeed their bodies might swell from the dimensions of a sesame seed to the size of a coffee bean.
When a tick feeds on a dog (or any other host) it embeds its entire head under the skin while its body remains “outside”.
And here’s the gross part… what ticks look like embedded on dogs!
How Do You Remove Ticks From Dogs?
As I’ve referenced already, ticks gravitate to the warmer parts of a dog’s body. This means it’s important to check you dogs ears, head, neck, paws, skin folds and beneath the tail.
You’ll need to look under the fur, which can be difficult with particularly heavy-coated dog breeds. Remember, you’ll be looking to see or feel bumps on the surface of the skin as opposed to beneath it.
If you find something like a skin tag, take a closer look at it with a magnifying glass. You might notice the bump has legs!
Once you identify a tick embedded on your dog’s skin, you can attempt to remove it with tweezers or a special tick remover.
If you have tweezers, use them to grab the tick as closely to your dog’s skin as you can and pull it straight upwards. The aim is to pull the head and body out without leaving anything embedded in your dog’s skin. Afterwards, wash the bite area and apply an antiseptic cream to it.
Once you remove the tick, place it in a sealed container or between two pieces of clear sticky tape. This will make it easy for a veterinarian to examine or test it. Make a note of the date you removed the tick too, as this might be helpful information if you notice symptoms of illness.
Thereafter, if your dog begins showing signs of lethargy, loss of appetite, lameness, fever, joint pain, stiffness, nausea or diarrhoea, you should speak to a veterinary professional. You might advise them about of the tick you removed from your dog alongside the dates of removal and when symptoms began.
You may have found a bump but don’t know whether or not it looks like a tick on your dog. Of course you may have found a tick but feel very squeamish about removing one embedded on your dog’s skin.
If either of these are true, a vet will be able to remove the tick or explain whether your dog has a tick or not.
Your veterinarian will also advise you on the best course of action once the tick is removed. Your dog may need further follow up examinations several weeks later.
If you’ve been in areas known for ticks you should check your dog to ensure it hasn’t picked up an unwanted guest. Given that ticks spread some very unpleasant diseases, finding and removing them early is key.
Of course, it’s important to know what ticks look like on dogs so you can identify them: my hope is that this post will help.
Most importantly, if you’re ever in doubt about any lump or bump you find on your dog, it’s best to consult with a veterinary professional just to be safe.
Have you ever found a tick on your dog? What did it look like? Was it embedded or hard to find? Or maybe your dog became ill because of a tick bite? Please tell me about it in the comment section at the bottom of this page.
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