tick on a dog's ears

What Does a Tick Look Like on a Dog?

It’s very common for a dog to pick up ticks as these parasites can effortlessly attach themselves to its coat. And for this reason, it’s important to accurately know what a tick looks like on a dog. Sometimes, a tick can transmit Lyme disease to your dog. It’s a harmful disease that you can also catch if you can’t spot ticks on your dog and safely remove them in time.

Ticks are mostly found in areas where there’s dense vegetation. Your dog is most likely to pick up ticks if it enjoys rolling in the long grass and running around the woodland. Ticks are also found near the habitats of animals such as rabbits and rodents. In this article, you’ll not only learn what a tick looks like on a dog but how to spot it, safely remove it, and finally how to prevent your dog from picking it up.

What Does a Tick Look Like on a Dog?

tick on a dog's ears
Photo by Will Langenberg on Unsplash

Ticks are different in size and structure. However, they’re usually the size of a pinhead, dark gray, and with a flat oval shape. A tick generally becomes bigger once it starts feeding on blood. On close inspection, you can see the tick’s eight legs much easier compared to before feeding.

Ticks are usually inaccurately associated with insects like fleas but are, in fact, arachnids. They share the same arthropod group with spiders, scorpions, mites, and daddy longlegs. A tick’s appearance can also depend on its life stages. Its lifecycle consists of the following stages: egg, larva, nymph, and adult.

However, a tick doesn’t have to be an adult to live on your dog. This means it can live on your dog at all stages of its life. Tick larvae are sometimes called seed ticks due to their similarity in size and appearance to the poppyseed. Ticks have six legs in their larva stage, but they grow fully into eight legs in their nymph and adult stages.

Different Types of Ticks

dog have a different type of tick
Photo by Maximiliano Pinilla from Pexels

The following list helps you identify the common species of ticks that are likely to transmit bacteria to your dog.

American dog tick

The American Dog Tick is flat and oval-shaped. Females have a half-circle shield, while males have more detailed patterns. These usually survive in the open fields and grassland of the eastern Rocky Mountains. The numbers of American Dog Ticks are shooting up alongside the Pacific Coast.

In its larva and nymph stages, the American Dog Tick normally attaches itself to smaller animals such as mice. And it goes for dogs when it’s in the adult stage. American Dog Tick can infect your dog with serious tick-borne diseases. These diseases include Ehrlichia, Babesiosis, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Anaplasmosis, and tick paralysis. 

Brown dog tick

The Brown Dog Tick takes its name after its color. It’s got a flat brown oval-shaped body. And unlike the American Dog Tick which is only found outdoors, the Brown Dog Tick can also exist in homes, dog shelters, e.t.c. It has been spotted in every U.S state.  

The females and males are slightly different from each other. The females are lighter in color than males. The Brown Dog Tick is the predominant species that pass on Rocky Mountain spotted fever. While it can attach itself anywhere on your dog, you’re most likely to find it around your dog’s head.

Black-legged tick

The Black-legged Tick, also known as Deer Tick, takes its name after the color of its legs. Both males and females have flat bodies with an oval shape. But, the females have orange bodies that consist of a big dot on their backs while the males have brown bodies. The Black-legged Tick can transmit bacteria that infect your dog with Lyme disease. 

You’re more likely to find this tick attached around the neck, ears, and head of your dog. It’s frequent in the woods and open grasslands of northeastern and midwestern U.S. Black-legged Ticks engage their potential hosts when the temperature rises above the freezing point. They can infect your dogs with diseases like Ehrlichia, Anaplasmosis, and Lyme disease.  

How to Find a Tick on a Dog?

tick found from a dog
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It’s important to check for ticks regularly on your dog, especially after hiking, playing fetch at the dog park, and around woodlands. One of the best ways to check for ticks is to gently run your hands and fingers all over your dog to look for small bumps. Don’t stop there; thoroughly check under the collar and inside the ears. 

Ticks can also feed on the tail so you should check it carefully. Move the fur aside to see if the ticks have attached themselves to the skin. You can use the flea comb to double-check but not as a replacement to searching with your hands. In most cases, you’ll be able to find ticks before they attach themselves to your dog when you check them frequently.

How to Safely Remove a Tick From a Dog

hand safely removing tick from a dog
Photo by nomao saeki on Unsplash

You’ve found a tick on your dog, great! Now what? Go through the following tips so that you can safely remove the tick from your dog. 

Take a pair of tweezers

First, wear gloves to keep yourself safe from being infected by potential harmful diseases transmitted by the ticks. Once you’ve got your hands in the gloves, grab a pair of fine-pointed tweezers so that you can clasp tiny ticks. Look for the base of the tick’s head and use the tweezers to grab it. Pull the tick and make sure that its head doesn’t get stuck in your dog. Additionally, you should be careful not to squeeze the tick’s body.

Squeezing the tick can make it throw out the blood back into your dog. This will expose your dog to the risk of possible infection. Alternatively, disinfect the Tick Twister with alcohol and slip it under the tick. Finally, pull it from your dog’s skin fast. However, if you don’t feel comfortable removing the tick yourself, you can have your vet pull it out. 

Sterilize the tick bite

When you’ve managed to remove the tick successfully, keep it safe in a little plastic bag. Write down the date you’ve found it since your vet may need it for testing. Wash your hands and use hot soapy water to clean your dog in the area that’s been bitten by the tick. After some time, the bite site on your dog will dry up and heal.

Phone your vet

Call your vet if you’re not comfortable removing the tick yourself or your tick removal attempts failed. When you fail to completely remove the tick from your dog, some pieces can remain attached to your dog’s skin. This increases the threat of a tick passing a bacteria that’s likely to cause Lyme disease in your dog. 

Look for any signs of infections if you’ve been missing the ticks during your regular tick checks. Swelling, irritation, and redness that persist indicate that your dog has been infected. You should look out for other symptoms like decreased energy levels, decreased appetite, fever, and pain.

Schedule a screening   

After four or six weeks have elapsed since you discovered and removed ticks from your dog, take it to the vet. The vet will screen it for tick-borne diseases like Babesiosis, Ehrlichiosis, and Lyme disease. The screening ensures that your dog remains healthy. Nevertheless, you don’t have to take it to the vet after a bite. But you need to keep an eye on it for signs of infection.

How to Prevent a Tick on a Dog

regular brush is used to deshed a dog with tick
Photo by Александр Гросс on Unsplash

Check for ticks on your dog frequently, especially after walks. Brush the coat of your dog in the opposite direction of their skin. You’ll be able to clearly see your dog’s skin, therefore, increasing the chances of you spotting the ticks. You can also use prevention treatments like tablets, on-the-spot treatments, and collars. 

You should equip yourself with a tick-removal kit when you’re out taking walks with your dog. Try to avoid hiking and walking on paths where there’s dense vegetation. Ask your vet to recommend treatment that effectively repels and kills ticks. The risks of your dog getting tick-borne diseases reduce when ticks are repelled before they bite.

Wrapping Up

Now that you’ve information on what a tick looks like on a dog use it to keep your dog safe from tick-borne diseases. You can easily miss a tick when you’re looking, as it’s generally the size of a pinhead. You need to look thoroughly when checking for ticks on your dog. Once you find a tick on your dog, you must safely remove it immediately.

Even much better, use prevention treatments, especially when you know that you live in an area that’s more likely to have ticks. Prevention treatment will save you time that you’d be spending on removing ticks from your dog.

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