Knowing the different types of ticks and what they look like can help you identify an infestation. The most common ticks most likely to plague your pet are American dog ticks, brown dog ticks, and deer ticks. Ticks are vectors for several serious diseases such as Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, ehrlichiosis, and others. Knowing what ticks look like and how to remove them from your dog is important to your pup's health.
Types of Ticks
Ticks on dogs are a serious problem. Not only can they lead to a tick infestation, but they can also transmit disease. The following are the most commonly found ticks on dogs:
American Dog Ticks
The American dog tick, also known as the wood tick, is the most common species of tick in North America. This species prefers areas with high grasses and leaf litter for laying its eggs. American dog ticks tend to crawl up the body of their hosts in search of a suitable spot for feeding and attachment. Once they have found an ideal location, they will remain attached until engorged with blood before dropping off their host once fully fed.
American dog ticks are most commonly found on dogs, but they may also attach to other animals like cats or livestock. These ticks are known to carry Rocky Mountain spotted fever, tularemia, and Colorado tick fever virus. The ticks can also transmit Lyme disease from infected rodents.
Both male and female American dog ticks are larger than deer or brown dog ticks. Adults are around ¼-inch long.
Deer ticks are the most common type of tick in the United States, and they can transmit Lyme disease. They're also more likely to be found in wooded areas than dog ticks.
Deer ticks have a dark brown body with legs that are grayish-white or white at the base, while dog ticks have black legs that turn red at the ends when they engorge with blood. The term "blacklegged" refers only to deer ticks. The size of deer ticks is slightly smaller than dog ticks; however, both types will grow larger if they feed for an extended period of time on their host animal.
Female and male deer ticks are half the size of American dog ticks, at only ⅒ of an inch in length.
Brown Dog Ticks
The brown dog tick is a member of the Argasidae family. These ticks attach to dogs and feed on their blood. They can also bite humans and other animals, such as cats, sheep, and cattle. Brown dog ticks live outdoors in grassy areas or woodlands.
They feed at night when they are active in their host's fur, which means you generally don't see them until after they've been feeding for several days. Brown dog ticks can transmit diseases like Lyme disease.
Adult male and female brown dog ticks are smaller than American dog ticks, but larger than deer ticks. They are typically between ⅛ and ¼ inch in length.
How to Remove Ticks
Before you begin to remove the tick, call your veterinarian to determine if you should remove it yourself or if they would rather do it in the office. If you remove it yourself, keep the specimen in a sealed container for examination in case it's requested. Then, take the following steps:
- Step 1: Examination. Check your dog's coat carefully for ticks. They're usually found on the head, ears, neck and legs. Ticks like to hide, so go through your dog's coat thoroughly.
- Step 2: Grasp the tick. Use tweezers or a tick removal tool to grasp the tick as close to your dog's skin as possible. This will prevent it from injecting more saliva into your dog's bloodstream when you remove it.
- Step 3: Pull carefully. Pull back slowly until the tick releases its grip on your dog's skin. Pulling too hard could cause the tick's head to break off in its burrow, which may result in an infection or other complications down the road.
- Step 4: Clean the area. Disinfect the area with rubbing alcohol or peroxide after removing the tick to prevent infection from entering into your dog's bloodstream through the bite wound.
Nothing will absolutely guarantee ticks don't land on your dog, but there are a few actions you can take to reduce the risk.
- Purchase flea repellant. Choose a topical flea and tick prevention method, whether pharmaceutical or natural.
- Control brush. Remove brush and leaves from around your yard so ticks don't have places to hide.
- Cut grass. Keep grass trimmed short so ticks don't have places to hide in tall grasses.
- Get your dog vaccinated. Make sure your dog is up-to-date with their vaccinations against diseases carried by ticks, such as Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever.
- Keep their hair trimmed. Trim long hair or brush it often so you can spot ticks easily.
- Check dogs frequently. Ticks don't pass diseases onto their host right away. Check your dog frequently to prevent infection.
Consult Your Vet with Concerns
Ticks can be scary to deal with, but knowing what type of tick you have and how to safely remove it is key. To protect your dog from ticks, it's important to remove them as soon as possible. Check your pet for ticks daily during tick season, spring through fall. You should also check the rest of your family before they get in bed with the dog or bring them into the house if they've been outside. If you're concerned about a tick bite, contact your veterinarian immediately.