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Dog Ticks

Most pet owners will have to deal with dog ticks at least once in their dogs lifetime.

Dog ticks may cause your pooch to become sore and feverish, and can lead to serious disease. [© Jupiter Images, 2010]
© Jupiter Images, 2010
Dog ticks may cause your pooch to become sore and feverish, and can lead to serious disease.

Dog Ticks

Most pet owners will have to deal with dog ticks at least once in their dogs lifetime, and those without pets may even have to deal with them. Also referred to as wood ticks, dog ticks are classified as hard-surfaced ticks that can be identified by their scutum, or hard plate, on their upper surface behind their mouthparts. Often mistaken for insects, dog ticks fall into the arachnid family, along with scorpions, spiders and mites. Knowing how to identify and remove dog ticks from both pets and humans can stop irritation and possibly infection or disease.

How to Identify Dog Ticks

Common dog ticks include the American Dog Tick and the Brown Dog Tick. The American Dog Tick is usually identified by a brown color with a light gray on top. Before she feeds, the adult female measures about 3/16 inches in length. Once fed, that size will increase to nearly 5/8 inches. Males remain the same size after feeding, and are approximately 1/8 inch in length. The male dog ticks also tend to have fine silver lines on their back. All dog ticks have a pair of very small eyes that are always present, no matter what phase they are found. These ticks are generally found in overgrown areas, from vacant lots to farm fields, roadsides and along footpaths. In their earlier stages, American Dog Ticks feed on rodents, raccoons, opossums and other small mammals, which can easily affect dogs they come in contact with.

The Brown Dog Tick is actually reddish brown in appearance. Both male and female unfed adults will be about 1/8 inch in length. The females size increases after feeding to about one half inch long, will turn a bluish gray and become oval shaped. Brown dog ticks are particularly troublesome because they can complete an entire life cycle indoors and are able to thrive in warm and dry conditions, inside and outside. Unlike other ticks, they are not likely to be found in the woods. They will be easily located in grassy and bushy areas near homes and kennels, roadsides and walking paths. They generally feed on dogs backs.

Most dog ticks can transmit diseases and diseased organisms to both dogs and humans, including the Rocky Mountain spotted fever.

Symptoms of Dog Ticks

Fever, loss of appetite, sore or swollen limbs, lethargy and arthritis are just a few symptoms dogs may exhibit during tick infestation. It's best to bring the dog to a veterinarian right away for a proper diagnosis; dog ticks can lower a dogs immune system, leaving them vulnerable to many other infections or diseases.

Although humans are not preferred hosts, they should still be weary of any unusual symptoms, including headache, fever, chills, aches, pains and nausea. These could indicate Rocky Mountain spotted fever or another disease or infection from dog ticks.

How Dog Ticks Can Be Avoided

The first important step in avoiding dog ticks is staying away from the areas where they are mostly likely to appear, commonly in woods and open fields and especially in places where the trees are high and insects are numerous. Humans should also wear protective clothing when working, hiking, picnicking or biking through an area likely to be infested. Humans can also apply insect repellant containing 10 percent DEET on their clothes but should use sparingly on exposed skin. For dogs especially, consulting local veterinarians is crucial in learning how to avoid and treat ticks if they attack.

Maintaining a healthy environment around the home is also important in avoiding ticks. Keep grass and weeds mowed and remove piles of debris from the cut vegetation. Leave piles of leaves in wilderness areas undisturbed; they are likely to harbor ticks.

Removing Dog Ticks

Infection can occur quickly if the head of the tick are not removed immediately. For humans, it is important to remove them with tweezers, firmly grasping the tick and then pulling straight out. It is not advisable to attempt to remove them by hand or by covering it with petroleum jelly or nail polish.

Once removed, they can be disposed of in soapy water or alcohol or attaching them to any kind of tape and flushing them down the toilet. If identifying the tick is necessary for determining possible illnesses or diseases, individuals can place it in a container with alcohol and contact the local health department or agricultural or wildlife extension center.

Dog ticks in dogs can also be removed with tweezers, but veterinarians are able to best treat a dog in this situation and should be consulted as soon as possible.

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