It’s tick season, and that means that dog owners should be prepared for tick bites on their dogs this Spring and Summer. But how can owners be prepared against dog ticks, and what effect do ticks have on pet health?
If you’re wondering how you can best prepare yourself and your pet against ticks, then read on for Bone & Biscuit’s ultimate guide to ticks and your dog.
When is Tick Season?
Tick season generally takes place during the warmer but still temperate months of the year, usually in the Spring and Fall seasons. Ticks generally don’t appear during extreme heat or cold temperatures.
When Does Tick Season Start?
Tick season generally starts in early Spring, although this can depend on your area’s climate. In Canada, closer to the border where winter months tend to be milder, ticks can be found as early as March.
When Does Tick Season End?
Tick season continues throughout the summer months and usually ends in late fall, depending on your area’s climate. In more temperate regions in Canada, ticks have been known to stick around into late October.
When is Peak Tick Season?
Although ticks can be found in the hotter months of the year, like June and July, peak tick season is generally in the Spring and Fall seasons. This is when temperatures are at their mildest, and when there is plenty of moisture. Ticks need moisture to survive, so drier months with extreme heat can hinder the tick population.
What Are Ticks And Why Are Ticks Bad For My Dog?
Ticks are not insects, as many would believe, but are a type of parasitic “arthropod”. As a type of parasite, meaning they need to feed off of a host in order to survive, ticks are widespread across North America and there are over 850 species of ticks worldwide. The two most common types of ticks in Canada are the deer tick (Ixodes scapularis) and the dog tick (Dermacentor variabilis). While there are many other types of ticks, deer ticks and dog ticks are the most common ones.
Because ticks bite and feed off of animal blood to survive, they can easily spread different diseases between animals, including humans and dogs. Just like with humans after a tick bite, diseases transmitted from a tick to your dog can be serious and dangerous. Some of these diseases include Lyme Disease, Canine Bartonellosis, Rickettsial Diseases, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and more. These diseases can be dangerous for your dog, and cause extreme symptoms like diarrhea, muscle pain, swelling, seizures, fatigue, vomiting and other symptoms. Some of these diseases can even be fatal for your dog, which is why it is important to be vigilant about tick bites and to keep your eye on your dog for symptoms if you’ve found a tick on your dog.
Not all ticks transmit the same disease; for instance, deer ticks can carry Lyme Disease, while dog ticks don’t (although they do spread others). However, caution should be taken with any tick bite on you or your pet.
It’s also important to add that not all tick bites lead to disease. If you find a tick that has been latched onto your pet for an extended period of time, veterinarian Dr. Karen Becker advises having your pet tested for exposure to disease 3-4 weeks after removing the tick. If your pet comes back positive for exposure, you can have what’s called a Quantitative C6 (QC6) test performed to check for possible infection.
For proactive monitoring, Dr. Becker also recommends replacing annual heartworm testing with a more thorough blood test called a SNAP 4DX Plus test. This test not only checks for heartworm exposure but also for several tick-borne pathogens. Annual testing can help identify infections long before symptoms occur. Learn more about proactive monitoring and natural tick prevention here.
How to Identify A Tick
While there are many different types of ticks with different appearances, you can generally spot ticks from their body shape and colours. Ticks are small arthropods and usually range from 3 to 5 millimetres in length when not feeding. When feeding, a tick’s body generally “balloons” in shape as it fills up, and appears larger. Ticks have two “body regions” and, when mature, have eight legs total. They also fall into two families known as “hard” and “soft” ticks. Hard ticks, the family that’s most commonly found in Canada and includes dog ticks and deer ticks, have a hard, thick plate on their bodies. Ticks are usually brown or black in colouring, although some ticks also have grey and white colours.
Deer ticks are roughly the size of a sesame seed or smaller. They also have a red-orange, brown-coloured body (with a black shield on females) and eight legs. Dog ticks are about double the size of a deer tick and have reddish-brown colouring (with a white shield on their females) and eight legs.
Where Are Ticks Found?
Ticks need moisture to survive. During hot temperatures, they’re usually found in moist, leafy and wooded areas, such as leaf litter on the ground, bushes and in forest undergrowth. However, some ticks can also survive in drier conditions, and can also be found in areas with tall grass during higher temperatures.
How To Check My Dog for Ticks
It’s important to check your dog thoroughly for ticks during peak tick season. After a walk in a wooded area, a field with tall grass, or where there is plenty of greenery where your dog has been exploring, you should check your dog for ticks. The earlier you catch it, the better, as the longer a tick is attached to your dog, the more likely it can transmit something to your pet. For instance, a tick needs to be attached for at least 12 hours before it starts transmitting Lyme Disease, and it needs to remain attached for 48 hours before it’s fully transmitted. Catching them as soon as possible means you can help avoid them getting something serious.
To check your dog for ticks, you should use your hands and fingers to comb through your pet’s hair. This is best done with your own hands, as you can feel differences in your dog’s skin and fur.
Here are some quick tips on how to check your dog for ticks:
- Using your fingers like a comb, feel along your dog’s body, starting from the head and moving along to their tail.
- Be sure to check each leg thoroughly as you examine their body, and their stomach and tail as well.
- Use both your eyes and your fingers to search for ticks.
- Feel for small bumps that are irregular for the area, or look for dark-coloured bumps that have attached to their skin.
- For dogs with dark or black fur, we suggest using a flashlight to help see through their fur better, as ticks can be difficult to spot in dark fur.
- Ticks like to feed off of the warmer areas of the body where blood flow is highest: be especially careful when examining behind their ears, along their necks, in their armpits, on their stomach area, and at the base of their tails.
- Ticks will also latch on to legs, as this is typically the easiest way for them to first attach themselves to their host.
- Ticks are generally easier to find once they’ve already been feeding for a while on your pet, as they are usually enlarged in size after feeding.
- If you have found a tick, immediately move to steps to remove the tick from your dog.
- If found, do not try to rip the tick from your pet’s body without the proper tools, as this can leave pieces of the tick in your dog and the area can become infected.
- They can be difficult to remove, but there are many tools and tips for removing ticks properly. Read on for tips on removing a tick from your dog.
How To Remove A Tick From My Dog
Ticks can be incredibly difficult to remove, but it’s important to remove them as soon as possible and with the right equipment. This helps to prevent serious diseases from transmitting to your dog as well as ensuring their comfort after a tick bite.
Equipment and tools you’ll need to remove a tick from your dog:
- Rubber gloves
- Clean tweezers. (We highly recommend using tweezers specifically designed for tick removal, as this can make the process easier. Stop by your local Bone & Biscuit store to pick up a pair if you don’t already have one.)
- Disinfectant for the bite area
- Cotton balls or pads
- Isopropyl alcohol (to submerge and kill the tick with)
- Optional: You can also find some tick removal products and repellants, such as sprays, to make the process easier, although you can safely remove and kill ticks without them as well.
- After finding a tick on your dog, put on your gloves and, using a cotton ball or pad, apply alcohol to the area liberally. You can also try holding the cotton ball soaked in alcohol against the tick for a few minutes, as it may make the tick detach from your dog on its own.
- If the tick does not detach, take your clean tweezers and gently place your clean tweezers against your dog’s skin near the tick.
- If using tick remover tweezers, slide the tweezers into place with each prong on either side of the tick. Press the prongs tightly on either side of the tick, and pull the tick upwards in a smooth but firm motion. *
- If using regular tweezers, simply latch onto the tick from the base of the tick, as close as you can to its head where it is biting your dog, and pull the tick upwards and away from the skin in a smooth but firm motion. *
* Note: The tick will be latched on tightly to your pet’s skin. Try to remove as smoothly as possible by pulling upwards with steady pressure and avoiding twisting the tweezers. This is to avoid parts of the tick breaking off, as it’s important to remove the tick as cleanly as possible and not leave any pieces of the tick in your dog’s body.
- If parts of the tick’s body or head remain attached to the skin, be sure to continue removing each piece from your dog.
- After the entire tick has been removed, submerge the tick in the isopropyl alcohol to kill the tick and disinfect it.
- Then, clean the bite area on your dog with a pet-safe wound disinfectant.
- Clean your tweezers or tools with isopropyl alcohol and wash your hands thoroughly.
- Give your dog a tasty treat as a reward for good behaviour and to reassure them after the stress of removing the tick.
- Be sure to monitor your dog for any symptoms that may indicate it caught a tick-transmitted disease. It can take several weeks for some diseases to make themselves known.
How To Prevent Ticks From Biting My Dog
The best and simplest way to prevent ticks from biting your dog is to avoid areas that ticks live in. Of course, this is easier said than done, and most of the time dogs love exploring the same areas that ticks are in. But there are some other ways you can help prevent them from biting your dog.
Here’s a quick list of options to help prevent ticks from biting your dog, including some excellent natural alternatives for tick prevention:
- Stay on clear paths and avoid areas with tall grass, underbrush or with lots of damp leaf litter.
- Use tick repellent shampoo to bathe your dog during tick season.
- Use an ultrasonic tick collar on your dog.
- Use tick repellent sprays, such as naturally formulated sprays for pets that use lemongrass, neem, catnip or geranium oil.**
- Frequently check your dog.
When using tick treatments and preventative measures, it’s important to find a product that works best for you and your pet. Consult your veterinarian and local Bone & Biscuit for advice on what products might be best suited for your dog. Looking for a veterinarian? We recommend finding an integrative veterinarian through the American Holistic Veterinarian Medical Association.
**Ticks are naturally repelled by lemongrass, neem, catnip and geranium oil. When naturally formulated for pets, sprays that use lemongrass, neem or catnip oil help promote a shiny and healthy coat, as well as repel fleas, ticks and mosquitos. Geranium oil is another effective essential oil that helps to deter mosquitos, fleas, ticks, and other pests from your dog or cat. Learn more from veterinarian Dr. Karen Becker about natural tick prevention here.
Here Are Some Recommended Tick Repellent Products for Your Dog
- Tickless Ultrasonic Flea & Tick Repellent Collars (*suitable for dogs & cats)
- NaturPet Outdoor Spray (*suitable for dogs)
- Life Force NatureDog Solid Shampoo Bar (*suitable for dogs)
- Life Force NatureDog Essential Oil Collar Diffuser
- Zen Pet Tick Tornado – Tick Removal Tool
Be sure to stop by your local Bone & Biscuit store for advice and to learn more about these or other products that we recommend for tick repelling and prevention.
Be Prepared When Adventuring Outside With Your Dog This Tick Season
The Spring and Summer seasons can be some of the best months to spend adventuring with your pet. However, to ensure the safety of you and your pet, it’s important to be prepared for ticks while adventuring outdoors. Thoroughly checking your dog for ticks, having the right tick removal equipment on hand, and monitoring for symptoms after a tick bite are all ways you can keep your furry best friend safe during tick season.
Of course, don’t let ticks hold you back! Now that you’re more prepared, you should get outdoors and have fun exploring the world with your dog this Spring and Summer.
Need some new tick removal tools for your dog, or other pet supplies? Stop by your local Bone & Biscuit store to get what you need today.
*Disclaimer: The contents of this blog post, such as any graphics, images, text and other material contained on this site are for informational purposes only. The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional veterinarian advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your veterinarian with any questions you may have regarding your pet’s medical condition. Never disregard professional advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.
If you think your pet has a medical emergency, call or visit your veterinarian or your local veterinary emergency hospital immediately. Reliance on any information appearing on this website is at your own risk. If you have medical concerns or need advice for your dog or cat, please seek out your closest holistic or integrative veterinarian.