When your dog loses their appetite, you think it is from common problems like indigestion. Did you know that ticks can lead to temporary canine anorexia? In this article, we will talk about how you can spot ticks in dogs and how you can remove them efficiently.
Ticks are quite common during the summers but if you live in a hot and humid city, your dogs are never really safe from them. Does your dog get ticks often? Do you find a tick every day? Do you find ticks even during autumns and winters? This article is for you!
In severe cases, dogs do get a range of tick-borne illnesses. Both deer ticks and dog ticks target dogs and tick-borne diseases can be fatal if it’s not treated on time. Though tick infestations occur during the spring, monsoons, summer and early autumn, they are never safe from it, especially if you live in the central and southern parts of India.
What Are Ticks?
Ticks are blood-sucking critters. Many think they share similarities with mosquitoes because they draw blood from their prey. They belong to the arachnids family meaning that they share the same anatomy as spiders.
Ticks are hardy, which is why it is so difficult to eradicate them. Nothing seems to phase ticks. They often remain dormant for the winter and lay more than 3000 eggs at a time. Most ticks have an Exo-skeleton making it hard to kill them.
Since they draw blood and carry disease-causing pathogens they are a reckoning force of destruction.
To briefly touch on their anatomy – ticks absorb all the blood in their body. To explain it simply, their little body is an empty balloon ready to fill itself up. So, though a hungry adult tick may not look bigger than a sesame seed, once it’s full, it can fill up to twice or thrice its original size!
Types Of Ticks in India
There more than 850 types of ticks around the world but few of them are commonly found in India. Two popularly known tick varieties attack our dogs and transmit dangerous diseases to them. They are the deer tick, and the dog tick.
Since ticks can latch onto a dog for more than weeks, they make your dog severely anaemic. They can also lead to a series of tick-borne diseases, hence it is important to be able to identify ticks.
Let’s look at these ticks to understand how they can affect your dogs.
1. Deer Tick
Deer tick commonly affects dogs and humans. So you need to be very careful with deer ticks.
They belong to the same Ixodidae family which is the same as spiders and scorpion families. It means that they cannot see. Light does not affect them. They can identify heat sensors from the tip of their feet. Once they identify their next host they latch onto them with their spiny legs and the front of their mouth (chelicerae and hypostome).
Deer ticks are one of the most common causes of Lyme disease in the colder regions in the world. In India, Lyme fever is not as common, however recently, there have been a few cases recorded in the Himalayan region.
2. Brown Dog Tick
How To Spot Ticks in Dogs
Your dog will carry on with their day if they have a few ticks, however, in severe cases, they might lose their appetite, develop itchy and brittle skin, have a loss in energy and so on.
Usually, if your dog has a bad case of ticks, you’ll find them scratching obsessively behind their ears or on their paws.
If you suspect they have ticks, take them to your balcony or in the bathroom and check around their ears, paws, neck and groin. You will find brittle round ticks that look a lot like moles. The ticks fall off the host’s body once they are full. It is easy to remove a full-sized tick but, in most cases, they latch onto your dog’s skin for dear life. Pulling them off can draw blood or tear flesh.
How To Remove Ticks in Dogs
If there is a major tick infestation, you should use rubbing alcohol or isopropyl. First, pull out the ticks with your tweezers and dip them in rubbing alcohol. This will kill them almost immediately and reduce contamination.
Be prepared to pull hard to remove all the ticks. It may draw blood too. In some cases, doctors would ask you to rotate the tweezers 360 degrees to remove the big ticks. By rotating it, you would loosen the grip and remove it right from the mouth.
It is always important to remove ticks from the mouth. Ticks belong to the spider family or the Arachnids, which means that their mouth is largely of the chelicerae and hypostome. But unlike the spider’s chelicerae, which is soft, the tick’s chelicerae and hypostome are hard, barbed and pointing straight again. It effectively pinches the skin and pierces through it. The chelicerae work like little saws but since ticks have an antiseptic substance in their saliva, dogs don’t feel it going in, they do feel it coming out, especially if it’s forced out.
The mouth has all the disease-causing pathogens. If the mouth remains stuck to your dog, it disintegrates and fall off within a few days. However, it does expose your dog to dangerous pathogens for longer. If there are too many ticks, please consult your doctor and get them removed professionally.
Be careful if the ticks are on sensitive places like the eyes, ears or groin. Consult your doctor, if it’s causing your dog discomfort when you take them out.
Lastly, rubbing alcohol is a good alternative you have an older dog that is less likely to pounce and make a mess. It is poisonous to dogs and even small amounts of it can get absorbed through the skin and make your dog tipsy. The smaller your dog, the more dangerous it is. You should never rub it against their skin. Rather dip the ticks in rubbing alcohol after you safely detach them.
1. How to Remove Ticks From Puppies
2. How to NOT Remove Ticks - Don't Do This!
When it comes to tick removal, there are certain things you must steer clear from to prevent things from getting any worse. Here they are. Do not:
2.1 Rub Alcohol on Their Skin
Earlier, doctors would recommend rubbing alcohol on the tick to loosen its grip so that you can easily take them out. But over recent years, we realised that such a practice is very harmful to dogs. The alcohol can easily get absorbed in their blood through the skin and make your dog a little tipsy.
It takes very little isopropyl to poison a dog and some dogs have lesser tolerance to it than others. Another reason why you shouldn’t rub alcohol directly onto their skin is that after getting agitated from the alcohol ticks may regurgitate the contents of their stomachs inside your dog thus increasing chances of tick-borne diseases.
2.2 Flush The Ticks
2.3 Crush Them Between Your Fingers
Ticks are full of disease-causing pathogens. If you crush them between your fingers you put yourself at a greater risk of exposing yourself to disease-causing pathogens.
Instead of crushing them in your bare hands, we suggest using pointed tweezers. Dip them in rubbing alcohol/soapy water, without coming in direct contact with the ticks. You can also use medical rubber gloves to keep your hands safe from a tick infestation.
Tick Allergies In Dogs
While ticks painlessly attach themselves to their host, there are a few dogs who are allergic to tick saliva. You will notice rapid hair loss, reddish skin, irritation, ear infections frequent itching etc among these dogs.
One tick bite is enough to trigger allergic reactions depending on the severity of the condition. So in such cases, you need to take preventive measures to ensure that your dog does not get any tick bites.
Precautionary Methods - Ensuring Your Dog Never Has A Tick Infestation Again
There are so many products out there for ticks but not all of them are as safe as you may think. A lot of these products are made of chemicals, alcohol and unhealthy things in general.
So, in this section, we will look at some natural ways to keep your dog safe from ticks.
1. Check For Tick Infestations
Do you find ticks every time you check their fur? That might be because there are way too many ticks in the house, on the grass or in the bushes. If you find the infested area, it would be best to avoid that place – at least until the tick season is over.
2. Natural Solutions
Other than buying tick sprays you can make equally effective, a natural tick repellent at home. You can make your homemade mixture by mixing 1 cup water and 2 cups white vinegar. Add two spoons of almond oil and mix well. Many add lemon juice or a few drops of peppermint to make the mixture flea resistant too.
Spray it on their paws, around their neck before they go out on a walk. Be gentle and avoid their eyes and face. Just because they are natural sprays doesn’t mean they aren’t strong. The above concoction can easily hinder your dog’s ability to smell if you spray too much.
If your dog has a lot of ticks, you can add a small amount of this solution in their shampoo. It will help you remove some ticks from their body.
3. Homemade Bandanas
Flea and tick season is the perfect time to flaunt some stylish bandanas. Tick ointments absorb into the skin rather quickly. Cotton increases its effectiveness. Which is why, tick repellent bandanas are ideal for the tick season. Securing a cloth around the neck would make it very difficult for ticks to latch onto your dog.
You can spray small amounts of the homemade tick repellent on the bandana before tying it onto your dog. Again, be careful with the repellent. Don’t douse the fabric in it because it is going to be very near your dog’s nose.
4. Clean The House Thoroughly
Brown dog ticks can complete a full life cycle indoors. This means that even if you remove all the ticks from your dog, kill them and flush them away, there are more than thousands of tick eggs inside your house. They will hatch and grow into adults indoors and latch onto your dog once again. So, you will never really get rid of the ticks.
To make sure your dog does not get ticks again, you must clean your house thoroughly until you are sure there are no tick eggs. Ticks usually lay eggs in dark corners because those are the hardest places to notice and clean.
So, clean under the rugs, storerooms, and the side of your bed. If your dog is getting ticks very frequently, consider hiring a professional to thoroughly clean your house and get rid of pesticides.
5. The Perfect Food Chain
As horrible as ticks are, they provide a great source of nutrition to certain animals – it’s perhaps its only redeeming feature. Chicken, turkey, exotic birds etc do eat ticks. Other animals like rats and squirrels eat ticks too but they also get infected by ticks.
If you own a lawn or live in an area where you can keep farm animals, we would highly suggest that you keep turkeys and chickens – animals that would naturally eradicate the troublesome tick population. Build a small birdhouse as a summer project to encourage more birds to visit your area. Small initiatives like this will protect your dogs and your entire family from ticks.
Yes, ticks have a tight grasp and a brush does very little to free it. But if you dip the brush in the natural repellent, it will do a much better job at removing ticks and preventing them from entering deep into their coat.
If your dog has too many ticks, you will notice them falling off your dog after a single brush. But if they don’t have ticks, the brushing and the ointment will prevent ticks. Repeat this step once every few days (and every day if you have a furry dog) and notice the difference.
Brushing accompanied with all the steps mentioned above will keep your dog tick-free.
7. Avoid Tall Grass
Ticks are active all day and tall grass is their favourite perch. Please avoid tall grass especially during the summers and monsoons. If you do take long walks with your dog, it would be ideal to purchase a full-coverage raincoat for the monsoons. The cloth will act as a barrier and make it difficult for ticks to latch onto your dog.
Why Are Ticks An Epidemic
The problem with ticks is that they are so small and subtle that we don’t understand the severity of each tick bite. Unless our dogs have a major tick infestation we don’t take them to the doctor.
Ticks do a lot more than suck your dog’s blood. They carry a range of fatal diseases and we want to make sure your dog is safe from all these diseases. Canine Babesiosis is the most common type of tick fever in India.
A study published by MDPI shows that April had the highest number of dogs reported with Canine Babeosis tick fever in Punjab and Lahore (51% of dogs brought to Veterinary institutions had Canine Babesiosis). However, the numbers decreased only a little during the winter months. 21 – 37% of incidents were reported in December and January.
So, as the winter approaches, you may think your dog is out of danger, but if 20% dogs were reported in the northern cooler regions, we can only estimate how severe the condition is in the south.
The problem is far more than tick fever. Lyme disease is an epidemic in America. It affects both dogs and humans and can be fatal if not treated on time. But, according to the Telegraph, there was a Lyme disease outbreak in Kerala in 2013.
With us travelling abroad and often importing dogs from abroad we risk more diseases coming in and out of the country. But more importantly, when we remove ticks and flush/throw them while they are still alive, we risk the chances of more infestations. Please follow the instructions above and make sure you kill all the ticks on your dog.
If your dog lacks energy or gets ticks every day, a vet visit is in order. It might help you identify tick-borne illnesses beforehand and save their life.
We hope this article was helpful. Tick infestations are slowly starting to become an epidemic in India as well. These nasty little critters take up a lot of your day and cause a lot of trouble. The best way to protect yourself and your dogs are to make sure they cannot get you.