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How to Check For Ticks on Dogs

Ticks are not only extremely uncomfortable for your furry friend, but they can sometimes carry fatal diseases that are transmitted through their bites. Summertime is the time when ticks are most common so it is very important to check your canine companion for these unwanted pests, especially if your dog spends time outdoors and even if your dog wears a tick collar or topical tick-preventative medication.

Checking for and Removing Ticks

Obviously, some dogs are easier to check for ticks than others. Long-haired dogs provide more cover for ticks to hide in and dogs with dark skin or with skin spots or freckles may be even more difficult to detect ticks on. Dogs with shorter, lighter coats have more visible skin surfaces that are easier to finger comb through and find ticks in. However, ticks are not as difficult to spot on dogs as fleas or other small parasites. They are usually dark in color, large, and relatively immobile as they find a location on a dog’s skin to bury their head and feed. As they continue to feed on your dog’s blood, they grow increasingly bigger, making them even easier to spot. But regardless of whether a tick has not attached or has been feeding for some time, it is important to locate and remove it as quickly as possible. Following are the steps to properly check for and remove ticks on a dog:

  1. Starting at your dog’s head, run your hands slowly over your dog’s entire body, using your fingers to comb through their hand and make contact with their skin. This includes under their collar, between their toes and under their legs. You should also visually check under their tail, as well as around their groin and anus. Ticks especially like the dark, hidden areas on your dog’s body, so it is very important to be thorough in checking these areas, which includes inside your dog’s ears. If your dog is shaking his head a lot and scratching at it, but you cannot see anything in the outer ear canal, it may be prudent to have a veterinarian check their inner ear for ticks. You may also want to use a small brush or flea comb to help detect bumps or snags that may possibly turn out to be a tick.
  2. In addition to combing through your dog’s hair, you should visually check your dog’s skin for areas that are red or irritated, and watch your dog for excessive scratching or licking over such areas. While it may no longer be in the area, a tick has most likely attached itself to the skin at that spot.
  3. If you come across a tick, it will feel something like a small pea. It is very important that if you feel a bump, either with your fingers or a comb, you do not pull at it in any way before ascertaining whether it is, in fact, a tick, or perhaps something else that you can safely remove. Attempting to remove a tick by pulling on it can cause their body to detach from their head, which remains buried in the dog’s skin and can cause damage.
  4. Once you have found a tick on your dog’s skin, it is advisable that you wear disposable gloves or use a paper towel for the removal process. Using tweezers, grip the tick by the head as close to your dog’s skin as possible. Pull the tick out gently and slowly, removing it without squeezing its body. It is very important not to twist or turn the tweezers while pulling the tick out. It is equally important to not use other methods to try and remove the tick, such as burning it with matches or applying something to the skin to try and make the tick back out – these methods are unsuccessful and potentially dangerous for your dog.
  5. Once you have successfully removed the entire tick from your dog’s body, place it into a small amount of rubbing alcohol in order to kill it. Do not try to squash it with your fingers, simply kill it with alcohol and then dispose of it.
  6. Your dog’s skin will be irritated where the tick had been attached to it, so clean it gently with some disinfectant and a bit of antibiotic ointment.

Ticks are very unpleasant for your canine companion, and while removing them may be somewhat uncomfortable for both you and your dog, he will undoubtedly appreciate your efforts in ensuring he is entirely tick-free.

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