11. Canine Tick Infestations and Their Health Hazards - It Just Takes One
When dog owners think of parasitic infestations, they usually think of large colonies or clusters of pests.
However, it only takes one firmly attached tick to make even the healthiest of dogs ill. Some of the more common conditions and diseases that a tick can inflict upon your pet include:
- lyme disease
- rocky mountain spotted fever
- tick paralysis
While these represent the more popular and widespread diseases that a tick can carry, there are a variety of other conditions to look out for as well.
Ticks are often categorized together with fleas and other external parasites, however they can be far more dangerous that other pests that your dog may encounter.
One tick can make your dog miserable, and it is your job to make sure that you pet is free of these dangerous pests at all times. Also of great importance is the safety of yourself and other household members, as ticks can transfer from dogs to humans like most other external parasites can.
How Will I Know That My Dog Has Ticks?
Ticks are small, dark colored creatures that take on a round, full shape when attached to their hosts. Their bodies literally fill with blood as they continue to feed, therefore the longer a tick is attached to your dog, the larger it will get.
When a tick has matured and is feeding on your dog, it will remain in one place for an extended period of time. Unlike fleas, they can be removed one at a time. They are most often discovered during petting or brushing, but they can also be seen as hard lumps under newly raised tufts of hair.
More importantly, your dog will show signs of illness quite quickly after becoming infected. In a matter of days, your pet's health may be altered dramatically due to the attachment of just one tick.
Therefore, it is imperative that you are aware of what symptoms to be on the lookout for. Some of the most common signs of a tick problem include:
- loss of motor function
How Can a Tick be Removed?
Tick removal is absolutely essential. Once a tick is attached, however, it can be very difficult to remove it. Removal without inflicting pain upon the dog itself can also be a bit challenging, as well. Understand that the pest is tightly attached to your dog, and it is excreting a saliva that prevents the blood from clotting while it feeds.
This saliva also works as a very effective bonding agent, and pulling a parasite that is so very well attached to your dog can cause unnecessary pain if not done properly. For this process, have the following items on hand:
- sterile, disposable gloves
- plastic grocery bag or any bag that can be tied
- rubber tipped tweezers
- antibiotic ointment
- cotton balls
To begin, separate the hairs immediately surrounding the tick, creating a more open work area. Place the ends of the rubber tipped tweezers on each side of the tick's center, carefully apply light pressure. Do not remove the tick with the tweezers, as rupture without removal may occur.
After the tick has been isolated with the tweezers, place two fingers as far underneath the tick's body as possible. Pull it out as firmly and quickly as possible, making sure that your grip is not loose. When it is removed, place into several tissues and mash down until it has ruptured.
Place the tissue and tick into the plastic bag, tie it together, and dispose of immediately in a closed container (an outside garbage can is best). Immediately after removing the tick, wipe the affected area with a cotton ball that is covered with antibiotic ointment.
Proper Tick Prevention is Vital to Your Dog's Health
The effects of diseases that can be caused by frequent exposure to ticks can be very harmful for your dog, especially over an extended period of time. These infections are unnecessary, and they can often be avoided by simply minimizing outdoor exposure.
Ticks are most often found in thick vegetation and high grass, so rural pet owners are more likely to deal with tick problems regularly. While removal is one treatment approach, the removal of a tick is often a bit painful for a dog. Also, ticks may not be discovered until they have done a great deal of damage.
The best way to ensure your dog's health is through medical preventative treatments. These treatments are simple and convenient for both your and your pet. They usually come in the form of liquids that are applied directly to the fur. It is best to first remove any existing ticks before applying these medicines, as they may take several days to become fully effective.
They are generally used more for prevention rather than for treatment of an already existing condition. While you can purchase tick prevention treatments at most pet stores, it is best to consult your veterinarian's office for the most effective treatments. Not all tick care products are very effective, therefore purchasing your dog's products from your vet is highly recommended.
For further protection, thoroughly clean and examine all parts of your home after an infestation has been treated. Whenever possible during the clean up process, use a product containing bleach or an antibacterial ingredient to promote deeper cleansing.