Ticks can be persistent pests, and because they can transmit diseases to pets and pet owners alike, it is important to know where to look for ticks on your dog and how to remove them effectively. Fortunately, finding ticks isn’t hard if you know what types of environments ticks prefer.
Ticks are blood-sucking parasites related to spiders. They attach to a host animal to consume its blood, and stay attached and actively feeding for up to 8-10 days. During that time, they can transmit a variety of diseases to their host, including Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, and other illnesses, which can be fatal if left untreated. Different types of ticks can transmit different types of diseases, but each variety has similar preferences for habitat and environment, making it easy to check for all types of ticks on your dog.
Where Ticks Live on Dogs
Ticks prefer warm, humid environments, including damp tissue surfaces away from sunlight. On dogs, the most common places to find ticks include…
Tail Underside – The underside of a dog’s tail, particularly near the base where there may be feces residue or more moisture, is prime habitat for ticks, especially on dogs with broader tails or longer fur on their rears. If a dog is nibbling at its rear or scooting on the ground to relieve an itch or irritation, it may be reacting to a tick bite.
Ears – The inside of a dog’s ears are ideal for ticks because they are dark, warm, and moist, all of which are conditions ticks favor. This is especially true for dogs with longer, floppier ears, but any breed can be susceptible to ticks in the ear region. If a dog has a tick in its ear, the animal will likely be scratching at its head more frequently or may shake its ears to try to dislodge the uncomfortable intruder.
Toes – The cozy space between a dog’s toes is just the right size for a hungry tick, especially on dogs with larger, broader paws or longer fur on their paws. Dogs irritated by a tick toe bite will be licking or chewing at their feet, and may even develop a slight limp to try and minimize the irritation.
Groin – The warm, smooth space between a dog’s rear legs where fur is finer and access to the skin is easier is very attractive to ticks. The parasites can nestle into folds of skin and may be difficult for the dog to reach, though a dog that is licking or scratching at its groin more than usual may be attempting to dislodge a tick.
- Eyelids – Often overlooked as a likely spot for ticks, a dog’s eyelids are moist and the skin is thin, offering a tick prime feeding opportunities. Ticks near the eyes are often dismissed as discharge or skin tags until the parasites have been feeding for several days. Any suspicious lumps or bumps on the eyelids may be a tick, and the dog may scratch or rub its face more often if it is irritated by a tick. Excessive blinking or unusual discharge can be another indication of a tick’s presence.
In addition to these common spots to find ticks on a dog, these parasites could appear anywhere on a dog’s body. Other likely spots for feeding ticks include:
- On the “armpits” of the forelegs
- Under the collar
- Under any matted or dense fur
- Wedged in folds of neck skin
Checking any likely spots very carefully is essential to be sure there are no ticks bothering or threatening your canine companion.
When you find a tick, it is essential to remove it quickly and safely to minimize the risk of disease transmission. To remove a tick from your dog…
- Grasp the tick firmly with tweezers as close to the dog’s skin as possible, but not so firmly that a bloated tick would “pop” and spread potentially contaminated blood.
- Pull slowly in a straight, steady motion to remove the tick completely. Avoid twisting or jerking the tick, which could break off its mouthparts and cause more complications.
- Discard the tick in a small container of isopropyl alcohol to kill it and ensure it is sterilized. You may want to keep the container so your veterinarian can identify the tick species if necessary.
- Clean your dog’s skin carefully with antiseptic to minimize any contamination, and wash your hands thoroughly as well.
After removing a tick, observe your dog closely for several days in case there are any symptoms of disease. If you have any concerns, consult your veterinarian immediately for a proper diagnosis and treatment regimen.
Preventing Tick Bites
The best way to keep your dog tick-free is to avoid bites in the first place. Keep your pet from roaming in long grasses, under shrubbery, or in other damp areas where ticks may proliferate, and avoid contact with deer and other wildlife that may harbor ticks. Mowing grass slightly shorter will make your backyard habitat less tick-friendly as well. You can also keep your dog’s coat shorter and groom your pet frequently to be sure any ticks are spotted and removed right away. Inside your home, vacuum frequently and wash your dog’s bedding and toys in very hot water to eliminate any ticks. Using tick prevention medications on your pet and sprays outside to create tick barriers can also minimize the risk of attracting these unwanted parasites.
Ticks can be troublesome pests, but by understanding the type of environment these parasites prefer, you will know where to look for them on your pet and you will be better prepared to keep your dog tick-free.