Ticks are a type of parasite that feed on the blood of humans and other warm-blooded animals such as dogs. Generally, a tick feeds on a host by pricking the skin and burying itself under the skin of a host. Correctly removing an embedded tick under a dog's skin involves tweezers, rubbing alcohol and a steady hand. It's a delicate procedure because a piece of the tick can break off and remain under the dog's skin. Dog owners unable to remove an embedded tick should contact a veterinarian immediately.
Dangers of tick under a dog's skin
Ticks carry and transmit diseases to humans and animals. Common diseases associated with embedded ticks on dogs include Lyme disease, which is an inflammatory bacterial disease that affects the skin, heart, and nervous system. Also, Ehrlichiosis is a bacterial-type infection usually carried by the brown dog tick, that kills white blood cells. For some reason, the disease is particularly severe in German shepherds and Doberman pinschers.
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Note that ticks are equally dangerous for people, so also check yourself after walking your dog, especially through fields, grass, or forested areas. Report any tick exposure that results in a fever and/or rash to a doctor immediately — this can by symptoms of Lyme disease.
Removing an embedded dog tick
When removing an embedded tick wear gloves to avoid touching the tick and contacting any diseases. Using a pair of fine-tipped tweezers or a tick-removal instrument, gently grab the tick close to the head. Do not grab the tick by the body because this might crush the parasite and cause harmful bacteria to enter the dog's bloodstream.
Then, without twisting, firmly pull the tick outward slowly but steadily. If the head detaches from the body and remains in the dog's skin, remove as much of the tick's head as possible. However, leaving part of the head in the skin typically is not life threatening for the pet.
After removing an embedded tick
After removing the tick, place it in alcohol to kill it. Clean the wound with disinfectant and apply a small amount of a triple antibiotic ointment to the area. If the tick's head remains embedded under the skin, the dog's immune system will create an infection or abscess to dislodge the head.
Typically, the bite wound will swell and take approximately one week to heal. During this time, the use of a hydrocortisone spay can alleviate any irritation of the wound. Hydrocortisone spray is a common over-the-counter spray used to on dogs to sooth inflammation caused by bug bits and other skin irritants.
Tick prevention for dogs
Several over-the-counter and prescription medications, shampoos, and sprays prevent or reduce tick exposure in dogs. Note that available medicated flea and tick prevention for dogs vary greatly by country, depending on pesticide regulations. Or one brand might be sold under a different name in a different region.
Frontline and Brevecto are common brands in North American. Recently, Seresto flea collars, sold in the United States but not Canada, have been anecdotally linked to pet illnesses and deaths. Researching products and recalls is advisable.
How to check for dog ticks
To reduce the risk of tick exposure, check the dog daily, especially during tick season. To check, run your fingers through the dog's fur, feeling for bumps on the skin. Embedded ticks are generally dark brown or black and can be as small as a pinhead or as large as a grape if engorged. If a tick is swollen or bloated, it has begun to fill with blood. Remove an embedded tick from a dog within 24 hours to avoid infection.