Tick bites, including from the three most common species, are on the rise in the United States. This includes reported bites with both humans as well as dogs, and include bits from the blacklegged tick, also known as the deer tick, as well as the dog tick and Lone Star tick. Of these three, the dog tick is the largest, but all three can and do bite both dogs and people.
The tick is actually an anthropoid and is in the same family as mites, scorpions and spiders, not insects. All types of ticks are parasites, and they latch onto mammals and even birds to feed. During this feeding on the blood of the host animal, pathogens in A tick can be transmitted directly into the blood of the host animal, which creates a high risk for development of the disease.
Dogs are exposed to ticks in grass, brush and woodland areas. However, they can also be in the grass in your yard, the landscaping at your home or in dog parks and on walking paths. Ticks that are in the feeding stage of the life cycle attach themselves to the dog, typically around the neck, head, and on the feet. They can move up through the hair and attach anywhere on the body.
Symptoms and Diseases
Typical and non-life threatening types of symptoms of tick bites include scratching, licking and biting at the skin at the location of the bite. This skin irritation can be severe in some dogs, resulting in an open area of damaged skin due to constant scratching and licking. This creates a risk of secondary bacterial infections of the skin and underlying tissue.
A significant infestation of ticks on a puppy, senior dog, or a dog in poor health can have immediate health issues. During feeding, they can create anemia, but this is rarely seen with well-cared-for dogs. It is more common with abandoned and stray dogs that are also otherwise in poor health.
There are several common types of diseases carried by ticks. It is essential to know that different species of ticks are vectors for different types of disease, but more than one tick species can carry the same disease.
- Lyme Disease – most mammals, including dogs and people, can develop Lyme disease from the bite of a deer tick, or in less common cases another species of tick. The symptoms of Lyme Disease in dogs are slow to develop and includes lack of appetite, fever, lack of energy, swollen lymph nodes, and kidney failure. This is a treatable condition that responds well to antibiotics if diagnosed before other health issues occur.
- Tick Paralysis – most tick species can cause tick paralysis, which is actually a result of the dog’s exposure to a neurotoxin produced by the female feeding tick. This is a condition that starts with the inability of the dog to move the legs, which then moves into the body and the lungs. This can be a fatal disease, but it can also be treated if detected early.
Always check your dog for ticks and remove any ticks found feeding, your vet or groomer can show you how to do this correctly. There are highly effective topical treatments, typically for fleas and ticks, that can help proactively prevent any risk to your pet. These products are very important if you live in or are traveling to areas where ticks are problematic.