Ticks on Pets
While there are some areas of the world that are tick free, most areas are not. This horrible looking, blood sucking, disease carrying little vampire can really make your dog or cat's life miserable, not to mention they can also get on humans as well. In general any animal can fall victim to ticks, so it is important to know a bit about them and how to get rid of them once they attach themselves to your pet.
Ticks are a form of external parasite, requiring the blood of a host animal to grow and reproduce. They are actually in the class Arachnida, along with all spiders and mites, and have the eight legs at maturity and two body segments known as the head and the abdomen. There are actually two different types of ticks, those with soft bodies and the hard-shelled varieties. In total there are 850 distinct varieties of ticks worldwide.
Tick On Dog
Tick Life Cycle
Ticks actually go through four stages of life. They start out as an egg and then hatch into a six-legged larva. The larva crawls onto a piece of grass or foliage, then attaches to a passing animal or human. They feed, then drop off and continue their growth. The next stage is an eight-legged nymph, which again crawls onto some type of foliage and latches on to a passing animal, including you, your dog or cat. Feeding on the blood of the host animal, the nymph then again releases and falls to the ground to mature into an adult.
This time when the tick attaches to the pet it stays on for a much longer time until fully engorged. They also mate on this third feeding, with the males falling off to die. When the females release from the host animal they will lay eggs; often as many as 3000, leading to a massive amount of eggs left to hatch in the spring. Most ticks will take two summers to reach maturity and they are more than capable of surviving very long, cold winters.
Tick Life Cycle
Movement Of Ticks
Ticks actually don't jump or fly, but they can crawl. They respond to movement and simply drop on or grab on to the body or leg of the pet as it walks by grass or shrubs. Once on the dog or cat the tick can crawl to a warm spot, often around the ears, neck or legs. After finding a good spot they bury their head into the skin of the host animal and begin to draw in blood. The body of the tick can swell to several times its normal size during the feeding process.
Although ticks do feed off blood, unless in very extreme situations the small amount of blood they ingest is not going to harm your pet. What makes ticks so dangerous is that they are carriers of many different diseases. Since ticks attach to the host animal, or person for that matter, and feed for up to several days, there is lots of opportunity for the spread of disease.
Diseases travel from the saliva of the tick directly into the pet's blood, resulting in a very high chance of infection. Different species of ticks will carry different diseases and not all tick species are carriers of all tick-related diseases.
The most common diseases that are associated with ticks include:
- Lyme Disease – Carried by the common deer tick, this disease results in swelling of the joints, lethargy, poor appetite and lameness. It often occurs 2-5 months after the bite and can be difficult to diagnose. It is treatable with antibiotics. Although problematic for dogs and people, Lyme Disease is not common in cats.
- Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever – Carried by the American Dog Tick this condition is rarely seen in cats. This disease can be subclinical or acute and many dogs recover without treatment from the subclinical variety. Acute cases are more serious and require antibiotics and monitoring. People can develop this disease that
- Tick Paralysis – more commonly seen in very warm climates, this condition is a result of many infected ticks feeding on one dog. When the ticks are removed and the toxin is flushed from the system normal movement of the dog's limbs will return. Cats do not seem to develop this condition.
- Tularemia – also known as Rabbit Fever, these bacteria can be spread by
either ticks or the consumption of infected meat. Since it is common in
rabbits, dogs or cats eating rabbits often develop this condition,
hence the name. Generally puppies and kittens are the most seriously
affected and kittens more than puppies. Antibiotics are effective in
treatment. Like most tick borne disease humans are also at risk for the
There are a lot of myths and ideas about removing ticks, however it is really a simple process. Part the hair around the tick until you can see where the head is entering the skin. Grasp the head, not the body, with a pair or tweezers or a tick remover and DO NOT pull straight back.
Your tweezers or tick removers need to be right against the skin. If you break the head from the body, leaving the dangerous saliva in your pet's skin. What you need to do is remove the tick by twisting gently CLOCKWISE. Ticks burrow into the skin rather like a screw – anticlockwise, so to “wind them out” safely you need to turn the tick clockwise when viewed from above.
Dab the area with antibacterial solution and watch for any signs of allergic reaction. Cats can be particularly allergic to the saliva of ticks and may lick or scratch to extremes, creating hot spots and seeping lesions. If this occurs immediately get your pet to the vet and keep the area clean and dry.
Never try to burn, drown, smother or freeze the tick, these methods don't work and actually cause more saliva to be released into your pet's skin.
Herbal Remedies And Prevention
The best way to avoid tick problems is to use preventative treatments. Many of the topical flea treatments also act as tick repellents, but there are very safe, highly effective herbal options as well. Herbal tick repellents in sprays and powders are available on the internet or in your pet store, but here is a quick and easy home remedy that will do the trick for your dog.
- 2 Tablespoons almond oil (vegetable oil will work)
- 20 drops Rose Geranium essential oil (American Pennyroyal essential oil can be substituted)
Shake well in a small glass jar and add a couple of drops to your dog's collar before going outside. Avoid getting this mixture near the dog's eyes or yours. Generally if kept in a cool place and securely closed this mixture will last several months even with daily use. This mixture should not be used with cats.
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hebs on November 20, 2010:
I got one of these ticks off my dog tonight. At first i thought i felt a scab but when i looked closely and parted her fur, i saw the legs and the head. After i removed it i cut it in half and the blood inside the tick was brown which i thought was very interesting. The tick looked exactly like this one.
Julie-Ann Amos (author) from Gloucestershire, UK on February 22, 2010:
Hi BayouAngel. Ticks do not embed themselves UNDER the skin (they need to breathe). Most likely this is not a tick if it is completely under the skin... If I was you I would be more concerned that it is a parasite of some sort. There are several types of worms, similar to the Ring Worm that will embed itself just under the skin.
Only the mouthparts and head embed in a dog and removal instructions are given in the hubpage above.
BayouAngel61 on February 22, 2010:
Thanks for a well written and informative article, I would like to know if you have any information on removing embedded ticks? No one on the web has touched on this issue and it is one that I am facing. I am disabled and don't have the money or means to get my 95 lb dog to the vet....
writershirley on November 29, 2009:
Your Article is well written and very informative would like to see more articles like this. Keep writing!
Wonderbaum from Europe on July 27, 2009:
Hi Julie-Ann. What a well written article. Thank you.
Please come by an comment on my hubpage on pet health at:
I would really like to hear your opinion.
fritteritter from Ohio, USA on July 18, 2009:
Very well written, the photo caught my eye in "pets" search results, that is an astonishingly large tick compared to what I am familiar with!
C. Betancourt on July 13, 2009:
Thank you! Much needed info!
Brian Stephens from Castelnaudary, France on June 10, 2009:
Interesting an informative hub, one I will be book marking for future reference as I am a dog owner.