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How to identify a dog tick

Intro Text
Knowing how to quickly and safely remove ticks from your pets is a vital skill for a pet owner to learn. While using a regular tick product can help reduce the chance that you’ll see ticks on your pet in the first place, knowing what dog ticks look like on a dog and how to spot them will mean you are ready to act if you need to.

Ticks are particularly dangerous parasites that can carry diseases that have the potential to affect humans as well as dogs. To help keep your dog protected, it’s recommended that you regularly use a preventative tick treatment.

Despite often being discussed alongside fleas and other insects, ticks are actually more closely related to the spider family, as evidenced by their eight legs. Dogs are often exposed to ticks when walking through areas where there is long grass and woodland.

Ticks will feast on a host animal's blood and, once locked in place, will only detach once they have finished their meal, which can take days.

Ticks can cause irritation, inflammation and infection at the feeding site but the biggest health concern is their ability to transmit tick-borne diseases, such as Lyme disease, which can also affect humans.

The symptoms of Lyme disease in dogs include reduced energy, fever, loss of appetite, swollen lymph nodes and lameness. People can also get Lyme disease via a bite from an infected tick; signs in people include flu-like symptoms, tiredness, muscle and joint pain and headaches. The disease can be extremely serious and can even lead to paralysis in people.

Here's what to keep an eye out for:

  • Ticks are small, round and grey/brown in colour. They can occasionally get mistaken for skin lumps, but seeing the tick’s legs next to the skin helps to differentiate these. (Speak to your vet if you are unsure).
  • When fully engorged a tick is grey coloured and around 1cm in diameter.
  • After climbing onto a host animal, a tick will often migrate to an area that has less hair, such as the ears and lips, before locking into place to feed.
  • It’s important to check your dog regularly for ticks, especially if you know you live in or are visiting an area known for their presence, as they are not always easy to see, especially on a long haired breed.
  • When looking for ticks, pay particular attention to the areas around your pet's head, ears, legs and paws.
  • Ticks are more prevalent where there are deer or sheep grazing so make sure you check your dog thoroughly after walking in these areas.

If you do find a tick on your pet you should remove it extremely carefully to ensure that the mouthparts of the tick are removed intact and not left behind. If any part of the tick is left under the skin, there is the potential for infection.

Did you know…
Ticks can carry many dangerous diseases, which they can pass on to pets when they feed, including Lyme disease, Babesiosis and Ehrlichiosis. Lyme disease is carried by the tick found most commonly in the UK, and can affect people as well as dogs. Babesiosis and Ehrlichiosis are more commonly encountered in mainland Europe, but a small number of cases have been reported in dogs in the UK.

Get more advice here on how to safely remove a tick from your dog once it has latched on.