Ticks are small insects from the mite family. They live part of their life cycle on the ground in the external environment and another part on mammalian hosts on which they feed. They cling to the skin and draw blood through part of the head, the rostrum. Dog ticks are source of different diseases.
Dogs are one of their hosts. Ticks are not dangerous in themselves but they can be the vector of certain diseases, which they can be serious.
Lifestyles and contamination
There are different species of ticks. The most common are Dermacentor reticulatus , Rhipicephalus sanguineus or Ixodes ricinus.
They most often live in wooded areas or in fields and tall grass. Their distribution, however, has tended to expand in recent years and they are increasingly present in gardens, hedges and brush. They generally swarm in autumn and spring, but they can also be present in winter when temperatures remain moderate.
Dogs get infected outdoors, in areas where ticks thrive. Dogs living in the countryside or hunting dogs are particularly at risk. However, other dogs are also susceptible to ticks when they simply walk or go out in the garden.
Symptoms of dog ticks
The presence of ticks is usually not serious in itself. The main problem is that they can transmit diseases, which they can be serious. Diseases potentially transmitted to dogs are piroplasmosis, Lyme disease and ehrlichiosis.
Piroplasmosis (or babesiosis) is often quite well-known to dog owners. It is caused by a microscopic parasite called Babesia canis, transmitted by carrier ticks. The parasite infects red blood cells and causes their destruction. The main symptoms are therefore a significant depression, an abnormal coloration of the urine (orange, red or brown) and a high fever. They appear within 3 to 21 days after contamination.
Lyme disease (or borreliosis) is increasingly well known because it can also affect people and other animals. It is caused by a bacterium, Borrelia burgdorferi . Symptoms can appear several months after infection. It is most often joint pain, localized or generalized, associated with depression and fever. However, the symptoms are sometimes mild enough to go unnoticed for a long time.
Ehrlichiosis is also caused by a bacterium: Ehrlichia canis most often. The symptoms are often quite similar to those of piroplasmosis: depression, fever, dark coloration of the urine. Others may be present: bleeding from the nose, skin, lameness, or even diarrhea or vomiting.
Diagnosis of dog ticks
The diagnosis of these diseases is based on clinical signs first. If you have noticed the presence of ticks on your dog following some kind, it is essential to inform your veterinarian, this can guide his diagnosis. However, this can also have gone unnoticed.
The lifestyle of your animal will in any case be important to know for your veterinarian. Additional tests, including blood tests, are usually necessary to confirm the diagnosis and adjust treatment.
Dog tick treatment
When you come home from a walk with your dog, do not hesitate to inspect it by petting it all over or by brushing it. This will allow you to spot any ticks. If you find that he has caught some, the first thing to do is to remove them. However, above all do not attempt to do this by pulling on it, putting alcohol or ether on it, burning it or worse, crushing it. Not only are these methods ineffective in removing all of the tick. But the tick can also react to this type of attack by injecting saliva. It increases the risk of contamination if it is a carrier of diseases.
There are special hooks to remove ticks easily and safely. Talk to your vet. These hooks are inexpensive and are always good to have with you just in case.
It may happen that despite precautions, part of the tick’s head remains under the skin of the animal. Know that contrary to a fairly widespread idea, the tick does not “grow back”. On the other hand, it can cause a local inflammatory reaction, most often benign, requiring some local care.
If your dog has caught ticks, or shows abnormal symptoms a few days after a walk in the forest or in the countryside, quickly contact your veterinarian. In most cases, the prognosis for tick-borne diseases will be better when treatment is started as early as possible.
The best prevention against ticks is to administer specific anti-parasitic treatments regularly to your pet. It exists in several forms: pipettes, collars, sprays. Be careful because not all of the most commonly used anti-parasitic treatments are effective against ticks. Talk to your veterinarian, he will be able to advise you on the most suitable product for your dog and his lifestyle.
In addition, there are vaccines against piroplasmosis and against Lyme disease. This can be useful if your dog is particularly exposed to ticks. Also talk to your veterinarian about it so that together we can see the best course of action and be able to continue to go out with your dog without worry.