Dogs and Ticks: What You Should Know About This Tick Season

Image of a man with a golden retriever

Dogs and Ticks: What You Should Know About This Tick Season

Spring is here, which probably means you’re enjoying a lot more outdoor playtime with your pooch. Unfortunately, it’s not all fun and games, because spring also means tick season has started in the Philly area. Every year, from April through October—or longer if temperatures stay mild—the constant threat of ticks, their bite, and the serious diseases they can carry, like Lyme disease, weigh heavily on the minds of dog parents. This year, the tick population in Pennsylvania is expected to be even larger than usual due to the unseasonably warm and wet winter, which gives ticks much more time to thrive and multiply. Ugh! So, before tick season hits in full force, Wagsworth wants to help you keep your fur-child as tick-free as possible by answering some of the most common questions about dogs and ticks.

What Are the Types of Ticks Found in Chester County, Pennsylvania, and Throughout the Philly Area?

There are more than 900 species of ticks worldwide, but don’t worry—they are not all setting up shop in Pennsylvania. However, as many as 25 species of ticks have been identified in the Keystone State. The two most common ticks in this region are the American dog tick, better known as the wood tick, and the black-legged tick, more widely known as the deer tick. They both have the same goal—finding a worthy host. But it’s the deer tick that really spooks dog owners because it is known to transmit Lyme disease, which can cause lameness, swollen lymph nodes, joint swelling, fatigue, loss of appetite, serious kidney complications, and other life-threatening issues in dogs.

Where Do Ticks Hide Out?

Contrary to what many people think, ticks cannot jump or fly. They can only get on your dog (or you) through direct contact, which is why many types of ticks, including deer and wood ticks, relish a densely forested area. In the woods, they have lots of places to hang out—bushes, shrubs, trees, foliage, tall grass—and wait for an unsuspecting host, like your frolicking pup, to come along and brush up against their hiding spot. The tick can then grab onto your dog’s fur using its spider-like front legs and crawl through your dog’s coat until it finds a nice warm spot to attach and feed.

Even if you and your dog stay off the wooded trails and opt for romps in your backyard or trots around the school track, you’re unlikely to avoid ticks entirely. These places and others like them harbor just as many good hiding spots for ticks, like leaf piles, tall grass, dense brush, patio furniture, trash receptacles, and playground equipment.

How Do You Check a Dog For Ticks?

Whether your dog just had a quick outing in the backyard or a long trek through Valley Forge National Park, it’s a smart idea to check your pet for ticks whenever they’ve been outside, and preferably before a tick hitches a ride into your home. No matter how short-haired or well-groomed your dog is, spotting a tick is easier said than done. These teeny pests are typically no bigger than a poppy seed. Even after becoming engorged, an adult deer tick may only get to be about a quarter of an inch in diameter, making it very challenging to see.

So, your best bet is to use your fingers to slowly comb through your dog’s fur and feel for any bumps on the skin. Top places to search for ticks on your pet include the following:

  • Inside and behind the ears
  • Around the eyes
  • Under the collar, legs, and tail
  • In the “armpits” of the forelegs
  • Between the toes
  • In the folds of the neck skin
  • In the groin area
  • Under any matted or dense fur

The best way to protect your pup against ticks is to ask your vet to recommend safe and effective preventive products. Ultimately, whether your dog takes an oral or topical tick medication or uses some other form of prevention, 100% effectiveness is rare, especially with the number of ticks your dog is likely to encounter. So, stay diligent with those tick checks!

What is the Safest Way to Remove a Tick?

If you find a tick, it’s essential to remove it right away to limit the chances that it will transmit a disease or that its bite will cause an infection. Proper tick removal can be tricky, so if you’re not comfortable with it for any reason or feel the tick is too deeply buried in your dog’s skin to be safely removed, you should contact your vet.

But let’s assume you’re up for removing this darn tick yourself. Your first instinct may be to grab it with your hands and yank it out. However, that’s not a good idea as squeezing the tick may cause more of its saliva to enter your dog’s body, which can significantly increase the risk of tick-borne disease transmission. Instead, with a fine-point pair of tweezers, you can try these steps:

  1. Spread your dog’s fur away from the tick.
  2. Grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible.
  3. Gently pull straight upward in a slow, steady motion.

An even easier way to approach this task is to purchase a product specifically designed for the job, called a tick removal hook, which has prongs that go on either side of the tick and twist upward. These are available to purchase at Wagsworth Manor.

After you’ve rid your dog of this dangerous nuisance, clean around the bite area with rubbing alcohol and wash your hands thoroughly. It also might be a nice time to reward your fur-baby with a treat for being such a good dog during this whole tick ordeal!

If you’re concerned that any part of the tick remains in your pup, take a trip to the vet for a quick exam. Most importantly, keep an eye on your dog for the next few days to monitor any changes in behavior. If you notice anything unusual, call the vet immediately.

As for that tick, don’t rush to flush it down the toilet. We recommend you wrap it tightly in a piece of clear tape in case your veterinarian wants to take a look at it.

All Year Round, the Wagsworth Team Is Committed to the Health and Safety of the Dogs in Our Care.

Wagsworth is on the lookout for ticks on your dog, too. Our boarding guests undergo thorough wellness checks at the beginning of and throughout their stay, which—regardless of the season—includes examining for ticks. During tick season, our caregivers will also spot-check day campers. If a tick is found, our senior-level staffers are skilled at swiftly and safely removing it. Once the tick is removed, we will continue to keep an eye on the bite area throughout your dog’s stay. Because we get to know our guests so well and we have so many watchful eyes on them, we are highly attuned to notice when a dog is behaving unusually. If we have any concerns about the health of your dog during their stay at Wagsworth, we will call you immediately.