Brown and black German Shepherd
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What does a tick bite look like on a dog?

By Dawn Parrish Content Writer

Updated on the

A tick is a very vigorous, blood-sucking, spider-shaped parasite that may bite your dog. More commonly found during the spring and autumn seasons, and especially rife in areas where sheep or deer graze. After a bite, a tick will deliver a dangerous toxin which can threaten your dog’s life

What is a tick?

These creepy crawly beasts or Ectoparasites, are large enough to notice on your dog’s body. Varying in size ranging from 1mm to 100mm long and with 8 legs.  They won’t jump or fly, but will fall or climb onto your dog’s fur when brushing past the tick’s habitat or location. When you return from a walk, smooth your hands over your dog’s fur and check for any noticeable lumps. A bite, with an attached tick, will feel like a small bulge on the dog’s skin. Belonging to the arachnid family – they are parasites that feed on the blood of your pet. They spread infectious diseases from one host to another, be it animal or human.

How to recognise a tick bite on your dog

An “unfed” tick, which is very difficult to notice, are smaller, cream in colour and less noticeable. A bite on your dog will usually have a larger tick attached to the area. This parasite will show a deeper brown colour, and its abdomen will be swollen with blood. Once the tick has consumed enough blood, it will turn a silver-blue colour. If a tick is still attached to your dog, it’s important to remove it immediately. Using a special removal tool, or tweezers, grip the tick around the head. Go as close to the dog’s skin as possible, then slowly remove the tick by pulling upwards, without squashing it. Wash your hands and the area around the bite location.

Identifying a tick

You will not normally see a rash around the bite location, as you would possibly observe on a human. A canine tick bite location will usually show some slight inflammation. The tick’s body will normally be oval in shape, and you may notice tiny legs. If you’re not sure it’s a tick, continue to observe the lump, as it will get larger the more it gorges on your dog’s blood. This lump, or granuloma, is a reaction to the venomous fluids that the tick has secreted when feeding.

Other symptoms that may alert you to a tick bite on your dog

It’s not always easy to spot a tick bite in your dog’s fur, and these troublesome pests can cause your pet a number of problems. Stay alert, and if you notice any of these other warning signs, your dog could have sustained a bite.

If you notice a tick in your house – chances are that your dog brought this mite into your home. If you discover a tick on the floor, carpets or in the dog’s bedding, make a closer examination of your pet.

Does your dog have a fever – after a tick bite, your pet may show symptoms of fever, shivering, loss of appetite that may last for just one day, or several weeks. Of course, he may be suffering from something other than a tick bite, but always make a further examination.

Difficulty when eating – a dog infected by a tick bite may eat in a haphazard, messy way and experience a problem picking up food with his mouth. More serious health complications can arise, such as food aspiration and difficulty swallowing.

Check for any scabs – a tick that is embedded in the dog’s skin, will annoy him and make him lick excessively, or nip at the site of the bite. Conduct a closer inspection of his skin for scabs or ticks.

Constant head shaking – is a sign that your dog may have a tick nestled in his ear canal. A tick will bite an area of warm, damp skin, so check under his front legs, his groin and ears. Use a torch to investigate inside the dog’s ear.

A lump or bump on your dog’s skin – this is usually the first tell-tale sign of a tick bite. When petting your dog, if you feel a bump, make a further investigation for an attached body.

Should you suspect at all that your dog has a bite from a tick, or is showing signs of paralysis, it’s vitally important that you call your Vet immediately. When administered early, an anti-venom medication can be quite effective. Be sure to check all other pets in the same household to make sure there is no cross-contamination.

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