What do you get when you combine warm temperatures, high humidity, a dog, deer, mice, birds, or people? Ticks. Lots of them.
Ticks aren’t capable of drinking water, so they need humidity to stay hydrated/alive. They hide on taller blades of grass, using the shade cast by its shadow. There they wait patiently for their host to walk by. When this happens, they extend their hooked front legs and latch onto fur or clothing, which pulls them off their perch and onto the host where they begin to feed.
With dogs, they can land on a lower part of the body and instinctively crawl upward toward the head/neck area because skin is usually thinner there and dogs have trouble reaching those areas to groom them off. Other areas ticks like to hide on dogs are the groin, armpit, leg, chest, ears, eyes, toes (aka beans), and base of their tail. I think that pretty much covers everywhere on a dog except for the back and stomach, although I’d check there also just to be safe. Why not?
To check your dog for ticks, use the pads of your fingers and run them over the areas mentioned. If you feel a bump or lump, inspect further to see if it’s a tick. Added benefit: This tick check will also make you familiar with the normal bumps and lumps on your dog. If you do this on a regular basis and find a lump or bump, monitor the size and shape (take a photo). If you are concerned at all, call your veterinarian. Finding something early that could potentially be a health issue gives you an early starting point to deal with it.
What do I do if I find a tick on my dog? Don’t panic; stay calm. This will help your dog and you and make removing the tick less stressful for everyone. Using a pair of tweezers, spread your dog’s fur, grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible, and very gently pull straight upward in a slow, steady motion. This will prevent any remaining part of the tick from being left embedded in the skin. Talk with your vet about options for tick prevention (flea/tick collar or medication) to protect your dog from tick bites.
How do you dispose of the tick? There are a couple of options. One is to save it in a jar to have your veterinarian test for Lyme disease. The alternative is to put it in a jar with rubbing alcohol to kill it. Then you can dispose of it by flushing it safely. Make sure to wash your hands thoroughly, clean the bite site with rubbing alcohol, and rinse the tweezers or tool with disinfectant.
Tips to create a tick-free zone in your yard without pesticides:
- Clear any tall grasses or brush around your house and at the edge of your lawn.
- Mow the lawn frequently and keep leaves raked and disposed of. Hint: If you have a bagging attachment on your mower, use it because lawn clippings left behind can create the perfect environment for ticks – remember how they like shady spots.
- If you have woods at the back of your house, create a mulch or wood chip moat (use dry wood chips or bark, not the damp, shredded variety that creates the kind of cool, damp conditions that ticks love). This barrier should be about 3 feet wide. If any ticks crawl onto this barrier, they should perish from dehydration and sun exposure before making it to the grass.
- Keep children’s play sets in the tick-free zone, which would be in a sunny area of the yard where ticks have difficulty surviving.
Jill Page is a resident of Hull and owner of Tiny-Paws Dog Walking and Pet Sitting, also located in Hull. You can visit her at www.tiny-paws.com for more information.