I don’t know of any dog owner who doesn’t hate dealing with ticks. They can not only be difficult to detect, but they’re also a nuisance to get rid of, especially if they’ve really set up shop inside your dog’s fur (including laying eggs). Perhaps you’ve had to deal with ticks on your dog before, but if you haven’t, let me explain to you how disgusting these creatures really are.
What Are Ticks?
Ticks are a type of parasitic arachnid (eight-legged bug) that loves to make a meal out of your dog’s blood. To be fair, ticks don’t discriminate all that much – in fact, they’ll latch onto any mammal or bird, and even some amphibians and reptiles!
All they really care about is feeding on as much blood as possible, which makes them one of the most disgusting creatures to deal with in my book. Most ticks are dark brown or reddish-brown in color, and they’re about the size of a watermelon seed, give or take. They also have a very flat body (not unlike the watermelon seed!), but that body can expand to remarkable dimensions when the tick has been feeding on an animal’s blood for quite a while.
In fact, a tick who has really been stuffing himself with blood can swell up to the size of a grape! I don’t know about you, but that sounds thoroughly gross in my mind. Not only do ticks have gag-worthy feeding habits, but they’re also known for being vectors for all kinds of ailments, including anaemia, nervous disorders and even paralysis. If your dog has been bitten by a tick, you need to remove that nasty bug post-haste, and make sure that your dog has been properly treated for the tick bite so that you can minimize the risk of any adverse reactions or effects.
How Ticks Attack Your Dog
Ticks thrive in wooded areas, and they love to hang out in low-hanging branches, shrubs, blades of grass, leaf piles, and basically anywhere where they can “ambush” your pet.
Ticks can’t fly or jump, but they’re darn good at finding their way to a host by way of an activity called “questing”, where they basically lie in wait for a potential host to brush up against some type of branch, leaf, shrub, or other type of vegetation from which they have strategically positioned themselves to pounce.
Once they land on their host, they latch on quickly and begin to draw blood by way of a harpoon-like mouth part known as the hypostome. This feasting continues until they’re basically engorged with blood, which is how they swell to such large (and disgusting) sizes.
When a tick has really made a meal out of your dog, its bite will often produce itching and/or infection, and it can transmit a number of diseases that pose a serious threat to your pooch’s well-being.
Examining Your Dog For Ticks
With all of the health risks that ticks can cause for your dog, it’s easy to see why you need to be on the lookout for these ruthless parasites. This means that you need to make a regular habit of checking your dog for ticks, especially if he/she spends any time outdoors.
I have an Alaskan Husky and Collie mix, and she’s always finding her way into bushes and shrubbery of some kind. She loves being outdoors, and while it’s fun for her, it can be a nerve-wracking experience for me, because I know how easy it is for ticks to find their way to her 80-pound, super-furry body.
To avoid any scenarios where ticks can fully carry out their nefarious deeds, make sure to examine your dog after it’s been outside for any length of time. Run your fingers through its fur, and apply enough pressure to feel right up against your dog’s skin. Examine its head, behind its ears and on its belly as well.
Thankfully, it’s not as easy for a tick to “hide” in your dog’s fur as it is for fleas, because ticks are simply bigger, which makes them easier to detect by a manual inspection. If you do happen to notice that your dog has been bitten by a tick, what can you do to treat it? Here are some key methods and techniques you can use that will show you how to treat tick bites on dogs.
Methods For Treating Tick Bites: The Choice Is Yours
When a tick rears its ugly head on your pup, there are generally two main ways to deal with it, and that’s through natural remedies and/or medicine. In the spirit of giving as much information as possible, I don’t want to demonstrate a bias towards one or the other, because I believe that every situation is different, and what may be a great treatment for one dog can produce lackluster results for another.
With fairness and balance in mind, I’m going to review some natural methods for treating tick bites first, and then move on to medicinal methods that are in common use as well.
Natural Remedies for Treating Tick Bites on Dogs
Now before I get into any treatments, I want to make something very clear: You have to remove the tick before you start treating the bite! With gloved hands, use a pair of tweezers to extract the tick from your dog’s skin, grabbing it as close to the skin as possible without clipping your dog.
When you’re pulling the tick out, be sure to use a firm but gentle grip, and try to pull it straight out without twisting or jerking. In addition, try not to crush the tick, as it can sometimes secrete fluids containing dangerous, disease-causing microorganisms when crushed.
Once the tick has been removed, be sure to wash the affected area with soap and water, and pat it dry before applying any kind of bite treatments. We have to start with a clean area before we move into any treatment techniques! Now here are some excellent natural tick bite treatment ideas:
Top 9 Natural Tick Bite Treatment Options
- Create a paste using baking soda and water, and apply it directly to the affected area. This will create a soothing effect, and it will help to relieve itching as well.
- Use a cold compress on the affected area to reduce any swelling and contain any inflammation.
- Give your pup a cold bath. This will immediately soothe the inflammation and itching from the “hot spot” area where the tick was feasting, plus it will make your pooch smell better as well!
- Apple Cider Vinegar is one of nature’s cure-alls, and it definitely comes in handy for treating tick bites as well. Using a small amount of apple cider diluted with water (e.g., one teaspoon of apple cider in 8 ounces of water), dip a soft cloth in the solution to the point where the cloth is damp, but not dripping wet. Now wipe your dog’s haircoat with the damp cloth, gently covering the bite area as well. This apple cider vinegar solution will act as a disinfectant and antiseptic, which will help to stave off infections from those nasty tick bites.
- One of the best natural anti-inflammatory agents out there is aloe vera gel, which you can buy in bottled form, or get it straight from a live aloe plant. If you choose to get it from the plant (which is my personal preference), you will need to break open the plant’s thick leaves and squeeze out the aloe gel, which is kind of thick and “syrupy” (if that’s a word). Rub this gel on your dog’s bite wound in order to provide a cool, soothing balm that will bring healing and comfort to your pup’s wounded skin.
- If you’ve never heard of calendula ointment, you should definitely include it on your list of natural remedies to help heal tick bites on your dog. A derivative of the marigold plant, calendula ointment is widely hailed for its anti-inflammatory properties, and it also possesses tonic and antispasmodic agents that keep itching and soreness at bay.
- A bath comprised of water and cornstarch is an excellent skin-soothing soak for your dog. Run a normal amount of lukewarm water in a tub or basin, and then add cornstarch liberally. Make sure to mix the cornstarch into the water well, and then let your dog just soak in it for a little while in order to help repair any sore spots or inflammation from tick bites. In addition, you can actually apply dry cornstarch directly to any tick bites in order to relieve itching and stave off infection.
- Another favorite healing agent for doggie bath time is Epsom salt. This classic home remedy has been used for decades, and it’s a well-known treatment for tick bites as well. Pour about 6 tablespoons of Epsom salt into the regular amount of your dog’s bathwater, and stir it into the water really well. Bathe your pup in this healing concoction, but make sure that he/she doesn’t try to drink any of the water, or it could make them sick!
- If you haven’t heard about essential oils yet – and tea tree oil in particular – they’re some of the most powerful natural treatments for tick bites you can find. The main benefit of tea tree oil is that it acts as a natural antiseptic as well as a bactericide, which can really help to clean any wounds or sore spots that your dog may suffer from tick bites. A word of caution, though – tea tree oil is highly potent, so be sure to generously dilute it before using. One of the best ways to do this is by putting a small portion of tea tree oil inside of a “carrier” oil, such as extra virgin olive oil.
Medicine For Treating Tick Bites On Dogs
Now we’re going to move over to the medicinal side of things. I always try to emphasize that no matter what type of medicine you use, make sure to carefully read the directions, and use it only as directed! Here are some of the most popular, tried-and-true medicines for treating tick bites on dogs:
1. Topical Over-The-Counter Antiseptic or antibiotic cream
Using a topical over-the-counter antiseptic or antibiotic cream is a great option for treating those nasty tick bites. Not only will a topical cream be able to neutralize any potential infections, but it will also provide some much-needed relief from sore spots for your pup.
2. Tick Powder
Tick powder is a classic remedy that will not only help soothe tick bites, but it will also prevent new tick bites from happening. Now when I say “tick powder”, keep in mind that most powders on the market are actually “flea and tick powders”, because the effects of each of those parasites on dogs are very similar.
So if you see a flea and tick powder, please don’t feel averse to using it just because it’s not exclusively for ticks, so to speak. Anyway, when you’re using the powder, make sure that you’re rubbing it directly on your dog’s skin – in other words, don’t just lightly sprinkle it on top of your dog’s fur, because that will defeat the purpose. Blend it in well by making sure that a good amount of the powder has made direct contact with your dog’s skin.
3. Flea and Tick Shampoo
Flea and tick shampoo is another excellent option for treating tick bites on dogs. These types of shampoos serve a double purpose, because not only will they kill the ticks on contact, but they will also provide an important barrier of protection against future tick attacks.
You can use flea and tick shampoo when bathing your dog; just be sure to work it in from front to back, and avoid getting any of it near your dog’s eyes or ears. Also be mindful that you should only use a shampoo that is specifically for dogs, not humans. Even mild baby shampoos are a no-no, because dogs have a completely different pH balance to their skin than we do, and you don’t want your four-legged friend to potentially have any adverse reactions to the shampoo you’re using.
4. Anti-Allergy Medications
One of the things that surprised me when I started learning about how to treat tick bites on dogs was that you can give your dog anti-allergy medications (e.g., Benadryl) to help with any symptoms that may arise from tick bites, including swelling, inflammation and itching. This can really bring some much-needed relief to your pup, so definitely look into administering an antihistamine to your dog.
Should you choose to use Benadryl, the standard dosage will be 1 mg per pound of your pup’s body weight. You can administer the medicine 2 to 3 times a day (or as needed), but every time you do, make sure that you have double-checked the dosage amounts before giving it to your dog. You don’t want an honest mistake causing your furry friend any harm.
Okay, you are now officially well-equipped to treat tick bites on dogs using both natural and medicinal methods. The rest is in your hands…now go forth and show those tick bites who’s boss!