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Just the thought of your adorable dog's coat being infected by ticks is enough to tick you off, isn't it? Nobody wants to spend their spring and summer time removing ticks from their dog's hide. But these irritating and pesky creatures always seem to find their way to dogs (and other warm-blooded organisms) and feed on their blood.
They have been the bane of pet owners and vets for decades. But not only are these ugly parasites difficult to get rid of, they're also the reason why thousands of dogs get infected with serious conditions like Lyme disease, ehrlichiosis, anaplasmosis, and others.
Before you can get down to exterminating these blood-sucking buggers, you need to know what ticks are. Here's a little bit on them.
Ticks are not insects, but members of the Acarina species. Dogs are common targets for them. To feed themselves, they need to seek out hosts with the help of heat sensors. When they come in contact with a warm-blooded creature, they latch on to it by clinging on to their fur (or clothes), or falling from trees on to the creature.
After attaching itself to its host, the tick settles into an area with sparse hair coverage, or one where it will have minimal difficulty in feeding itself, like the areas around the ears and mouth, and starts feeding. Ticks dislodge from its hosts body only after finishing its meal, after which the adult female tick falls off, takes shelter, lays eggs, and dies.
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Ticks are extremely stubborn and even the best repellents, sometimes, do not work against them. Attached ticks take about 24 to 48 hours to transmit an infection to its host, which is why it is important that they be removed or treated as soon as possible.
In case you're wondering what ticks look like, then you should know that a lot of people confuse ticks with fleas. Ticks, however, are bigger in size compared to fleas. They also come in different colors like black, brown, dark brown and olive green. They're less harmful than fleas, in the sense that they do not infest dogs like fleas do. They latch on and the females eventually fall off.
Here's how you can protect your dog from ticks.
Look for Them
Take the time to sit with your pooch and run your hands through his fur to check for ticks. If you feel abnormal bumps under his fur, it may be a cause for concern. Gently part the fur over the bump and look for ticks attached to the skin.
Some places that you may want to scan thoroughly are the areas between your dog's toes, behind his ears, around his mouth, his armpits and the base of his tail. Try removing the ticks using a tweezer or a tick-removal device.
Do make it a point not to use you bare hands and wear gloves. Do not touch the tick as doing so will put you at a risk of the disease transmitting to you. Use paper towels to protect your fingers.
If it has latched on too deeply, it will require urgent and expert attention. So rush your dog to the vet.
Avoid Tick-infested Environments
In order to prevent your dog from coming in contact with ticks, it is advised that you avoid venturing into environments that support them. Even when travelling with your dog, do keep in mind to take extra precaution in areas which have tall grass growing. Such areas, typically, harbor a higher population of ticks.
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Medication and Treatments
Ask your vet to prescribe some oral medication/medicated products, or buy over-the-counter medicines at your local or online pet store for treatment. Using them can be helpful in warding off the annoying ticks. Certain medicines are helpful in keeping ticks and other parasites away from your dog for several weeks.
Keep His Coat Clean
Invest in some high-quality dog grooming products and keep him clean. It helps to keep his fur short as that makes it easier to deal with ticks. Bathe your dog with a medicated shampoo to keep him protected against parasites. Ticks and fleas are more likely to prey on dogs with poorly-maintained coats, and dirty, tangled fur.
Send him for grooming sessions regularly, if you do not want to groom him at home. Your groomer can also help you by examining him for parasite at these sessions.
Keep Him Healthy
Apart from keeping him hygienic, you also need to feed your dog healthy food in order to keep his immunity to an optimal level. A balanced diet that provides him with the nutrition that meets his requirements is essential to keep him fit and strong. Make it a point to check the label on the dog food you buy for your mutt. Do watch out for the manufacturing and expiry dates mentioned on it.
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Use Tick Dips
Tick dips are chemical solutions that need to be diluted in water. You can either dip your dog into this water or apply it to his coat with a sponge or a spray. This needs to be applied thoroughly to your pooch's entire body.
Since tick dips are chemical based solutions, you will need to be very careful in using them as they can be very strong. Use them sparingly and limit the use to thrice a year.
Make sure you dilute it properly in water to avoid side-effects in your pet. Choose a tick dip in keeping with the severity of your pet's infection. Do not use it on puppies (at least till they're 4 months of age), pregnant or nursing dogs.
A healthy dog is a happy dog, and a happy dog is a friendly dog. Keeping your pet happy is your responsibility. It is always a good idea to keep a close watch on his diet and hygiene to keep him in good shape. Should you feel that you're unable to understand and address his health concerns, do not hesitate in visiting a good vet immediately. Prevention is always better than cure.
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