Dog Care – Checking for Ticks

    Published: 06-16-2009
    Views: 26,801
    Dr. Candy Olson demonstrates how to care for dogs and check dogs for ticks.

    Candy Olson

    Dr. Candy Olson graduated from veterinary school in 1978, and has been working as a small animal veterinarian ever since. She started her own practice, Greenbriar Animal Hospital, in Fairfax, Virginia in 1993 with a goal to providing a very personal level of service, like an old fashioned family doctor’s office. The hospital has grown into a busy 2 doctor practice with a full time dog and cat groomer. The practice and Dr. Olson have received several awards for top quality service to her patients and their owners, but what she enjoys the most is fine tuning the day to day care of her patients, and helping their owners cope with medical and behavioral issues that pop up in today’s lifestyles. Dr. Olson is particularly interested in the care of geriatric pets and in pets with multiple medical and/or behavioral problems. She keeps her veterinary knowledge current by reading more than 8 veterinary journals every month, and by attending more than 80 hours of continuing education meetings each year (Virginia requires 15 hours per year). She also serves as a mentor for student veterinary technicians and high school students interested in veterinary medicine. Her hobbies include gardening, travel, and photography (photography is an extended family hobby). Some of her photos and some of her family’s photos are framed and on display at the animal hospital.

    Dr. Candy Olson: Hi! I am Dr. Candy Olson from Greenbriar Animal Hospital. We are shooting a series of video clips on, how to care for your dog at home. This is Molly, she is helping us out with this section, and we are going to talk about ticks and how to look for ticks on your dog.

    Molly doesn't have any ticks, she is on a good tick control, but just so that you are aware these are adult ticks that we've moved off of cats and dogs in the last year and you can see how some of these ticks are huge and you think, gosh, how could I miss that on my dog, but some of these others are really tiny, barely the size of head of a pin. It's pretty easy to miss that even on a dog with a shorter coat as Molly has.

    The thing with ticks is they attach on to your dog or your cat or you and they gradually fill up with blood, process takes a couple of days. Once they are full, if they are carrying any disease, they tend to inject it into the person, dog, cat and then they drop off and go their merry way, lay a whole bunch of eggs and bunch of more ticks come into existence, but it's a slow process. So, if you do find tick that's crawling on your dog but it's still kind of flat, it's not all filled up like a little water balloon, it probably hasn't had a chance to give your dog any disease yet and that's a good thing. The other thing that's really important with ticks is that most of the time for people to get most of the tick-borne diseases you actually have to be bitten by the tick. But, you can get Rocky Mountain spotted fever from handling a tick that has it. So, you need to be really careful because who knows what the tick has.

    All the tick needs is a little tiny hangnail, a little crack in the skin, that's it. As a result, you want to be really careful, you want to try not to handle ticks with your bare hands if at all possible, and if you do, you want to make extra careful, don't squeeze the tick, don't squish it and wash your hands real thoroughly afterwards because it only takes a little bit. Rocky Mountain spotted fever is a very serious disease.

    If you are looking for a tick, the very best way to do it is to use your hands rather than your eyes. It's much easier to feel them than it is to actually see them, and what you want to do is just kind of start at one end and go to the other. You are just feeling for any little tiny lump or bump, anything that feels a little odd on the skin. She's got a little spot here, okay, that's just a little work, alright.

    So, you may not find anything, but it's important to check and in Northern Virginia, ticks are all over the place, they never die off in the winter and we see them in backyards, in the woods, in tall grass, in undergrowth, peoples lawns, they are everywhere.

    Now, if you do feel a little spot on your dog and you are looking, you see, oh, hey, there is a tick there, we'll make believe, I know there isn't one. But say, she had a little spot here where there was a little tick and you could see it, then what you want to do is take one of these little tick-remover things and you scoop it just like you are scooping ice-cream and it will have the tick, and it'll be caught right in there and the legs and everything, and then, when you've got the tick out, what you do is you take a tissue, wrap it around the whole thing and flush it. This should be disinfected with alcohol, soap and water, whatever you would normally use and then you are done.

    At the spot of the tick, where the tick bite was, you want to check and see if it's red or angry, you should take her in to see her vet. If it develops a red or angry sore anytime in the next five days, you should take her in to see her vet because she may need medication for it. For the tick itself, you want to think, geez! she's got a tick, how many others did she have that I didn't find? Imagine if she has some of these little tiny ticks here, especially if they were somewhere like in between her toes or inside the ear, they can be anywhere. It's very easy for dogs to have ticks and you never see them. So, it is important to keep a close eye on them.

    The other thing is, in almost all parts of the United States, dogs should be on tick prevention medication on a monthly basis. Whenever the tick season is in your area, there are certain geographic areas where there are a lot fewer ticks and there are certain areas where certain diseases are much more prevalent and its a very geographic thing like pretty much everybody knows that Lyme disease is a huge problem in New England but we are not in New England and we see a fair amount of Lyme disease here.

    The other thing about ticks and their diseases that they carry is, it's not a static thing, it's changing. There are now several ticks; several different species of ticks that can carry and transmit Lyme disease when they are used to just be one. So, this is a changing thing. We actually find in Northern Virginia, there are five species of ticks that we have here, all in the same spot. There is nothing that you can spread like, say, you have ticks in your yard. There is nothing, no chemicals that you can put on your yard that are strong enough to kill the ticks, they won't kill everything. Ticks are tough and as of yet, the only prevention for ticks is there is a family of medications of drugs that you put on the skin that spreads over the skin and protects the dog. There is no pill, no oral dose of anything that's any good against ticks. They've got that stuff for fleas but not for ticks.

    Next, we are going to cover some grooming tips for dogs.