What does a tick look like on a dog? Identifying ticks

What does a tick look like on a dog? Identifying ticks

As a dog owner, it's important to know what to look for when it comes to ticks. While they're small, these little pests can cause big problems for your furry friend. In this article, we'll take a close look at what ticks look like on dogs and how you can help prevent them from getting one in the first place.


What is a tick?

Ticks are tiny little parasites that feed on animal and human blood, and potentially inject their toxins into the bloodstream. This can cause paralysis, which can cause sickness or fatality if not treated.

Ticks are generally found in hot and humid climates, particularly in bushland or grassy areas at all times of the year. They are very common in Australia, with certain types of ticks being more prevalent in some areas compared to others. 


Types of ticks in Australia

  • Paralysis ticks: These are the most dangerous, and can be fatal due to their toxicity. They are more common on the east coast of Australia. If your dog is bitten by a paralysis tick, it can lead to muscle paralysis. It’s likely they will need to visit an emergency vet clinic urgently. 
  • Brown dog tick: These are very common in Australia. They can’t cause paralysis but can lead to excessive skin irritation. Infected brown dog ticks can also spread ehrlichiosis between dogs, which is a tick-borne disease that becomes noticeable usually after two weeks of infection. 

It’s also possible for them to spread babesiosis, which is another tick-borne disease that invades the red blood cells and causes severe anaemia. 
  • Bush tick: These are an Australian species, also found in most parts of the country. They can cause skin irritation, and also potentially transmit babesiosis


What does a tick look like on a dog?

If you’ve visited a known tick area, make sure to check your pet once you get home. Each of the common ticks looks a little bit different, also depending on if they are unfed or fully fed.

As pictured below, the easiest way to differentiate the paralysis ticks, brown dog ticks, and bush ticks is by colour. This image shows them at fed size, whereas unfed ticks will have a much smaller body. Unfed ticks appear more like tiny spiders and are about the size of a sesame seed. 

Source: The House Call Vet 


To locate a tick, be sure to pat over all their fur to find any bumps or skin texture irregularities. Look between their paws, under their tail and around their ears, mouth and collar, as ticks like to sneakily hide in crevices or where there’s more body heat. 


Symptoms of ticks in dogs

It’s important to be on alert for any tick-related symptoms if you’ve recently located or removed a tick. If you’ve visited a bushy area but haven’t located a tick, it's still best to monitor for any sign that might suggest they have been bitten. 
There are some common symptoms that may imply your dog has been bitten by a tick.

- Vomiting / gagging
- Difficulty breathing
- Refusing food
- Unsteadiness or wobbliness that gets progressively worse

Other common symptoms of a tick bite, that are usually less severe, include excessive licking of a certain area, unusual scabs, skin irritations and unusual head shaking.

If your dog has been bitten by a paralysis tick, then it could be fatal, and you will need to get help immediately. If your vet is closed, thankfully pets also have a 24/7 emergency department.  Call your vet first and they will usually be able to give after-hours help and redirect you to the nearest ED. 

It’s always best to be prepared for these situations, so saving your vet’s contact information or knowing where the closest emergency service is, will assist you in taking quick action when needed. 


How to remove ticks on dogs

You should remove a tick as soon as you find it. Remember they are very small and can be hiding in crevices, such as behind the ears or between toes, so check carefully as there may be more than one.

To safely remove a tick, ensure you’re wearing gloves. Then, if you’re using tweezers, grab the tick as close to the skin as possible without pinching your four-legged friend, and pull out slowly and steadily. If you’re using a tick remover, make sure to follow instructions carefully for a gentle and seamless removal.

Once the tick has been removed, wash your hands and clean the wound with antiseptic. Ensure to clean any equipment you use with alcohol to prevent the spreading of toxins.

Following this, keep an eye out for any symptoms, even for a few days or weeks after removing the tick.  


How to prevent ticks on dogs

To prevent future bites, ensure you check your dog regularly, as well as anyone in the same household, as ticks can jump from host to host. 

There are a number of tick treatments available to protect your four-legged friends. Depending on your dog’s size, breed or age, you can choose from topical or chewable treatment or even a tick collar!

For whichever preventative treatment you choose, application varies from once every few days to once every twelve weeks. It’s best to stay on top of preventative measures in the warmer months, or if you go on regular bush walks with your furry friend. 


Protect your dog from parasitic pests

Protection and prevention from parasitic pests is vital for keeping your dog happy and healthy. Keep your four-legged friend safe and help them avoid those nasty tick bites by taking preventative measures. 

Scriptly offers an extensive range of premium tick treatments. To find out more about tick treatment, or shop some of Australia’s most well-known and trusted brands, click here.