Monday, June 6, 2016

Dogs and ticks: A 3-step plan to protect your pooch

Sinead the Boston terrier sitting outside

For Boston terriers like Sinead (and many other types of dogs, I'd wager), summertime means sun time. Sinead starts begging me to let her outside at about 8 in the morning, and she'll stay out there all day long, moving from sun to shade as the mood strikes. She is an outdoor dog when the weather is nice.

All of that time outside is great for her mood, and it can also help her to burn a few calories, as she tends to move around from place to place during the day (where she'd just park it in her bed all day, if she was inside).

But there are some dangers lurking in the yard. And recently, I've become aware of just how significant those dangers really are.

I'm talking about ticks. While they're not as prevalent here as they are in other parts of the country, there certainly are ticks in many wooded places. And last summer, when my yard was dominated by a decaying 20-foot-tall holly tree, we had plenty of ticks in the yard. That tree is gone now, thankfully. But I can't let my guard down.

Recently, Oregon made headlines when a collie was diagnosed with a very rare form of tick paralysis. She was heading to the euthanasia table for prep, as her owners thought she'd had some type of stroke or medical emergency, and during a final pat-down and cuddle by the medical team, an embedded tick was found. When that tick was removed, this collie improved. (Read more about that miraculous story here.)

Ticks can be dangerous at any time, but they're especially worrisome when they've been allowed to keep close contact for long periods. That's when things like tick paralysis and Lyme disease become real concerns. And thankfully, there's a 3-step process you can follow to prevent it.

Sinead the Boston terrier in the sun

Step one: Scan your dog's body for ticks with your eyes every day 

Ticks can be as small as a grain of sand when they're newly attached to your dog's body. We Boston terrier people are lucky, because these tiny ticks tend to gravitate toward hairless parts of our dog's bodies, including the armpits, the ears and the groin.

Every day, when Sinead is back inside from her adventure, I look her over from head to foot and poke and prod at any little speckle that seems unusual.

Step two: Brush or bathe your dog to flush out ticks

A visual check works great on a semi-hairless dog, but some pups have way too much fur blocking the skin view. Liam the pug, for example, has far too much hair to allow me to see his skin. But, I can use a brush to examine his body. A very fine-toothed brush like a flea comb will get right down to his skin. If I feel a bump with the brush, I know something is going on.

Baths can also be a lifesaver for very hairy dogs. When a pup is wet, all of that blocking fur is easier to push aside. A visual check or a comb check that follows a bath could be all you need.

Step three: Remove ticks from your dog the right way 

If you do spot a tick, grab its body with tweezers. Make sure you have those tweezers as close to your dog's body as you can. Then, pull up with steady and firm pressure. The tick will probably still be alive when you're done. Put it in alcohol or just flush it. Then, wipe down the bite with alcohol.

If you're finding tons of ticks on your dogs every single day, it's best to talk with a veterinarian about prevention options. There are topical medications you can use to prevent ticks. In addition, there are some natural sprays you can use on dogs that spend a lot of time outside. I've reviewed this product in the past, and I quite like it.

But, it's also a good idea to put on your sleuthing cap and figure out where the ticks are coming from in your yard. That big holly was the culprit in my yard, and that's why it came out. There could be a similar nest you could remove in your yard, which would make your prevention work a ton easier.

So that's it! Any tips I missed? I'd love to hear them. Shoot me a note in the comments!


  1. Pug is very much NOT outdoorsy, so ticks aren't a huge concern for us. But you never know. I've gotten a tick before and I'm not very outdoorsy either! There is a nifty little tool call the Tick Twister that is supposed to help you remove them safely and completely. Pretty cheap and a good idea to have on hand!

  2. I use advantix for my dog-he is nearly 17 years old-never has had a tick! I think th e advantage products are excellent, I've had many animals, never any problems. And no external parasites!

  3. Tick-borne diseases are so scary. Our cats are indoors-only, but we always check our clothes for ticks before coming in the house!

  4. I haven't had to worry about ticks with our dog, but this is still very good info to know, just in case.

  5. A friend of mine her dog has Lyme disease! It's so sad :(
    Thank you for these awesome tips!