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Ticks - Identification, Treatment

Ticks are creepy, crawly, unwanted visitors on any dog. Not only are they gross, but they also can carry serious diseases. There are several species that vary in appearance, but all of the adults are small and round, with eight legs. All ticks feed exclusively on the blood of vertebrates.

There are two families of ticks: hard ticks and soft ticks. They have four stages in their life: egg, larva, nymph and adult. Mating usually occurs while adult ticks are on the body of the host animal. The female then drops to the ground and deposits her eggs. When they are at the larvae stage they are called "seed ticks" with six legs. They attach themselves to a host, after receiving a blood meal, they drop to the ground and emerge as eight legged nymphs. Ticks prefer to attach themselves to the dog's head, ears, neck or paws. Usually, dogs with ticks show little irritation and the tick is mistaken for a growth on the dog's skin

Many tick species can be carried indoors on animals, but cannot complete their entire life cycle inside. Once an infestation occurs inside a home, it can grow very rapidly. Typically, a few ticks are brought into the house or from an infested kennel, open field or other place where infested dogs have been located. After the ticks have engorged on a blood meal, they drop form the host and seek some protected situation in the immediate surroundings. For this reason, they may be found behind baseboards, under window and door moldings, in window pulley openings, or in furniture. All cracks and crevices in an infested premise must be treated for good control.

If you happen to find a tick on your dog, they can usually be removed with forceps or large tick tweezers. The tick's head should be grasped as close to the dog's skin as possible. Remove the tick with a gentle, but firm, pull. If you feel uncomfortable with pulling the tick out, try painting the tick with nail polish remover (acetone). The tick should release and drop off -- just be sure to destroy it when it does! Do not attempt to burn the tick off with a hot match.

If ticks have become a problem in your home, the infested house and/or kennel should be thoroughly cleaned in order to eliminate as many ticks as possible. Vacuuming is very helpful inside. Pet bedding and pet areas should be cleaned well. Residual insecticide sprays and dusts should be applied carefully to all potential tick harborage areas.

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