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How to Treat a Tick Bite on a Dog

Removing tick from dog
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Ticks and their bites have the potential to cause unwanted disease and illness in your dog if left untreated. Ticks have been found on every continent, so it’s important to understand how to treat a tick bite on a dog following tick removal.

What Does a Tick Bite Look Like on a Dog?

A tick bite on a dog may appear as a small red bump on your dog’s skin. If your dog was exposed to Lyme disease, the bite may have a round and bull’s-eye type appearance as well. Tick bites are not full of fluid much like general insect bites.

These bites may go unnoticed if you do not check your dog routinely and remove ticks promptly. Begin by checking high-risk areas on your dog, including around and under the collar, the ears, eyelids, armpits, groin, and in between the toe pads. Ticks do not limit themselves to these areas, so be sure to thoroughly scan the remainder of your pet after checking these higher risk sections. 

Run your hands along the base of the dog’s coat of fur, feeling for any bumps or abnormalities. You may feel a scab where a tick may have previously been or may find the tick itself. Ticks can be various shades of gray, brown, and black. They may or may not be engorged (fed), and this causes their size to vary. 

If you do find a tick on your dog, it’s important to remove the tick as quickly as possible. 

How to Treat a Tick Bite on a Dog

Cleaning tick bite on dog

Tick bites typically don’t require a lot of treatment, but it is important to clean the bite and monitor it for signs of disease or infection. Here are the steps for treating a tick bite on a dog.

Step 1: The first part in treating your dog’s tick bite is removal of the tick. It must be removed in its entirety to avoid secondary infections or discomfort to the pet. Removing the tick can be done with either tweezers or a tick-removal tool. Place ticks in alcohol after removal and save them for potential future identification by your veterinarian.

Step 2: After the tick has been removed, or if you notice a new tick bite on your dog, clean the area well with a skin antiseptic made for dogs. 

Step 3: Be sure to clean all instruments involved in the removal process with rubbing alcohol. Wash hands after removal and cleansing of the tick bite area. 

Step 4: Monitor the tick bite. Pay attention to the site of the tick bite for several days following removal and cleaning of the area. Most tick bites should heal once treated over the course of 2 to 5 days, but if the area is persistently red, spreading, or beginning to irritate your pet, consult with your veterinarian. Ticks can carry many unwanted illnesses such as Lyme disease, ehrlichiosis, anaplasmosis, and more, but your dog may not present with symptoms for weeks to months depending on the disease process. That’s why monitoring the bite area and your dog following a tick bit is so important.

Signs of an Infected Tick Bite on a Dog

Woman checking dog tick bite

Some indications that your dog’s tick bite may be infected include increased swelling at the site, pain, and draining of infection through milky (purulent) discharge. 

If you suspect your dog’s tick bite is infected, it is best to contact your veterinary team to determine if a visit is needed or if at-home care with antiseptics and antibiotic ointment may suffice depending on the severity of the infection. 

The way your veterinary team may treat the infected tick bite includes clipping the fur and cleaning the area thoroughly, as well as keeping the pet from traumatizing the area. Oral antibiotics may be sent home if the abscess is advanced enough, but if it is a very small area of local infection, then they may prescribe a higher strength topical treatment. 

Your veterinarian may also discuss screening your dog’s blood for exposure to tick-borne illnesses if they become symptomatic at a later date.

Preventing Ticks on Dogs

Keeping your canine companion on year-round flea and tick preventative medication can greatly reduce the risks for both acute and chronic complications. 

Additional ways that you can help limit your dog’s potential for having ticks include examining them routinely after outdoor activities and limiting time in areas where ticks may be more prevalent, such as in the brush and near trees and tall grasses. 

You may also consider treating your yard or environment with an appropriate pesticide that is safe for dogs to minimize their risk of exposure to ticks. 

With diligent preventive care and observation, you can make tick prevention an easy routine for you and your dog.