Ticks are blood-sucking parasites. Most live in damp areas on plants and climb onto animals from time to time to feed. Your dog can pick them up on their coat whilst running in long grass or woodland. Once on your pet they take a big bite of skin and hang on!
When the tick first gets on to your pet it will be small (about the size of a pin head) but as they suck blood they start to swell and within a few days they will be the size of a pea. This is often when you will notice them and they can be mistaken for a bluish wart or growth. Once the tick has finished feeding it will let go and drop off your dog of its own accord after about a week. Most ticks found on dogs are sheep and deer ticks.
Whilst ticks are feeding, the skin around them reacts and can get quite sore. Sometimes the skin becomes infected. Ticks can also carry some diseases, e.g. Lyme disease, and pass them on to your dog.
Most animals will not remove the tick themselves even if it is making them sore. The longer the tick stays on your pet the more sore the skin will get. If there are only one or two ticks on your pet then you can try to remove them yourself. However, if there are more then you should see your vet for help. It is essential to take great care removing ticks to ensure that the tick jaws are not broken off and left in your pet’s skin. If they are they can cause a serious infection or skin reaction (tick granuloma).
If you are not sure if you can remove a tick correctly, get your vet to show you how to do it.
The head and jaws of the tick must be removed from the skin along with the tick’s body. You may well have had plenty of advice from well-meaning friends about the best way to remove a tick, e.g. burn it off with a cigarette end, suffocate it with butter, etc. Your vet will be able to give you a spray or ‘spot-on’ solution that can be applied to your pet’s skin to kill the ticks. Once dead ticks will drop off of their own accord. The only reliable method to physically remove a tick is to grasp it as close as possible to your pet’s skin, with a pair of tweezers and twist and pull firmly away from the skin whilst rocking it back and forth gently. There are specially designed tick-removers that are very effective.