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How to Tell if Your Dog Has a Tick

Ticks are tiny bugs that like to hide on your dog and feed off its blood. Here's how to tell if your dog has a tick.

Just about every dog owner has heard of ticks and knows these parasites can carry diseases that are dangerous to both dogs and humans. But ticks are good at hiding and can be tough to find, so how do you know if your dog has one?

Regularly search your dog for ticks if they spend time outside in wooded or grassy areas. Ticks are active throughout the year, but are generally more prevalent in the spring, summer and fall.

What Do Ticks Look Like on Dogs?

A tick is tiny — it feels like a hard bump on your dog's skin and is typically a dark brown or black. Depending on the life stage you see, some ticks will have six legs (larvae) or eight legs (nymphs and adults). If they have been on your dog for a while, they might be bloated from feeding on your dog's blood and appear to be a light brown or gray color. In cases like these, a tick can easily be confused with a small skin lump or cyst.

Ticks are typically found near a dog's neck, head, ears, and in the creases under their legs. Most people only notice ticks after the creatures have attached themselves to a dog to blood feed. But it's important to know that when ticks get on a dog, they will often move around the body searching for the best place to bite and blood feed.

A tick attaching itself to a dog’s skin.

Signs Your Dog Has a Tick

If you start seeing the following symptoms, your dog may have a tick somewhere on their body:

  1. Licking and chewing: Your dog may lick and chew at a particular area on its body where the tick is located.
  2. Red, inflamed skin: Sometimes, the skin around the embedded tick can become swollen, inflamed, and red.
  3. Anemia: If a dog, typically a smaller breed dog or puppy, is infested with lots of ticks, the ticks can drink so much blood that the dog becomes anemic. Dogs with ticks may have pale gums and be lethargic.
  4. Scabs: There may be a tick embedded in your dog's skin if you find random scabs on your pet's body.
  5. Head Shaking: Ticks sometimes crawl into a dog's ear canal or latch onto the ear's outer flap, and head shaking may be one indication.
  6. Tick Paralysis: In rare situations, some ticks may inject a toxin into your dog's system while feeding, causing weakness and paralysis of the legs and body. While it's alarming, removing the tick will return function to your dog's body.
  7. Tick disease: If a dog comes down with a tick disease, by the time the owner notices the symptoms the tick will be long gone. That's because tick disease symptoms typically don't present themselves until months after the tick bite. In such cases, you might notice fever, tiredness, shifting lameness, pale gums, and difficulty breathing.
  8. Lyme Disease: This well-known tick-borne disease can cause depression, loss of appetite, fever, swollen lymph nodes, and renal failure.

Try to avoid dealing with ticks by keeping your dog on preventives. If you do find the parasite on your dog, you'll want to carefully remove it. Read more about how to remove a tick from your dog here.

Related articles:
Tick Diseases in Dogs
Flea, Tick & Mosquito Seasonality & Geography

Bayer Products

  • Seresto® for large dogs packaging

    Seresto® for dogs

    An easy-to-use, odorless, non-greasy collar that kills and repels fleas and ticks for 8 months.

    Seresto® for dogs

    Indicated for:

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    FLEAS
    TICKS
    TICKS
    CHEWING LICE
    CHEWING LICE

  • K9 Advantage® II for extra large dogs and large dogs packing

    K9 Advantix® II

    A once-monthly topical application that kills and repels fleas, ticks and mosquitoes.

    Do not use on Cats.

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    Indicated for:

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    FLEAS
    TICKS
    TICKS
    MOSQUITOES
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    BITING FLIES
    BITING FLIES
    CHEWING LICE
    CHEWING LICE

    Do not use on Cats.

  • Advantage® Treatment Spray for dogs

    Advantage® Treatment Spray for dogs

    An on-pet treatment spray that kills and repels fleas, ticks and lice.

    Advantage® Treatment Spray for dogs

    Indicated for:

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    FLEAS
    TICKS
    TICKS
    LICE
    LICE