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Main Content

Ticks 101: A Quick Guide

Pets need help in the battle against ticks! These pests not only carry diseases specific to their species, but they can pick up diseases from deer, birds and dogs, and then pass back these diseases to more deer, birds, dogs and people!

They can find hosts by detecting a dog’s breath, smells and some can even sense the shadow of an approaching meal.

Ticks wait in position on a stick or bush, holding on with a few of their legs while their other legs are stretched out waiting for a dog to walk by. When the host animal comes near enough, they’ll grab onto it and then pick a tender spot where they’ll insert their feeding tube. Many have an anesthetic type substance in their saliva, so dogs don’t even feel them bite!

Ticks have four life stages, can take up to three years to mature and one female can lay 1,000 eggs!

Most of us have heard of Lyme disease, and there are many more tick borne illnesses that can affect your dog as well as humans. Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Ehrichosis, and Anaplasmosis are just a few.

There is no way to know if a tick is carrying a disease, and just one tick bite can deliver a devastating infection. To make it worse, some ticks carry multiple diseases. And, many of these illnesses can be contracted by both humans and pets.

Three common tick-borne illnesses and symptoms:

1. Lyme disease: Carried by the Deer tick and blacklegged tick. Dogs may not show symptoms right away and may later develop joint pain and fatigue resulting in leg lameness and reluctance to move about. These ticks are often found in the Northeast, mid-Atlantic and North-Central states and California. And Lyme disease can infect both humans and dogs.
2. Rocky Mountain spotted fever: Carried by the American Dog tick and the Lone Star tick, it’s found throughout the U.S. and Canada and is most common in the Rocky Mountain states, California and the Southeast. Canine symptoms include arthritis-like stiffness, neurological problems and sometimes death. This can affect both people and dogs.
3. Canine Ehrlichiosis: This is transmitted by the Brown Dog tick, with symptoms including lameness, bruising of the gums and belly, loss of appetite, spontaneous nosebleeds and runny eyes. This disease is wide spread throughout the U.S., specifically concentrated in the Southwest and Gulf Coast areas, but also north to Massachusetts and west to Oklahoma.

Use appropriate prevention

1. Know the tick species and tick risk in your area.
2. Keep your dog’s favorite areas free of debris like dead brush and leaves where ticks may thrive.
3. Talk to your veterinarian about Lyme disease vaccinations and about having your dog tested annually for tick borne illnesses. This way if your dog tests positive, he can be treated before becoming symptomatic. Antibiotic treatments are most often prescribed.
4. Use tick repellants, collars or treatments.
5. Check for ticks by feeling for lumps. Ticks can range in size from tiny to the size of a large pea. Be sure to feel between your pet’s toes, around his tail, under his armpits, and in his ears. If you feel a lump, look to see if it’s a tick, which may range in color from black to brown to grey.

What if you find one?

1. If you find a tick attached to your pet, you may want to take him to your veterinarian so they can show you how to safely remove ticks.
2. Don’t use “home remedies” like a hot match, nail polish or Vaseline to remove the tick.
3. Do wear rubber gloves to keep yourself safe and then follow these simple steps:
• With small tweezers grasp the tick close to its head near the dog’s skin
• Gently pull the tick away from the skin and try not to squish or pop it, which might spread infection
• Dispose of the tick by flushing it down the toilet
• Wash your dog’s skin with soap and water

Ticks are abundantly around us as part of nature. But with knowledge and focused attention, we can help keep our four-legged and two-legged family safe in the battle against ticks.