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Ticks on Dogs -The Complete Guide

Ticks on dogs? Get to know the ticking time bomb in the backyard and get rid of those tenacious ticks before they hitch a ride on your healthy dog. What to do when your dog gets bitten and prevent any further infection with our complete guide on tick control. Get rid of ticks on your dog before they hitch a ride on your healthy friend.


Posted by bravectosouthafrica - 26 September 2019

Guide to Ticks on Dogs in South Africa

What Causes Ticks on Dogs?

South Africa’s long grass, rural plots and rodents help ticks thrive. Generally, these teeny pests prefer a humid and moisture-rich environment, but some species have adapted to different settings. That’s why you’re more likely to find infestations in or around your home after rainfall. These small crawlers form part of the arachnid family, which makes the spider a distant cousin. To avoid an encounter with this blood-feeding pest, keep lawns mowed, houses vacuumed and check for the signs of ticks on dogs.

Where Do Ticks Come From?

Pinpointing different tick species to specific regions in South Africa is tricky, as most of our country’s ticks can live in various environments throughout the country. But these vampiric critters have a preference for moisture-rich and warm locations. Ticks prosper in the rainy season and pet owners may notice a steep increase in the pest community overnight.

Ticks generally live outdoors in grassy and woody areas, but some species (like the brown tick) have adjusted to cool climates and can survive indoors, which is, frankly, too close for comfort. To climb on to a host, these tiny terrors sit on the tips of grass blades or bushes and patiently wait to hitch a ride on a foot or paw.

Luckily, these blood-sucking bugs can’t fly or jump and are easily thwarted. With preventive measures, your whole household, even pawed family members, are safe from climbing creepy crawlies.

Where Do Ticks Come From

Different Types of Ticks on Dogs in South Africa

More than 800 tick species make up the tick family. As identifying one tick from another is tough, keep the tick that bit your dog in a jar for the vet inspection if your pup gets sick. Your veterinarian can inspect the specimen and determine whether it was a carrier of a disease.

The many tick species in the world can be divided into two groups, namely hard ticks and soft ticks. Soft ticks have a raisin-like body and favour poultry and bats above larger mammals like dogs and cats. Hard ticks have a hard shield-like cover over their bodies, and unfed, they can look like a flat seed.

In South Africa, there are many types of ticks, but when it comes to identifying ticks on dogs, the chances are that it’s a yellow or brown dog tick.

Types of Ticks on Dogs

South African Yellow Dog Tick

Haemaphysalis elliptica

The South African yellow dog tick is eyeless and has an orange or yellow body. The edge of the tick’s body has small but prominent indents. Their mouthparts (the section that looks like a head) are short and triangular. These ticks prefer to attach to the upper part of an animal, the head, shoulders and neck in particular. Dogs in the eastern part of South Africa are more at risk, especially in regions that get heavy rainfall.

South African Yellow Dog Tick Quick Facts

  1. Three-host tick
  2. Yellow or orange
  3. Eyeless
  4. Can lay 5000 eggs within two weeks
  5. Present from winter to spring
  6. Causes Babesiosis (Biliary)

Kennel Tick AKA Brown Dog Tick

Rhipicephalus sanguineus

The kennel tick is seed-shaped with a smooth, yet indented, reddish-brown body. When the tick has fed, its body wall becomes salmon pink. This pest has clear eyes and slightly rounded mouthparts that make engorging possible anywhere on an animal’s body. Unfortunately for dogs, these ticks prefer canine hosts to any other. Pups throughout the country are at risk as the kennel tick flourishes in kennels and home environments.

Brown Dog Tick Quick Facts

  1. Three-host tick with a preference for dogs
  2. Yellowish or reddish-brown
  3. Distinct, convex eyes
  4. Can lay 5000 eggs within two months
  5. Adapts well to most, except desert-like, conditions
  6. Causes canine ehrlichiosis

Different ticks on a grey surface there are yellow grey and green dog ticks

Other Types of Ticks That Feed on
Humans and Other Mammals

Bont Tick
Large Coarse Bont-legged Tick
Small Smooth Bont-legged Tick
Karoo Paralysis Tick Ixodes rubicundus
Location Bushy and long grassland areas through South Africa, with dominance on the coast Throughout South Africa, except the Western Cape, eastern Free State, Lesotho and coastal regions In most regions of South Africa, except parts of Gauteng, Free State, KwaZulu-Natal and Eastern Cape In mountainous veld and cool hilly regions of the Free State, Karoo, Gauteng and Mpumalanga
Vector for Heartwater
African Tick Bite Fever
R. conorii (humans)
Congo Haemorrhagic fever (humans)
Can cause lameness
R. conorii (humans)
Skin necrosis
Congo Haemorrhagic fever (humans)
Can cause lameness
Female may carry a toxin that causes paralysis
Identification Medium to large dark brown tick with clearly banded legs, long mouthparts and a pattern that resembles tortoiseshell (males) Large, dark brown or almost black body with a coarse body wall and brightly banded ivory and brown legs Dark brown, glossy, narrow and indented body with banded brown legs Reddish-brown body with long mouthparts and thin tucked legs

A dog with a high fever lying in bed with his eyes closed can be a sign of ticks on dogs

Spot the Signs of a Tick Bite on Dogs:
Symptoms of Tick Fever (Biliary) in Dogs

Whether the tick is on your dog and you can’t find it, or it’s plopped off, there are symptoms of tick fever you can look out for in case of an emergency. If you know the signs by heart, you can avoid a potentially disastrous situation. Know that the symptoms listed below don’t constitute a diagnosis. If you suspect your pet is ill, take him or her to the vet.

  • Fever
  • Jaundice (yellowish tongue, gums or eyes)
  • Lacking energy
  • Loss of appetite
  • Dark-coloured urine
  • Weight loss
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Anaemia (white or pale gums)
  • Abnormal eating behaviour (eating dirt or concrete)
  • Vomiting or regurgitation
  • Unsteadiness
  • High blood pressure

Nail showing the types of ticks in South Africa – adult female adult male nymph and larva

Top Tick Threat in SA

The yellow and brown dog ticks are the most common pests that can transfer life-threatening diseases to their canine hosts. In particular, babesiosis and canine ehrlichiosis are the top infections to look out for.

Babesiosis, (also known as tick fever or biliary fever), causes haemolytic anaemia as babesia parasites break down red blood cells. Diagnosis may be tricky as some pets may not have any symptoms. If left untreated, a dog may need a blood transfusion and hospitalisation.

Canine Ehrlichiosis (also known as tropical canine pancytopaenia, typhus, canine haemorrhagic fever, tracker dog disease and canine rickettsiosis), can also affect humans and occurs in three stages: acute (lasting a few weeks), subclinical (can last a lifetime), and chronic (possibly fatal).

The chronic, and most severe, stage of canine typhus suppresses bone marrow and can lead to kidney disease, neurological and eye disorders, lameness, bleeding and pancytopaenia.

In all cases, prevention is the best option. If you find a tick on yourself, take care to remove the whole tick slowly with a pair of tweezers.

Did you know that Bravecto® gets rid of ticks on dogs, and also keeps your pup safe from pests like ticks for up to 4 months? Protection with Bravecto® Chews lasts for 12 weeks and Bravecto® Spot-On lasts 4 months. Have a look at the video below to learn more about effective tick control.

video img

3 Step Guide on How to Prevent Ticks on Dogs

Tick prevention for dogs is vital to control infestation and trips to the vet. If you take preventive measures, you can go on an adventure with your pup and know he’ll be safe from ticks during and after your trip. Go on the offence, and fight ticks on their ground before they breach your home.

Tick-proof Your Property

Prep your property to shoo away an unwanted visitor, the tick. Start with the perimeter of your property. Scatter or spray preventative tick spray around your home and areas that previously housed ticks. Ticks may prefer to find another safe zone, away from your property when they detect pesticide.

It’s important to maintain and mow the lawn and frequently vacuum your home to disuade ticks from making your home their home. Also, try to keep the yard neat and tidy. Your constant efforts may clear up possible tick hiding spots.

Check Your Pup Daily

Run your hands through your dog’s fur every day, and pay particular attention to the tick hotspots. Check your dog’s face, neck, ears, toes (in between), groin and tail area, and under his front legs. Ticks crawling on a dog’s coat can be brushed off and disposed of by smothering it in alcohol or soapy water.

Routine Medication or Treatment for Tick Protection

There is a wide variety of available tick treatments for dogs. Discuss your treatment options with your vet, especially if your pet has allergies or skin conditions. Tick prevention that lasts for months as opposed to a week or two is ideal as extended protection is the best way to decrease the risk of your dog getting a tick-borne disease.

The most popular tick treatment for dogs available includes the following:

  • Oral medication like Bravecto® Chews
  • Spot-On Treatment (Bravecto® Spot-On lasts for 4 months)
  • Anti-tick shampoo
  • Tick dips
  • Powders
  • Tick sprays
  • Tick collar

Vet showing how to find ticks on a dog on an examination table

How to Find Ticks on Dogs

Ticks love humid places. So, it’s no wonder that they’re most prevalent in a dog’s nooks and not out in the open. Incorporate a tick search into your dog’s daily grooming and petting sessions.

You can use a dense bristle brush, that can remove small ticks, to comb your doggo twice a day. As for the large ticks, run your hands through your dog’s fur to find them. Part the dog’s hair at prime tick real estate, like paws and behind ears.

Double-check a tick’s top feeding areas. Here are the tick bite hot spots on a dog:

Where to look for ticks on dogs

How to remove ticks from dogs with tweezers

How to Remove a Tick From a Dog

If you face an infestation, you might want to try to remove a tick from a dog with Vaseline, but don’t. Vaseline and other remedies, like burning a tick’s body with a match, are no-good because they can cause a tick to dig deeper into the skin.

Getting rid of ticks on dogs requires a pair of tweezers or a special tick-removing tool, and gloves. Follow these steps to ensure you banish the crawling threat from your home:

  1. Put on disposable gloves to shield your hands from infectious bacteria. Alternatively, protect your hands with tissue paper. Pets can carry harmful agents that they’re immune to, but that can lead to disease in humans.
  2. Grab a fine-tipped pair of tweezers or a special tick removal tool.
  3. Use the tweezers to pinch the tick on a dog as close to the skin as possible to avoid leaving the tick head stuck on the dog.
  4. If you’re using tweezers, pull the tick out slowly and steadily. With continual pressure, the tick will release eventually, but the process may take a few minutes. A pair of tick twisters and a tick key are specific tools that make tick removal easy but you must remain cautious and careful not to twist or jerk a tick violently as this will dislodge its mouthparts and lead to infection.
  5. Disinfect the bite area and your hands.
  6. Put the tick in a jar with alcohol to preserve it for identification if your dog exhibits signs of vector-disease. Add a note or sticker with the date and details of the incident to help your vet or physician if the need arises.

Person with blue gloves holding a clear container that has ticks in shows how to kill ticks

How to Kill Ticks on Dogs

Now that you’ve got the pesky critters off of your pawed family member, you can move on to removing it for good. Tick protection will kill ticks, but to make sure that they are dead, you can smother the culprit in alcohol or place it in an airtight container.

Flushing ticks down the toilet isn’t as effective because they don’t drown easily. Alcohol is the most effective method for killing ticks.

Woman smiling and holding her puppy on a field thinking about how to prepare for tick season

Be Prepared for Tick Season

Ticks are prevalent throughout the year, but when temperatures heat up, they truly thrive. Although tick season extends from spring to autumn, you should protect your dog from infestation for the whole year.

Some tick species have acclimatised to cooler climates, which make them particularly tricky to avoid outdoors as well as indoors. As no one can predict when a tick will latch on to a human, canine or feline host, it’s best to incorporate preventative measures into your routine.

How Does Bravecto® Tick Control Work?

Bravecto® has two potent products that kill and remove ticks. These treatments last three times longer than other tick control and provide long-lasting protection for your dog (and cat). Protect your pup with these easy-to-administer treatments:

Bravecto® Chews

Let your dog lap up one dose of Bravecto® Chew by adding it to your dog’s food or feed it to him as you would a treat. The tick-killing product enters an animal’s bloodstream and effectively kills ticks on dogs within 12 hours. This killing effect will last for 12 weeks, which means pet owners only have to treat 4 times a year and have peace of mind for longer.

Bravecto® Spot-On

Bravecto® Spot-On treatment is administered on the skin between a pet’s shoulders. One dose can eliminate ticks (for 4 months) and fleas (for 6 months). Within 12 hours, Bravecto® Spot-On kills 100% of ticks on dogs.

Learn more about Bravecto® products or find a stockist near you and protect your pets today!

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