One day while attempting to stir your dog from its slumber, you notice a round bump loose on your dog’s skin.
Upon closer inspection, you realize that it isn’t a pebble, nor a piece of kibble- but a tick!
It might have gotten you wondering, “What do I do if an engorged tick fell off my dog?”
What you should do now firstly is to kill the tick using rubbing alcohol, and then to seal it in a container for your vet to examine if necessary.
Then, conduct a thorough examination over your dog’s body and remove any other ticks that you find.
Following that, wash the bite site using disinfectants and provide antibiotics if your dog develops a skin infection.
Generally, after your dog is bitten by ticks, it will most likely continue its day as normal. In more uncommon cases, it may develop inflamed and red skin.
In rare cases, tick-borne diseases such as Lyme disease can be transmitted to your dog. This will usually develop over the course of the next 48 hours.
It is important to keep an eye on your dog after finding and removing ticks and look for signs of anything more serious. Immediately consult with your vet if there are abnormal changes in behavior and appetite.
When an engorged tick falls off a dog, some may develop inflamed and red skin while others might not experience any adverse symptoms at all. During the initial few hours, there should be no significant changes to your dog’s health.
What happens to the engorged tick itself when it falls off will largely depend on the stage of life cycle it is currently in.
Most larvae, nymphs and some adult ticks will conceal itself to finish its bloody meal. During and after it has finished its meal, larvae and nymph ticks will molt and grow as they wait to feed on its next host.
When an adult female tick falls off, it may have mated and laid its eggs and is likely to die in a hidden area.
Adult male ticks typically fall off and die after mating. However some ticks, such as the brown dog tick, may live for a few months longer.
If the tick falls off in relatively dry environments such as inside a home, it will gradually lose water due to evaporation. After a few weeks or so in dry environments, it is highly likely to die from desiccation.
In some cases, ticks such as the brown dog tick will survive in drier environments and as a result have the ability to cause an infestation within your home.
It is very unlikely for ticks to die while they are engorged as they are either dormant, feeding or mating.
On the off-chance the tick does die when it is still engorged, do not fret and simply remove it. A dead tick generally does not transmit any diseases unless you squish its body.
Engorged ticks will generally die when anti-tick treatments are applied. However, this is sometimes not recommended as direct application of anti-tick sprays and ointments can agitate the tick to release disease-carrying saliva.
If you find one engorged tick on your dog, chances are that there will be more!
Check for any other ticks on your dog’s body, such as around the face, torso, legs, anal region and so on. You can use a tick comb or hair dryer to expose any ticks that might be on your dog.
After locating the ticks, manually remove them immediately using tweezers or other tick-specific products.
Do not use alcohol or Vaseline directly as this can make the tick hold more firmly onto the skin, or to regurgitate vomit or saliva that may carry diseases. You should also not burn or squish the tick.
If you delay the removal of engorged ticks, it can increase the risk of diseases being transmitted from the tick to your dog.
Before starting the removal, you have ready a tick kit containing items such as:
- A tick remover, such as tweezers, tick key or tick twister
- A container to store the tick temporarily, or a small plastic bag
- Rubbing (isopropyl) alcohol
- Antibiotic or antiseptic ointments
- Cotton balls
Latex gloves should be worn at all times so any fluids do not end up on your skin.
1. Use tweezers to firmly hold onto the tick’s body as close to the skin as possible. Gradually pull out the tick in the same angle as it went in.
2. If some of the tick’s mouth parts are stuck, remove it using the tweezers. If you are unable to remove the remaining parts, contact your vet as they may suggest to leave it alone instead.
3. Once the tick is removed, apply soap and water or any other disinfectants to the bite.
4. Wrap the tick within an airtight bag and note down the time and location of the bite.
If any abnormal symptoms begin to appear, the tick can be examined at your vet for any disease it could be carrying. You can also take a picture of the tick so your vet can identify any potential illnesses associated with particular species.
5. Kill the tick by wrapping it in tape or submerging in rubbing alcohol. It is not recommended to flush it down the toilet as some will survive and infest other places.
6. Trim the hair around the tick bite as it will make it easier to spot any changes such as skin redness or rashes.
After removing the tick, you can:
- Apply anti-tick products, such as flea and tick collars and sprays for your dog
- Vacuum the floor to eradicate any ticks that may be lying around. You can also vacuum nearby furniture, ceiling and walls
- Hire pest control to remove all ticks to prevent another infestation if you spot ticks around your home
Over the next few days, monitor your dog’s general behavior, temperature and appetite. If there are any abnormalities, you should consult with your vet to see if your dog is a victim of a one of the diseases that ticks carry.
An examination may reveal potential illnesses such as Lyme disease, encephalitis or piroplasmosis. These diseases can be carried by ticks and can take up to 48 hours before the disease is fully transmitted.
Lyme disease is one of the most common conditions transmitted by ticks and can cause symptoms such as:
- Loss of appetite
- Swollen joints
- Swollen lymph nodes
A range of diseases transmittable by ticks can be found on the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention page here.
To prevent future tick infestations, you can:
- Apply tick treatment such as tick collars
- Use tick repellent such as diatomaceous earth which is an all natural, non-toxic powder for ticks
- Regularly examine your dog particularly when ticks are most active such as during warmer seasons
- Clean up or avoid areas where ticks are likely to infest
- Routinely brush your dog’s hair with products such as a tick comb
You should never try to kill an engorged tick while it is still attached to your dog as it will cling more firmly onto the skin when it detects any danger. In this state, it is also more likely to release saliva that may contain diseases.
If you can, always try to manually remove the tick first before killing it.
Several ways of killing ticks after being removed include:
- Using alcohol: Submerging the tick in rubbing alcohol will slowly kill the parasite
- Using Tape: Wrapping the tick in tape will cause it to die from desiccation or suffocation
- Spraying or applying tick products
Changes in temperature are unlikely to kill an engorged tick, and flushing a tick down a toilet may allow it to survive and infest other areas.
If an engorged tick fell off your dog, you should firstly remove it, and then kill the tick using alcohol, tape or anti-tick products to prevent it from re-infecting another animal or person.
Do a thorough examination of your dog afterwards as there could be multiple ticks present. If any other ticks are found, remove them immediately using tweezers.
If possible, try to keep at least one tick within a sealed container so that if there are any changes in your dog’s behavior or appetite over the next few days, your vet will be able to examine the tick for possible diseases.
Tick bites generally will not cause anything beyond inflammation and skin redness in dogs. However, it is always better to be prepared for the worse case scenario!