IXODES CANIS (the Dog Tick)

These don't pass direct from dog to human but they are on the increase, they carry nasty infectious diseases and when attached to your dog (they look like a small wart or when fully engorged with your dog's blood like a grape hanging from the skin) and can cause infection round the bite wound which can irritate the dog especially when somebody pats that area.

...until we bought property up north in Michigan's upper peninsula I had only seen one once - it was mailed to me by a puppy owner in Oklahoma so I'd know what they look like. Apparently where we lived (while in the "country") wasn't country enough.  I knew nothing about ticks and had to learn fast - especially when one attached itself to my back and not knowing what I was doing, ripped it off screaming, freaking out and flinging the little bugger into the air.  Ok, this was WAR - no more hysterics.  I needed to find out everything I could about this tiny enemy because they apparently carry many diseases and not knowing what to do when you find one can make a huge difference in whether you or your dog gets those creepy diseases. Fortunately, the ticks here in Michigan aren't nearly as big as the ones in Oklahoma...

The first thing I learned was - don't yank it off screaming and freaking.  Well, you can scream, but there is a specific way to remove ticks so they don't leave creepy things like their mouth parts and saliva in you or your dog.  I have learned to SWEAR by a little plastic thing called a 'tick twister'....easy to use, cheap, and it gets 'em out every time. I highly recommend this little gadget as burning, dish soap, plucking and other methods are messier and do not work nearly as well....(I mean, if you have a tick on you, do you really want to be looking for matches? I keep a tick twister in my cell phone case so it's always with me....works great and I know exactly where it is when I'm freaking out because a dog or myself has a tick!)

Ticks tend to be more active during warmer months, though this varies by geographic region and climate. Areas with woods, bushes, high grass, or leaf litter are likely to have more ticks. Those bitten commonly experience symptoms such as body aches, fever , fatigue , joint pain , or rash. People can limit their exposure to tick bites by wearing light-colored clothing (including pants and long sleeves), using insect repellent with 20%–30% DEET, tucking their pant legs into their socks, checking for ticks frequently, and washing and drying their clothing (in a hot dryer). One of the most common places to acquire ticks is when you sit down on a log in the woods...the percentage rate of acquiring ticks this way is very high.  So much for a relaxing respite in the woods...

Ticks live on the ground and in foliage, waiting for an animal or bird to wander by so they can attach and feed off it's blood. 

Fleas and ticks do NOT have to bite your pet for Frontline Brand Products to work and Frontline is one of the best defenses you have for pets. Frontline kills fleas and ticks if they simply come into contact with your pet's hair coat. And it does make a difference.  We took several of the dogs up north with us for a few days but didn't treat Holly because she was already quite sick and we didn't want to push her "over the edge" with more chemicals.  Not one dog - except Holly - had a tick on them.  I think I got the infamous tick I mentioned above from cuddling with Holly before she died.  It probably figured I was a much healthier and tasty host.  So if you live in Tick country, Frontline does a pretty good job in my opinion.Courtesy of P. Forsythe www.vetdermreferrals.co.uk

That being said a comparison study of Frontline Plus versus K-9 Advantix and Advantage shows at 28 days K-9 Advantix lost about 50% of it's efficiency at killing fleas versus a 5% efficiency loss in Frontline Plus. In this study dogs were treated with one of three products (Frontline Plus, K-9 Advantix, or Advantage). The dogs were then exposed to 100 live unfed fleas on days 6, 13, 20 and 27. Flea counts were taken on the dogs on days 7, 14, 21 and 28. Frontline Plus maintained a flea killing efficiency of over 95% during the study period. K-9 Advantix dropped to 70% by day 14 and to 50% by day 28. I have also heard stories of dogs being poisoned by K-9 Advantix. The permethrin (one of the 2 active ingredients in K-9 advantix) causes poisonings in cats and dogs who lick themselves. The permethin is also used in a lot of grocery store brand flea products like Hartz whose products almost killed my sister's Lab years ago.  So I am not a fan of Hartz Mountain products - particularly their flea and tick products. Also, avoid Trifexis...and it's clones...it's killing dogs right and left. One of our puppy owners pups had SEVERE seizures on it, and fortunately was taken off it quickly so there was no lasting damage - but it's NASTY stuff. Don't use it!

In a high tick prone area, to be most effective, do not go more than 4 weeks between doses. You should apply it in one spot between the shoulder blades. Do not bathe or wet the dog for a minimum of 2 days after treating. You also might want to dust the yard with D- earth. I've found that to work quite well. In the spring when the yard is pure mud, and we'll use mulch to cover the mud - it comes with a nice assortment of ticks. So I'll dust the yard with D-earth and within 2 days, no more ticks - best part is it's all natural - nothing that can compromise even a sick dog.

Ouch...one got me anyway

Ok, so you did everything right but SOMEHOW a tick got attached to your dog's body.  YUCK!  At least it's not on YOUR body.  Your dog probably doesn't even feel it - as the tick inserts an anesthetic when it bites so he will not even know its there.  Refrain from freaking out (as I did) when you find one, and hunt down a pair of tweezers or your ever present tick-twister. You want to remove it as fast as possible because the longer it's attached, the more likelihood of getting any diseases it harbors. Most illnesses are not transmitted until 24-48 hrs. after attachment.  Some illnesses are only transmitted by ingesting the tick so you want to remove it before the dog finds it and bites at it.

Grab the tick without squishing it and pull it out slowly - the whole idea is you don't want it to throw up any saliva back into your dog.  The tick twister does this automatically. Because they carry such nasty diseases (see below), wear surgical gloves if possible.  Remove the ticks as soon as you find them.  Your first instinct is to kill it, but I have heard that killing the tick first is not always a good idea because when it dies it regurgitates - so don't burn or put something on it to kill it first.

  1. Wear gloves to protect you from infected tick saliva
  2. Clasp the tick's head with a pair of tweezers and pull straight back. (do NOT grab the body)
  3. Never twist the tick during removal.
  4. If any parts remain, get rid of them with a sterilized needle as you would a splinter.
  5. Place the tick into a container of rubbing alcohol to preserve it for identification.
  6. Wipe all bite sites with soap and water, then apply alcohol and antibiotic ointment.
  7. Dispose of gloves & wash hands thoroughly.
  8. Record the date.
  9. Provide your vet with tick specimens for identification
  10. Area may remain irritated for days.

The reason your vet or doctor wants to see the tick is because  the kind of tick it is will determine what diseases it carries.  I found the coolest product as well to remove ticks... http://www.otom.com/otom-tick-twister-hook .  They shipped fast from outside the US, it's cheap $9.99, and what I like is I don't have to fumble around with tweezers - this thing just grabs the tick and gets it out without my touching it.  I am ALL FOR not touching it - even with gloves on! 

Some tick diseases may not show up for weeks or months following exposure.  Watch the dog for fever, lethargy, diarrhea, loss of appetite, swelling, lameness or any other changes in behavior, appearance or well being.  If Lyme disease is prevalent in your area, you may even want to vaccinate for it.

So How do you FIND these miserably tiny things on a Malamute???pup

Run your hand through their fur backwards, so the hair is parted. It makes it easier to see. Also check the places ticks normally go (ears, armpits, back, paw pads). Ticks generally travel upward. Typical places where the nasty pests reside include the base of the tail, face, ears, underbelly, and armpits. A fine toothed comb will catch on places where a tick may be,  so using one of those after a bath in dawn dish soap works good for short coated dogs, though not very practical with a Malamute's thick coat. I can't get a fine tooth comb through my dogs' fur unless they have just gone through a major coat blow.  Some people use a hair dryer to part the fur and that seems like the best method to me. The fur will part wherever you point the dryer, and the ticks will be easy to see.  It's recommended you check the dog at least once a week for ticks - more often if they've been hanging around tick-infested woods. As ticks feed they also tend to get bigger - but the down side is the longer they are on the dog, the more likelihood of their passing along diseases - so you don't want to wait until they've eaten a few meals even if they are fatter and easier to see.

If it's too late and your Malamute already "removed" the tick (and left the head in), you should clean the skin around the bite with rubbing alcohol to reduce the risk of infection and continue to keep it clean. Eventually your dog’s body should form a hard layer of skin around the bite. The hard lump is the body's way of quarantining the foreign object (the tick's head). Eventually as the skin dies and regenerates, the lump will eventually just fall off. This will occur after several weeks or months. Apply a bit of Vitamin E to the site once a day if you'd like, although this isn't mandatory. If at any time the bite becomes inflamed or appears to be infected you should consult your vet immediately.

Keeping the little creepies off your property

The best way to get ticks off your property is to cut the grass.  They love mulchy, long grass and weeds so cutting back the jungle helps a lot.  Another method that keeps them out of your yard is to have a rock, cement or some other "tick barrier" between your yard and any wooded areas.  It needs to be at least 2 ft. wide.  I have also become a believer in Diatomaceous Earth.  D-Earth as it's called for short comes in two varieties - regular and food grade.  Get the food grade because if your dog licks it, it's actually good for him. Food Grade D-earth is totally safe for animals and children to be around.  D-Earth is made from crushed crustacean shells which wreck havoc on small hard shelled bugs such as fleas, ticks, beetles,  earwigs, ants and other creepy crawlers. I put it around the house after a box elder bug invasion.and it was amazing how our bug population dropped dramatically.  My plan (WAR plan actually) is to spread this stuff over all 40 acres up north!  I understand it needs to be reapplied occasionally - but who cares if it gets rid of Ticks and other creepy crawlers!  I bought a 50 lb. bag online for about $27 (shipping is more than the D-Earth) and plan to use it all. It's a "physical" insecticide and bugs don't acquire a resistance to it nor does it have ANY chemical toxicity to the animals that come in contact with it. It is totally safe for all animals (including birds and beasts - but not hard shelled bugs). Best of all it's GOOD for you!  In dogs it's a natural wormer. 

D-Earth is the remains of microscopic one-celled plants called diatoms that lived in oceans and lakes.  These deposits are mined from underwater beds or from ancient dried lake bottoms thousands of years old.  Magnified 7000x, they look like spiny honeycombs and kill bugs that have exoskeletons by scratching their outer shell and dehydrating them to death.  They are harmless to humans and animals - like children, dogs, cats or mice.  It has unlimited shelf-life if you keep it dry.  (if you spread it around the yard to kill bugs, it stops working after rain, but as soon as it dries out, goes back to killing the little beasties).  You can even lightly rub it into pets fur and bedding to kill fleas and ticks as a natural flea powder. There are web sites dedicated to all the health benefits this provides (beyond killing those Ticks) and it can be used for such things as brushing teeth, facial masks and 'soft scrub'. Just don't inhale the stuff as it might irritate your lungs.

Buy Food Grade D-earth which is entirely safe. Do NOT buy Pool filter diatomaceous earth  because it has been chemically and heat treated and will poison humans and animals "Food Grade" is non-treated, non-calcined fresh water diatomaceous earth.  It is pure white in color and contains less than .5% silicon.  Food grade D-earth may sometimes be yellow or tan in color and have a higher iron content, gray D-earth contains clay.  The pure white stuff is the best. This is what the microscopic shells look like -->

You can also use Food Grade D-earth for Internal Parasite Control.  It's a very effective natural insecticide. It helps eliminate roundworms, pinworms, tapeworms, etc.  It will also keep down fly infestations. (Noticed that we didn't have nearly as many in the house this year!).  Put it in the dogs poop can and you'll have fewer flies hanging around.  The reason is the razor sharp edges of the diatom lacerate the bug's waxy exoskeleton, then the powdery earth absorbs the body fluids causing dehydration. If you wish to use if for parasite control in dogs, you can even put it in their food - it's entirely safe and some feel it improves digestion and health.  The daily recommended dose is:

  • Puppies 1/2 to 1 tsp. per day
  • Dogs under 35 lbs. 1 tsp. per day
  • Dogs over 35 lbs but under 100 lbs - 1 tablespoon
  • Dogs over 100 lbs - 2 tablespoons
  • Humans - mix about 1 tsp. in a liquid prior to each meal 3 times a day
  • You can use it for other animals too...info here with more information and detail.
  • Other Uses for D-Earth - like toothpaste, facial mask, soft scrub, mixed with grains, a dessicant...

Partial List of Bugs D-Earth kills:

D-Earth is only deadly to bugs with exoskeletons:

  • Fleas
  • Roaches
  • Sliver fish
  • Bedbugs
  • Termites
  • Ants
  • Flies
  • Box Elder Bugs
  • Scorpions
  • Crickets
  • Earwigs
  • Tapeworms, Roundworms, etc.
  • Mites
  • aphids
  • Beetles

Back to Ticks...and their Diseases

Tick borne illnesses are caused by infection with a variety of pathogens, including rickettsia and viruses and protozoa.  Ticks can harbor more than one disease causing agent at a time, making identification even harder. That's why it's important to bring the tick with you to the doctor/vet if you suspect anything amiss. The tick can be tested to see what it's given you.  I can just picture having little jars lined up with the dates and who they bit when, at my house...want to see my tick collection?

Bacterial Diseases from Ticks

  • Lyme Disease - North America, Eurasia
  • Rocky Mountain Spotted Feaver - East, SW US
  • Ehrlichiosis anaplasmosis (HGE) - S-Atlantic, S-Central US
  • Relapsing Fever - Western US
  • Tularemia - SE, S-Central, West, Widespread US


  • Tick-borne meningoencephalitis - Europe & N. Asia
  • Colorado tick fever - Western US
  • Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever - S. Asia, N. Africa, S. Europe


  • Babesiosis - Northeast West Coast US
  • Cytauxzoonosis - South/Southeast US


  • Tick paralysis - Eastern US

More info:

For specific types of ticks, symptoms and antibiotic therapy visit Wikipedia