Finding dead, dried ticks on your dog can be as alarming as finding live, engorged ones. Parasites like ticks are a part of the dog owner’s constant battle that we all need to deal with.
While dead ticks are less dangerous than live ones, they still need prompt removal using fine-tipped forceps and then quality canine shampoo.
Ticks are a general menace, causing diseases like Lyme disease, Ehrlichiosis, Anaplasmosis, and general discomfort to your dog. This article equips you with all you need to know about dead ticks, including risks and removal.
What Do Dead Ticks Look Like in Dogs?
Dead ticks on a dog are unmoving and look shriveled and flat, with stiff legs that don’t move. Dead ticks are often firmly attached to your dog because their mouthpieces remain intact. Therefore, checking for movement is the best way to ascertain whether a tick is dead or alive.
Dead ticks mostly look grayish, red, brown, or silver and are mostly shrunken, unlike the typical swelling observed in live ticks. Dead ticks on your dog’s skin can still cause irritation and skin issues because of how deep their teeth are buried. The next step after establishing dead ticks is removing them manually with fine-tipped forceps.
You’ll feel dead ticks as tiny bumps on your dog’s skin. If your dog is long-coated, you may need to part the hair and may only notice these dead parasites during routine coat maintenance, like brushing. Ticks mostly occur on the head, belly, feet, neck, and ears, especially after playing outdoors in woody areas.
Why are there dried dead ticks on my dog?
Dried, dead ticks on a dog are caused mostly when the ticks ingest an antiparasite medication. Tick medications like Nexguard, Simparico, or Bravecto require the tick to attach to and feed on your dog’s blood before it kills them. Tick medications eradicate these tough-to-kill parasites by disrupting their nervous system.
In other words, the tick and flea treatments that your dogs eat, do not prevent ticks from biting. It kills them when they latch on so that they die and fall off before passing on disease in their saliva. Normally, these ticks fall off on their own without you noticing, but if they don’t, then their mouthparts have become embedded.
Due to incessant itchiness and discomfort, your dog may have nibbled on and killed these pesky parasites. This is especially true when the tick was previously engorged since ticks are flat and almost look like small skin tags when unfed.
Ticks are extremely hardy and will survive drought, drowning, and blood thirst for extended periods. For this reason, it’s highly unlikely that you’ll find a dead, dried tick for any other reasons except death from medication.
However, ticks can die on your dog’s skin if they’re past their life cycles. Females die shortly after laying eggs, and males have a shorter life span, dying after mating with some females. If the cycle occurs when the ticks are on your dog, they’ll remain there.
I found a dead tick on my dog; should I be worried?
It’s understandably alarming to find a dead tick on your dog, but they should be less worrying than live ticks. Usually, the worst a dead tick can do is cause skin irritation to your dog and poses no other harm to you or your dog beyond that. But that is only if your dog is treated for ticks, and it’s the treatment that killed them.
Despite their fewer health concerns, dead ticks should be immediately removed and disposed of. They’re an unpleasant sight to encounter, and you will probably dispose of them automatically upon sight. Dead ticks that don’t naturally die are less likely to fall off because they’re firmly embedded in the skin.
What if the tick is embedded and dead?
A tick will remain on your dog for a while if the tick is dead and embedded. Ticks have specialized teeth that allow them to hook firmly onto their hosts’ bodies. These mouthpieces can remain intact even after the tick is dead, keeping them embedded into your dog until you remove them.
It’s much harder for dead or hungry ticks to detach from the skin than live, fully-fed ones. Once a tick gorges on blood, it is easier for it to drop off and begin the next life cycle, mating. Hungry ticks, on the other hand, don’t let go as easily.
Embedded ticks have the same removal process as live ones, which we will cover shortly. Embedded and dead ticks don’t carry the same salivary secretions and toxins that live ones do and are, therefore, not as harmful.
What happens if a dried, dead flat tick is left on a dog?
A dead tick on a dog may cause skin irritation, redness, and swelling around the tick bite area. Your dog can also get infections, especially if they aggressively scratch and bite at the problem areas, causing lacerations. These give bacteria to enter the body and cause secondary infections like hotspots.
In many cases,
Live ticks are carriers of many diseases to both you and your dog. These parasites cause tick-borne diseases like:
- Lyme disease,
- Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever,
- Canine Ehrlichiosis,
- Canine babesiosis.
Dead ticks are unlikely to transmit these diseases since they lack the necessary salivary secretions and toxins.
However, it still is possible for your dog to have contracted tick-related illnesses before you administer anti-tick medication. If this is the case, your dog will exhibit signs of tick disease, such as:
- Loss of appetite
- Stomach pain
- Mild lameness in Lyme disease
A lot of these are severe cases that need urgent medical attention. Humans can also contract tick-related diseases like Lyme disease. The best way to get ahead of ticks and the diseases they cause is to stick to a tick prevention plan using anti-parasite medications.
How do you remove flat dead ticks from a dog?
You can safely remove flat dead ticks from your dog with the right tools and technique. You may be hasty to remove ticks as soon as you see them but avoid using your fingers to remove dead or alive ticks. You can cause the tick to break when using your fingers and cause diseases to yourself.
- Fine point tweezers-
- Tick removal hook-
- Rubbing alcohol
Technique for removing dead ticks properly
You can follow these steps to remove dead ticks if the ticks don’t fall off naturally. Remember, as the ticks are dead, common advice like nail polish is not going to be effective.
- Identify the area where the ticks are embedded. Ticks appear as bumps on the skin that are easy to mix up with other conditions like dog warts
- Part the hair for a better view of the tick.
- Grab the tick with fine-point tweezers or tick removal hooks. Not just any type of tweezers are suitable for tick removal, as some are large and blunt. If ticks are a common occurrence in your area, you might want to invest in some tick removal hooks specially designed to remove ticks
- Gently pull the tick steadily upward and avoid breaking the tick. Dead ticks are harder to break because they’re dry.
- Clean the bite site well with rubbing alcohol
- Clean tools with disinfectant
Frequently Asked Questions
Which ticks are dangerous to dogs?
Ticks are generally harmful to dogs, but some types transmit different diseases. You can tell one tick from the other, mostly from the color, body shape, size, and ornamentation.
- Black-legged “deer” tick contains bacteria that transmits Lyme disease, Anaplasma, and Ehrlichia to humans and dogs. You can identify it by its black legs and red-orange body.
- Brown dog ticks are found throughout most of the United States and can spread Ehrlichia. They’re dark brown and narrower than other ticks in shape.
- Lone star tick is identifiable by a white spot on the body. It can cause allergic reactions to meat, especially in humans.
- American dog tick has a dark brown body. They can cause Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever.
Ticks are generally dangerous to both humans and dogs. Dead ticks have fewer risks than live ones because they can’t spread tick diseases like Lyme disease. You should never remove dead ticks with your bare hands as that could cause them to rupture and cause diseases to you or your dog.
Dead, dried ticks are mostly caused by anti-tick medications and can cause skin irritation if left on your dog’s skin. Dead sticks can remain embedded in your dog’s coat since the mouthpiece attaching them to the coat are still intact.
Tamsin De La HarpeAuthor
Tamsin de la Harpe has nearly two decades of experience with dogs in rescue, training, and behavior modification with fearful and aggressive dogs. She has worked closely with veterinarians and various kennels, building up extensive medical knowledge and an understanding of canine health and physiology. She also spent two years in the animal sciences as a canine nutrition researcher, focusing on longevity and holistic healthcare for our four-legged companions.
Tamsin currently keeps a busy homestead with an assortment of rescue dogs and three Bullmastiffs.
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