Labradors love running and playing in the outdoors. However, the outdoors can also be a haven for ticks that can latch onto your pet. To your dog, ticks can feel similar to splinters and can cause a lot of discomfort and pain. They can also be carriers of several various diseases that can be harmful to your pet.
The pain and discomfort of ticks can also lead to various psychological effects for your Lab, such as depression, irritation, and anxiety. Ticks are silent and can be practically invisible so they can often be hard to detect before they cause any negative effects. They can cause injury and trauma to your Labrador for some time before being noticed, and if left untreated too long can make your dog very ill.
Ticks have even been known to cause death in pets. Let us explore this menace in more detail so that we know how to deal with the pesky bloodsuckers before they cause too much damage.
What Are Ticks?
Ticks are ectoparasites that can live on your dog, other animals, and sometimes humans. They drink the blood of their host and can carry various diseases. Ticks belong to the family known as arachnids. There can be hard ticks, also known as Lxodidae and soft ticks, also known as Argasidae.
How Does a Tick Harm Your Labrador?
Once the tick latches onto your Lab, it releases saliva into the bloodstream. It is the saliva that is harmful. The tick’s saliva is composed of toxins and also has Analgesic properties. This means that when the tick bites your Lab it releases a pain killer so the dog is less likely to feel the bite.
The saliva also has inflammatory properties and contains anticoagulants, which means that when the tick bites your dog it usually won’t itch and the blood will continue to flow instead of clotting like it normally would. Once the tick finds a host it then latches on using its barbed mouth that can burrow down deep into the skin and suck the blood out continuously until it is full, which can take several days.
Ticks are usually found in low brush and dense vegetation. This allows them to latch on to a host, like a dog, as he runs through the area. If your Labrador sits on a log or leans against a tree, ticks can easily latch onto him. A Labrador’s dense fur acts as an effective cover and allows the ticks to remain unnoticed. Once they latch on they start injecting neurotoxins and nerve toxins which can cause allergic reactions in some Labradors.
The initial bite of a tick is usually painless and often goes undetected. Sometimes they latch on, have their fill of blood, and then fall off without the Labrador ever being aware they were there. However, they sometimes cause infections, diseases, and other problems.
Here are some symptoms you can watch for to see if your Labrador has a tick that is causing him issues:
- Intense itching
- Loss of appetite
The above symptoms can be caused by other issues as well. Identifying the cause is the first step when the dog becomes ill. Ticks should be considered as a possible cause, especially if your dog spends a lot of time outside. The majority of tick bites don’t usually show up until after the tick has fallen off. Immediate symptoms are not usually noticeable.
Sometime after the tick falls off there can be an area of redness on the skin or intense pain where the bite occurred. Occasionally, swelling and red streaks can be seen as well. Some tick bites, like the Lone Star Tick, can also lead to allergic reactions when eating red meat.
Since many symptoms are manifested after the tick falls off it may be difficult to connect the illness or issue with a tick bite. Even a vet might not connect the symptoms right away. If you think the cause may be a tick bite make sure you ask the vet to consider this possibility.
Be sure to take your Lab to the vet immediately if either of the below situations occurs:
- You find a tick that cannot be removed or find that the mouthparts are still in the skin of the Lab.
- Your Labrador exhibits any symptoms such as weakness, lethargy, paralysis, or rashes.
Make sure to let your vet know if your Labrador has been outdoors recently so that he can determine if it is a tick bite that caused the symptoms.
Once the tick dislodges itself from the body there are no actual tests that can be done to tell if there was a tick bite, but your vet will examine the whole body and look for other ticks or rashes and leftover mouthparts from the tick. It can make your vet’s work easier if you can tell him/her whether you have taken the Labrador outside in dense vegetation recently.
How to Check Your Labrador for Ticks
Step #1: Comb Your Dog
The comb should trap any ticks that have not yet latched onto the dog’s skin. After you’ve done this, inspect the comb for any ticks. It is advisable to use a white- or light-colored comb since ticks are generally darker in color and they will be easier to see. Most are gray, black, brown, or reddish-brown.
If you find any on the comb, drop them into a container filled with water or one of the other alternative solutions that we mention a little later in this article.
Comb from the top of the legs down towards the feet. Ticks usually crawl up the legs and this is the quickest way to get a hold of them.
Step #2: Run your hands down the body of your Labrador
Ticks that have already latched onto your dog’s skin are a little harder to find. You need to run your fingers through his fur, working your way from his head to his tail. Make sure you cover every part of your dog.
You should be feeling for bumps or irregularities. If you find a tick they will often feel like a small, pimple-sized bump on your dog. While you are doing these checks, keep an eye out for any spots or discolorations. If you see any, make a note of where you found them, or even take a picture, then check back after a few days to see if they have grown in size or deepened in color. If they have, then you should take your dog to the vet.
Note: Labradors, even males, have multiple nipples so be careful of them as you run your fingers down the dog’s belly.
Related: It’s a weird subject, but you’d be surprised how often it comes up! If you’d like to know more about why male labradors have nipples, be sure to check out our titillating article, Do Male Labradors Have Nipples?
Step #3: Inspect a Tick’s Favorite Hiding Places
After a thorough scan of the entire body from head to tail, it’s time to check the favorite and sometimes little-known hideouts for ticks.
Ticks love damp places and they can often be found in the following inconspicuous spots on your Lab:
- Inside the ears
- Lodged between the toes
- In the paw pad
- Around the nose
- Near the scrotum (for males)
- Near the vulva (for females)
- Near the anus.
Work your way systematically from paw to paw, checking between toes and the paw pad. Then use a flashlight to check the ears, nose, genital, and rear area.
How do You Remove Ticks?
There are many methods suggested for removing ticks. Basically, you need to loosen the grip the tick has on your pet and pull it free, without removing the tick’s head. If this is done incorrectly the head of the tick can remain lodged in the dog’s skin and this can cause inflammation as well as a myriad of other diseases.
Ticks have a vice-like grip. They have a harpoon-like mouth structure called a hypostome, which they use to latch on (anchor) to the lab. This makes it very difficult to pull them off the skin.
To remove the tick, place your fingers close to its head (where it attaches to the dog). Firmly pull upwards and out, taking care not to squeeze the tick’s belly. If you agitate the tick or squeeze its belly, the tick can regurgitate harmful juices into the dog’s blood. These juices can contain toxins that are harmful to your dog, and we don’t want that to happen.
Keep in mind that your Lab’s outer layer of dense fur can make it really difficult to locate ticks. Some owners will dampen the fur a bit. This makes it easier to part the fur and pull off the ticks.
What can you use to remove ticks?
- You can use your fingers to pull the ticks loose. If this seems repulsive to you, you can put on a pair of latex gloves.
- You can also use tweezers or forceps. I would recommend forceps over tweezers because tweezers have pointed tips which can poke your dog. Again hold the tick firmly with the forceps or tweezers and pull upwards.
- Another tool sometimes used is called the Tick Twister®. Remember the tick has latched on pretty securely using its hypostome. This means you need to unlatch it first. Tick Twisters® come with two hooks, the small ones for smaller ticks, and the big ones for the engorged, bigger ticks. Place the tick twister near the ticks head and wriggle it under the tick. Now try to disengage the tick’s jaw (the hypostome) without squeezing it. A slight twist should make the tick loosen its grip. You might need a couple more twists to completely loosen the tick.
It’s debated whether twisting the tick can harm the dog or not. Some believe that twisting the tick can cause it to release toxins. To be on the safe side many people choose to either use their fingers, forceps, or tweezers.
Once you get a hold of the tick it needs to be handled with caution. You do not want to be bitten by the tick, nor do you want it to get free as they can quickly spread and infect our house. You need to kill it quickly.
Some people put the tick in a canister of water. Water will do the trick and the tick will die in a couple of hours. Others use rubbing alcohol or a vinegar solution. These acidic solutions will also kill the ticks. Another way to kill them is to place them in a solution made from water and Dawn dish liquid.
Once you remove the ticks and kill them, you should keep one in a small container and take it to the vet in case your dog shows symptoms of health issues. The vet will be able to diagnose the cause of the disease correctly if he can see the type of tick. For example, Lyme disease is caused by the deer tick. The more your vet knows about the types of ticks that are present in your neighborhood the better he/she can suggest possible prevention or vaccinations if necessary.
You should dispose of the remaining ticks.
It is common to find some blood discharge where the tick has been pulled off. This is because the tick’s saliva has an anticoagulant, which keeps the blood from clotting. Dab off the blood with a cotton ball dipped in rubbing alcohol. Put pressure on the area and hold firm, this will help the blood coagulate.
Home Remedies for Ticks
There are several home remedies that you can use for ticks. If you prefer natural remedies over medications prescribed by the vet, consult the chart below (turn your mobile device sideways for better viewing):
|How to Apply
|Steep a handful of dried herbs in 1 cup of water
|Dip a Cotton Ball or Clean cloth in the cooled solution.
Dab all over the skin.
|Safe on Puppies also.
Ticks die and also their egg-laying capacity is inhibited when they are exposed to Chamomile extract. Ticks are repelled by the smell.
|Chamomile Tea Bag
|Steep 1 chamomile tea bag in 1 cup of water
|Dip a Cotton Swab or clean cloth in the cooled solution.
Dab all over skin.
|It has anti-inflammatory properties and works as a natural antiseptic on ticks bites
|Bring to a boil 2 lemons in 500 ml water.
Simmer for 1 hour.
|Add cooled liquid into a spray bottle.
Spray all over the dog’s fur.
|Do not spray near the face.
Ticks get repelled by the taste of citrus fruits including lemon and oranges.
|Steep Eucalyptus leaves in 1 cup of water
|Dip a Cotton Ball or Clean cloth in the cooled solution.
Dab all over the skin.
|Can be mixed with dog shampoo at bath time.
|Add leaves to Small Cloth Bags
|Place cloth bags in the places where the dog resides.
|Note: Do not let the dog eat Eucalyptus leaves, as they can cause vomiting and diarrhea because dogs cannot digest them
|Homemade Anti-flea Collar
|Mix 2tsp Pure Alcohol + 1 tbsp Rosemary + 2 Capsules Garlic Oil + 1 tbsp Lavender Essential Oil + 1 tbsp Lemon Verbena + 1 tbsp Pennyroyal
|Soak Dog Collar or a large handkerchief in this mixture.
|Apply the dried collar around the dog’s neck.
|Homemade Flea Powder
|225 gms Diatomaceous earth + 2 tablespoons of Citronella Essential Oil or tea tree + 2 tbsp Eucalyptus Essential Oil + 2 tbsp Lavender Essential oil
|Apply on dogs chest
|Apple Cider Vinegar
|Mix equal parts Apple Cider Vinegar and Dog Shampoo
|Bathe the Dog, dry its fur and comb out the fur. Check for fleas.
|Acts as an odor neutralizer as well
|Place dry Wormwood in small cloth bags
|Distribute cloth bags all around the house
|Wormwood – natural flea killer
|White Vinegar or Apple Cider Vinegar
|Mix 1 cup distilled white vinegar ( or apple cider vinegar) + 4 cups of water + 2 – 3 drops of Lavender Oil or Cedar Oil
|Add to a spray bottle
Spray on Dog’s body. Dab onto Dog’s neck and ears – do not spray near the face.
|Additional Benefit – neutralizes odor
|Use Concentrated Neem Oil
|Apply onto the ticks directly.
You can also remove the ticks and place in a container filled with Neem Oil
|Ticks die within 24 hours.
Do not let your dog lick the tick.
Neem Oil has fungicidal and bactericidal properties that kill ticks and treat infections.
Removing Ticks From Your Labrador Quickly
If you notice ticks in your yard or neighborhood, you can do the following to remove ticks quickly before they latch on to your Labrador:
Immediately after a walk outdoors, comb your lab. This should catch nymphs and adult ticks. Ticks cannot fly, so they slowly walk their way up your dog’s legs and move towards the neck, belly, and rear. This is a good opportunity to remove them before they latch onto the body.
Many lab owners use flea and tick collars, or tick powder as a preventive measure. These have to be used or applied frequently to remain effective.
If the ticks have had time to traverse up your dog’s body and have already settled in on his skin, you can use the treatments mentioned below to treat your lab for ticks (turn your mobile device sideways for better viewing):
|What to do
|How does it work
|Pipette parasite treatment
|Apply a few dots on the shoulder of the dog
|Works on all stages of the ticks. It prevents and also kills existing ticks.
|Do not shampoo the dog for at least 48 hours after treatment.
|Necklaces & Flea Collars
|Place on your pet like a regular collar.
|Flea Collars have one or a combination of these ingredients: Deltamethrin, Amitraz, Pyriproxifen, and Propoxur. These work on the ticks, eggs, and larvae.
|Some collars prevent ticks. Some mix with the natural oils of the dog and kill the ticks.
|Lather the dog with soap or shampoo. You can mix in apple cider vinegar which helps kill ticks and neutralizes the odor.
|Most Shampoos and Soaps contain Pyrethrins or organophosphates which kill the ticks.
All chemical products should only be used after consulting with your vet.
How to Prevent Ticks on Your Labrador
Prevention is always preferable to treatment. Here are some methods you can use to prevent ticks from affecting your Labrador.
Clean your yard. Since your Labrador needs to go outside, it is up to you to keep the premises clean and tick free. You should maintain the lawn regularly if you have one. If you live near thick vegetation, there may not be much you can do to prevent ticks in that area.
Focus on your yard and do the best you can to keep the grass and hedges trimmed and neat. While it is still possible for ticks to live there this can help reduce the number of ticks. You can also call an exterminator service if you find too many around the yard. They would use chemicals to curb the infestation.
Check your Lab for ticks. A tedious but sure method of prevention is to check your Labrador for ticks daily. The various methods of checking that have already been discussed can be used to check your Labrador thoroughly after they have come in from outside.
Consider vaccination for Lyme disease. In cases where you know for a fact that deer ticks are a problem and there is Lyme disease prevalent in your area, it would be good to consider getting a vaccination for your Labrador.
It is important to talk this over with your vet as he will have a better idea if such a step is necessary or not. While it may not be necessary in most cases it is certainly worth discussing with the vet to understand the options.
Bathe your Lab regularly. The best line of defense is to bathe your Lab regularly. The bath allows you to also check for and remove any ticks on the skin of the Labrador. You can use regular dog shampoo or you can also buy tick repellents and special products to use on the Labrador.
Regularly checking and monitoring will help keep most tick-related diseases at bay. However, be careful as Labradors tend to have sensitive skin. You may need to use a shampoo that isn’t too harsh.
Shampoos and special formulas. There are special shampoos for treating ticks on your Labrador. These tend to be strong but effective for removing ticks from your dog’s coat. There are also treatments available like sprays and dips. If you use a dip make sure to follow the directions carefully. The product is usually diluted and then applied to the dog’s skin.
Dips are not rinsed off immediately but are allowed to remain on for some time until the ticks are eradicated. There are also sprays available that can help kill off ticks and some owners might find that more convenient than dips.
Pills and medicines. Your vet can suggest tick medicines that your Labrador can take orally as a pill or a liquid. These are often preferred over ointments and other topical application products.
When you use an ointment it can remain as a greasy residue on your dog’s fur for some time. There is also the chance that your dog can ingest the ointment by licking that area. The downside of oral medications is that they may need to be taken every few months and can be pricey.
Natural prevention techniques. A great way to prevent ticks naturally is to add a regular dose of apple cider vinegar to your dog’s diet. This will make the blood less appealing to the ticks.
Applying vinegar to the coats also acts as a repellent for the ticks and they will avoid your dog. Some of the scents that have a similar effect are the scents of lemon, lavender, and cinnamon.
Plant some tick-repelling plants. Certain leaves and plants can help prevent ticks. The leaves of these trees and plants can be steeped in water and applied to the affected areas. Ticks will then loosen their grip and fall off. Here is a short list of plants shown to be effective against ticks:
– Leaves of Azadirachta indica (“Neem”)
–Cedrela odorata (“Spanish Cedar” or “Cuban Cedar”)
–Cordia curassavica (“Wild Sage”)
–Eclipta prostrata (False Daisy or Bhringraj)
These can all be grown in your backyard.
Eliminate ticks from your home. If you have noticed ticks on your Labrador’s body, it might be a good idea to disinfect your house. Ticks tend to crawl up the walls or can crawl into the carpet and upholstery. Some Lab owners use a fog spray to treat the house.
Ticks can definitely be a problem for dogs and can cause infections and diseases. It is our job as their owners to be vigilant in keeping our Labs safe from these pests. Check your pet regularly and keep your yard maintained. We personally have chosen the monthly oral medication as this keeps the ticks off of our Labs and protects them. Whatever method of prevention you choose just make sure you are regular, consistent, and diligent.