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Dr. Elizabeth
Dr. Elizabeth, Veterinary Internist
Category: Dog Veterinary
Satisfied Customers: 730
Experience:  I am a veterinary internal medicine specialist with over 20 years of experience.
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What Do I Do If I Found Tan Colored Tick On Dog?

Customer Question

I found a light tan colored tick on my bichon today. My husband and I tried to remove the tick by clamping it with tweezers between the tan body and the buried head. We applied pressure and then tried pulling the tick out. Very slippery. Our effort was a failure. The body was crushed and became separated from the head with the head still deeply embedded in our dog's neck. Will our dog be OK?

Submitted: 6 years ago.
Category: Dog Veterinary
Expert:  Dr. Elizabeth replied 6 years ago.

I agree that removing ticks can be tough to do even for us that are experienced at it.

Sally Ann should in the big picture be fine, but the head needs to be removed and the area cleaned well with an antiseptic solution/scrub and watched for signs of infection. Even when this happens I do not routinely use antibiotics unless the area is really red and swollen.

There really are not great ways to tell you to do this at home. In the hospital when this happens we clean the area well with dilute Betadine (povidone iodine) solution. Using a little local anaesthetic (topical Emla cream or lidocaine like a dentist uses) we use a sterile skinny tipped forceps (essentially tweezers but one that is easier to manipulate) and usually a sterile needle to coax out the head.

The problem with these being left in is that they will almost always develop a marked inflammatory response to the mouth parts/head and sometimes get infected.

Customer: replied 6 years ago.

I did use an anti-bacterial wipe and covered it with Neosporin ointment earlier today. This evening I tried to remove (what I think is the head) as if it were a splinter after prepping the area with another anti-bacterial wipe. No luck. Sally Ann was getting nervous. I wiped again and applied Neosporin. The area looks very raw red with a dark middle which I assume could be the head or the bite. We recently were in Massachusetts and the tick was tan in color and the size of a grain of wheat. Any idea what kind of tick this is? Should I have her tested?

Expert:  Dr. Elizabeth replied 6 years ago.

You didn't happen to keep the tick did you? The tick itself can be sent into a laboratory to be tested to see if it is harboring any infectious diseases. Since you saw it pretty easily, it is likely not the kind of tick that carries Lyme disease, but the normal brown dog tick (which is likely what was on Sally) can carry lots of other things like Ehrlichia, Rickettsia, Anaplasma, Bartonella and Babesia. Scary, huh?

I would not go testing Sally for any of the above diseases unless she shows you she is having any problems in the future. Testing now won't help. In two weeks she might have some positive titers to the organisms, but that just says her immune system saw them and reacted to them, not that she is ill with the disease they cause.

You did the right thing to try to get the darn head out again, but you might have to have her seen to get the rest out. You can continue the antibiotic ointment and as long as the area doesn't get too swollen you can have your veterinarian see her on Monday.

Customer: replied 6 years ago.

Unfortunately when my husband tried to remove the tick with his fingers he crushed it. There really wasn't any blood or body to tell you the truth. Nothing remained.

Scary to say the least. I read on the internet that brown dog ticks are really dangerous to the dog and that they can create infestation indoors.

What signs should I look for?

Is it possible that her body would eventually reject or dissolve the head maybe during scabbing?

Expert:  Dr. Elizabeth replied 6 years ago.

This time of year it isn't really likely that you'll get any infestation and it isn't that common despite what the Internet tells you. You really have to have many of them to be an issue, like a bunch of hunting dogs where the ticks go unnoticed and drop off into the carpeting. Yuck!

Tick borne diseases can have many clinical signs associated with them. The most common things you should look for are lethargy, decreased appetite, stiff walking or like "walking on eggshells", pale mucous membrane (gums) color and respiratory difficulty. Fever can be present but doesn't need to be.

Yes, the tick head could be forced out during the normal healing process (it is too much for the body to eat it up) Just watch the area for increasing redness, swelling, discharge that looks like pus or pain on manipulation of the area.

Customer: replied 6 years ago.

Just found another tick on her head. I pulled out a tan body the size of a very small navy bean. There is a dark small spot and a few legs attached. There still is something that seems very hard and embedded in the skin. Would the dark spot be the head. One leg seemed to move a little after about 15 minutes.

I just can't believe this is happening. I checked her over very carefully this afternoon after finding the first tick which included trimming back her hair.

What are the chances that there are more? It seems this second one just appeared out of no where.

PS. I bought and administered Frontline Plus. Will this help the current situation?

Expert:  Dr. Elizabeth replied 6 years ago.

Yes, do apply the Frontline according to the package directions as it will kill any other ticks that decide to rear their ugly heads. If you do not see the head on the tick then it is likely also still embedded. If you find any others make sure that when you pull you do it with very steady pressure without twisting and with no jerking. Sometimes you will actually pull out a piece of flesh (I know, gross and brutal) with the tick. I guess I should have told you that earlier after the first tick!

Check her ear pinnae very well, especially where they meet the skin since ticks like to hand out there. Check again tomorrow. If you have a "flea comb" you can take that to every inch of her to find more. They tend to climb from the lower extremities up to the head area, so check really well there.

Clean the new spot as you have done with the other one. Save this tick in a small vial or cup of alcohol and bring it to your veterinarian. I know that at least the diagnostic laboratory called Antech does check ticks for infectious diseases, but since this is the second tick I don't know if that will be helpful. Maybe keep the nasty thing for a while to see if your girl develops any issues and then you can have the tick tested.

Still see your vet as I wrote in prior posts.