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Tips for Tick Identification

If you find a tick on your dog, it’s important to remove it right away. If it is feeding or an engorged tick it will have its mouth parts buried in the skin. To remove it use a tick twisters or tweezers to grasp the tick close to the skin and pull it out. Always check to make sure you’ve removed the entire tick – including the head.

Once removed you can use these tips to try and identify the tick species to see if your dog may be a risk of Lyme disease.

Here in the Nova Scotia, we have two main types of ticks, the American Dog Tick (Dermacentor spp.) and the Black Legged Deer Tick (Ixodes spp.). Currently, Ixodes ticks are the only ones that carry Lyme disease. If you find one of these on your dog be sure to have them tested for Lyme disease 4 – 6 weeks after the tick is removed.

To tell the species apart you need to look at the scutum – the hard protective shell on the ticks’ back. You can use the colour and size of the scutum to determine if it’s a male or female, and what species it is.

Female ticks have a small round scutum near their head, this allows their body to expand when they have a blood meal. Male ticks have a large scutum that covers their entire back.

The deer tick (Ixodes) has a completely black scutum, while the dog tick (Dermacentor) has a white mottled scutum. The pictures below show the differences.

Written by Dr. Samantha Sanford.

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