How to Check for Ticks on German Shepherd Dogs

Updated on June 19, 2019
Sam Shepards profile image

Sam Shephard is an experienced German Shepherd owner and has learned throughout the years how to optimize the breed's health and wellness.

Most dogs love playing outside where they are exposed to all kinds of insects. It’s important to learn the proper procedures to help make sure that your German Shepherd doesn’t get ticks. In case they do get ticks, learn how to remove them.

Ticks are common in many parts of the world, and if you live in a place where ticks are common, then you’ll want to make sure that you know how to get rid of them. This article will explain to you the tools and procedure for getting rid of ticks on your Shepherd and the potential dangers that might arise if you don’t do this!

What Makes Ticks so Annoying?

The very concept of a tick is annoying to us because they survive as parasites by sucking blood from us. Ticks are most often found in wooded areas and fields; not only are they bothersome but they can actually carry serious diseases that can affect both humans and animals.

Once a tick gets a good grip on your dog, it’ll begin to suck blood. It usually takes a few hours for them to get a firm enough grip to actually suck blood; if you catch it before this, it will probably be easier to remove.

Ticks continue sucking blood for up to 10 days, and during this time, they may transfer a disease to your dog. Ticks can carry a number of diseases, including:

  • Lyme disease
  • Tick-borne relapsing fever (TBRF)
  • Babesiosis
  • Rocky Mountain spotted fever
  • Tularemia

All of these diseases can be disastrous for you and your dog, and it’s best to make sure that you get the ticks off as soon as you can.

The Best Method: Tick Prevention

The best method for managing any condition or symptom is to simply avoid it in the first place. To do this, you’re going to want to take preventative measures to help make sure that your dog doesn’t get ticks at all.

There are a few things that you can do to help prevent this:

  • Do regular checks if you live in an area where ticks are known to exist. Daily checks if you have an infestation, especially every time you come back inside. This will help to prevent any ticks from actually latching on to your dog if you are able to grab them before they are able to start sucking blood. It’s important to remember that ticks can get inside pretty easily, so even if you have an indoor day it’s still good to check your dog.
  • Additionally, get your veterinarian to check for ticks: they are more proficient at doing full-body searches and will be able to get ticks out of any hard-to-reach areas that they might have made their way into.
  • If your garden has a lot of ticks you should consider changing some of the plants and bushes, clean up the garden, clean up areas with a lot of moist and create barriers, etc.
  • Avoid going to tick-infested areas. A field where ticks are known to flourish, for example, is obviously not a great place to take your dog. Finding a special park that is believed to be tick-free can be a great help.

Checking for Ticks on German Shepherds

If you weren’t able to prevent your dog from getting ticks, then you will want to know the places that they are most likely to appear on your dog. Remember, ticks can latch on anywhere on your dog—these places just require a bit of special attention.

  • Up by the ears and behind the ear flaps
  • On the eyebrows
  • Near the shoulder blades and back
  • The upper, meaty part of the leg

Remember that ticks are looking for blood, so they are prone to attaching themselves in areas where blood can be easily found.

If you’re going to be removing the tick, then you can just use your fingers. However, as anyone who has pulled a tick out of their own skin will attest, it hurts a bit; it may be something that we can live through as humans, but your dog might wonder why you’re repeatedly subjecting them to such a strong pinching and pulling sensation.

One of the ways to do this is to get a tick puller. These tools are kind of like a set of pliers, and you can use these to pull out the tick. You should be able to twist and pull the entire tick out—and this is what you want to do. Sometimes a little bit of the tick gets stuck in the body; you should take extra care to remove this as well.

My German Shepherds didn’t have ticks often. In my country and where we live ticks are rather rare. I use a kind of tick puller or 'plier'. With it, you can grab the tick, twist, and pull it out as a whole. We have other tick removal tools, one that you just have to pull up. With the right technique, there are enough decent tools that work well and removing ticks completely in one smooth motion.

Always make sure you’ve pulled out the tick completely, 95% of the time you probably have, just make sure otherwise the dogs can get an infection or some ticks can partially regrow.

Tick Prevention Products for Dogs

There are a lot of tick prevention products out there that are marketed for helping dogs. Unfortunately, a lot of these products are filled with just as much synthetic compounds as most of the insect repellant that’s made for humans. Dogs are much more sensitive than humans in some ways, so you wouldn’t want to subject them to these dangerous chemicals unless your veterinarian sees no other valid options.

When you live in an area without many ticks or tick disease, you probably don’t need prevention products. You’ll suffice in removing a tick a couple of times a year. I’ve never needed products, but I’ve known people and dog handlers that really needed it. If the issue is serious you don’t have that many options and you should follow the advice of your vet.

  • Synthetic pesticides made for dogs usually contain compounds that repel insects. Some contain Fipronil, a compound that could be stored in the dog’s tissues and could be related to some health issues. You’ll find it in a lot of Frontline and similar products. There is a big difference between treating when necessary and using a product for regular prevention. Fipronil is said not to be absorbed substantially through the skin compared to other compounds. Products with Fipronil are less dangerous than most of the pesticides used decades ago, but that doesn’t mean they should be used carelessly.
  • There are tick-repellant powders that often contain Pyrethrin. This class of compounds has a long history. Some Pyrethrins have been shown to be toxic to humans (mostly variations of irritation), and there’s no reason to suspect that they wouldn’t be toxic to dogs. Some studies on rats found a higher likelihood for (liver) cancer with prolonged exposure to high doses. Recent generation organic products with Pyrethrin are considered some of the safer products, but this doesn’t mean healthy. Also, check out the difference between Pyrethrins and Pyrethroids.
  • Many tick shampoos are also known to contain Pyrethrin.
  • There are tick-repellent sprays which, again, often contain Pyrethrin. Spraying Pyrethrin into the air means that both you and your dog will both be inhaling this genotoxic compound. Do not use as regular prevention, sometimes used for short term treatment. When used, make sure not to inhale and use on eyes or mouth and other sensitive areas. Use outside and not on puppies/very young dogs.

Vet-Approved Preventatives Are the Gold Standard

When having a serious tick problem, natural alternatives are often not a substitute for vet-approved sprays, shampoos, tick collars or drops. There is a lot of variation in scale. Some people see a couple of ticks a year and removal without chemical products will suffice. Others have eight ticks on a dog’s ear in a day and need prevention or treatment. Try to avoid using products with compounds like Pyrethrin when possible, but use them when they prevent greater harm. Read up on possible health issues by these and related compounds with prolonged exposure.

Like with humans, there is a lot of variation in how pets handle certain products. Always consult a vet for treatment appropriate for your pet.

Do You Use Tick Prevention Products?

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Instead of killing or preventing ticks on German Shepherd dogs with chemicals that could cause health issues in you and your dog, you could consider some natural alternatives.

  • You can make bug deterrent with lemongrass and citronella oil – a popular and effective alternative to products like DEET or Pyrethrin. Mixing 10 drops of each oil into a spray bottle with vinegar can help your dog avoid ticks.
  • One recipe for tick prevention involves mixing several drops each of geranium (contains organic Pyrethrin), rosewood, lavender, myrrh, and bay leaf essential oil with a half-shot of vodka and a teaspoon of vegetable glycerin.

Most natural options are not able to stop a serious tick infestation, but can help you prevent some of the damage.

Instead of spraying your dog with insecticides you could have your yard done with something that is preferably non-toxic for dogs and humans and/or keep your dog indoors a couple of days when treating your garden. Every tick you keep out is one less tick you’ll have to remove.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.

© 2019 Sam Shepards


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    • Sam Shepards profile imageAUTHOR

      Sam Shepards 

      13 months ago from Europe

      Hi Eric,

      Could be ok, don't know if there are a lot of breeders or rescues where you live. In my country we normally never take a puppy home before 8 weeks, in some other places it's 7 weeks.

      I also always go check before etc.

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 

      13 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      So interesting. We used to have to look like Monkeys cleaning each other's hair. Dogs more so. Thanks. Still dropping by the pound but the nice/good GS get swooped up fast.

      Is there an adoption Worldwide group?

      What do you think; ///// /////


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