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Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Nicks & Tipples

Did you know that it's not uncommon for pet owners to misdiagnose ticks?  I see it happen relatively frequently, including just today.

A woman brought her dog in because it had ticks on its genitals and she wanted them removed.  I looked all over this dog's belly and nether-regions but didn't find a single tick or flea.  What I did find was a pigmented nipple on either side of his sheath (prepuce).  We confirmed with the owner that this was what she saw, and were able to let her know that this was absolutely normal.

Like in humans nipples are present on both sexes of dogs and cats.  Unlike humans the nipples run from the chest all the way down to the groin region, which means that male dogs will have nipples next to their penis.  A variation can occur that causes them to be pigmented, turning black.  This is normal and not a concern.

I have had people think their dogs had ticks when they actually had a pigmented nipple, mole, polyp, or scab.  I've even had people try to pull these off at home before coming to see me when it wouldn't come off and started bleeding.  Many people tend to look at a dark bump on their pet and make an assumption that it is a tick.

Here's a few hints.  Look closely at the bump and see how it's attached.  If the entire length of the bump is attached to the skin, it probably isn't a tick.  If only one end is stuck or buried, it probably is a tick.  But the biggest giveaway is the legs.  Look very closely where it attaches and you should see little tiny legs.  If not, it probably isn't a tick.  If in doubt, see your vet.

Today we started naming this phenomenon.  We threw around tick-nipple before I decided that we could combine the words.  So which do you prefer?  "Tipple"?  Or "nick"?