Ticks may not be as difficult to spot on your pets as smaller parasites, but there are some species of ticks that can transmit harmful, potentially fatal diseases when they bite your pet, Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever being a couple.
The most common sign that your dog has a tick is no sign at all, that is why good tick control products and tick checks on your pet are so important.
Ticks can attach themselves to your pet when you take them out on a walk, hike, or during any type of outdoor activity. They climb up blades of grass or onto trees and wait for animals to wander by. When one does, the tick crawls onto the animal and then to its preferred location, before burrowing its head into the animal’s skin. Ticks live in wooded and grassy areas, migrating into yards by way of wild animals that may just be passing through.
Taking Preventative Steps
It’s important to conduct daily tick checks on your animals, especially during the summer, fall, and spring seasons when ticks are the most active and on the hunt for new hosts on which to feed. Conducting daily tick checks should be done regardless of whether you use flea and tick prevention products regularly on your pet. It’s important to get all of the ticks off of your pet and remove them as soon as possible. Manual removal paired with a good tick control product is the best way to achieve this goal.
How To: Checking Your Pet for Ticks
Ticks hide in warm, dark, moist areas, and once they find the right spot they tend not to budge. The longer a tick remains burrowed and feeding, the larger its body will grow, becoming engorged with blood.
To check your pet for ticks, use your hands and fingers like a fine toothed comb - an actual flea comb works, too - and run them over your pet’s body beginning at the head and checking all over. Make sure to check under the collar, tail, around the anus, between the toes, in the “armpits,” and groin areas.
A special area of concern is the ears, where ticks are especially drawn to the darkness and moisture. Always check the outside and inside of your pet’s ears thoroughly. A sign that your pet may have a tick in its ear is if your dog or cat continuously shakes its head, but you don’t see any wax or buildup. If you suspect a tick is in your pet’s ear but cannot see it, your veterinarian can inspect further.
What you’re looking for throughout this check is a small, pea-sized bump (or smaller) or black mass. If you feel a bump while checking your pet, stop!
My Pet Has a Tick: Now What?
If you’ve spotted a tick on your pet it’s important to take the right steps when removing it, or else the tick head can remain embedded in your animal and could cause an infection. First gather a few tools for yourself, ticks are nasty little buggers and you don’t want to handle them with your bare hands if it can be avoided. Grab a few paper towels or a pair of disposable gloves, a tweezer or special tick removal tool, some alcohol to swab with, and a container to store the tick once it has been removed.
Tick Removal Dos and Dont’s
- Do use blunt curved forceps or tweezers to pull out a tick.
- Don’t attempt to burn the tick off.
- Do grab the tick by the head, as close to the skin as possible.
- Don’t grab the tick’s body or neck - you may end up squeezing infected fluid into your pet.
- Do pull steadily upward and outward with an even pressure.
- Don’t jerk, attempt to burn, or twist the tick - you’ll risk leaving its head embedded in your pet.
- Do soak the affected area in the event the tick’s head breaks off, and it will come out.
- Don’t “paint” it with alcohol, petroleum jelly, oil, nail polish, or anything else.
- Do remove the tick as soon as it’s detected - it takes several hours for embedded ticks to begin transmitting diseases.
- Do stop pulling on the tick and contact your veterinarian if your pet appears to be in pain or the airea becomes red and irritated.
- Don’t throw the tick away, release it outside, or flush it down the drain.
Once you’ve successfully removed the tick, resist the urge to flush it down the toilet. It’s extremely important that you find out whether or not the tick was carrying diseases and if anything was transmitted to your pet.
Not all tick species carry diseases, but the ones that do are serious and can be fatal. Your veterinarian may be able to identify the tick and let you know what tick disease signs to watch for. Deer ticks can carry Lyme disease, brown dog ticks can carry Ehrlichiosis and the American dog tick can carry Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, however, more than one species of tick can carry different diseases and one tick may carry more than one disease at a time.
Tick Disposal Dos and Dont’s
- Do call your vet to check and see if they want to ID the tick.
- Do save the tick in a plastic baggie or pill bottle to bring to your vet.
- Do ask your veterinarian how to preserve the tick.
- Do label the bag/container with the date and location of the bite.
- Don’t use any alcohol to store the tick - it can interfere with the Lyme disease test.
- Do swab the bite area with alcohol or an antiseptic swab after removing the tick.
- Do wash your hands immediately after conducting a tick check or removal.
Now that you know the right way to spot and remove ticks from your pets, get out there and have some fun! Just don’t forget to regularly use a good tick control product and conduct daily tick checks and exercise caution whenever you’re outside in wooded or grassy areas.