Ticks are pesky arachnids that live outdoors but prefer to find refuge on a warm-blooded host like a dog, cat, or human.
Ticks are most commonly found in high grass and wooded areas, and some species can even live in freezing temperatures. Ticks hang on to grass and shrubs until your pet brushes against them—a process called “questing.” They then crawl onto your pet, attach, and burrow their heads in the dog’s skin.
Ticks are often seen or felt during grooming, or when petting your dog or cat. The transmission of a tick bite is potentially harmful and can even be fatal once a pet is bitten.
Check Your Pet for Ticks Routinely
It is very important to check your pet for ticks frequently in order to remove them and identify the species with the help of your veterinarian. Daily tick inspection is recommended in the warmer months and as often as possible in winter, as ticks can survive in freezing temperatures. Frequent, thorough tick checks and speedy manual tick removal are the best ways to avoid disease transmission. Year-round flea and tick prevention medications are safe and effective against ticks and tick-borne diseases.
How To Check for Ticks on Pets
The most important part of tick checking your pet is to be thorough. Ticks hide in dark, warm areas such as the ears, armpits, skin folds, toes, groin, etc. Ticks that have not yet attached or have just started to burrow into the skin are smaller. Those that have been burrowing and feeding for a while are larger and easier to locate.
Use your hands or a fine-toothed comb to comb through fur all over the body.
Start at one end of the pet moving toward the tail and then repeat as you move from the top of the head to the bottom of the paws.
If you feel a small and firm bump on the skin, stop and take a closer look.
Usually these bumps are black, and you can see the body of the tick sticking out of the skin when the fur is parted.
The more often you perform tick checks, the easier it will be to find ticks on your pet.
How To Remove Ticks
To safely remove ticks from your pet, follow these guidelines:
Avoid using your hands to remove the tick. Use fine-tipped tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin surface as possible. Do not grab the tick by its body, as this may transfer diseases from the tick to your pet.
Pull upward using even, constant pressure. Twisting or jolting motions may break the body from the head leaving parts of the tick’s mouth in the skin.
Once tick removal is completed, clean the bite area and your hands with soap and water, or a small amount of rubbing alcohol.
Do not crush the tick! Dispose the tick by wrapping it tightly in tape or placing it in a sealed bag.
5 Tips for Tick Removal
Helpful tips for tick removal include:
Avoid remedies such as burning the tick’s body to make it detach from your pet’s skin, putting on petroleum jelly, or using nail polish remover to kill the tick. These options do not work and can be harmful to your pet.
Do not use rubbing alcohol on the ticks, as this will interfere with identifying them (such as for Lyme disease testing).
If the tick’s head breaks off from the body, soak the affected area with warm water and it will come out.
Stop pulling on the tick if your pet seems in distress or pain or if the area becomes irritated. If this occurs, contact your veterinarian.
Remove the tick as soon as you see it. It takes several hours for disease to transmit to your pet after it starts feeding. So the sooner you remove it, the less likely the disease will spread.
How To Dispose of Ticks After Removal
As gross as a tick may be, do not crush it, flush it down the toilet, or throw it away. Your vet may want to see the tick to try and identify its type to determine if disease transmission is possible.
If you are not sure what to do after you remove a tick from your pet, place it in a sealed container and contact your vet who may want to see the tick for identification. Another helpful tip is to label the container with the date of removal and where the tick was found on your pet’s body.
Not all ticks carry disease, but the ones that do can be very serious, and even fatal. After identifying the tick’s type, your vet will give you a plan for symptoms to watch for in your pet. They may recommend diagnostic testing at a later time (usually 45-60 days after tick bite) to rule out possible disease transmission.
Year-round use of appropriate flea and tick prevention medications, frequent and thorough tick checks—especially if you live in or visit grassy/wooded areas—and knowing the correct way to remove and dispose of ticks, will keep your pet free from ticks and dangerous diseases. It will also allow you to safely enjoy the outdoors together.
How to Properly Dispose of Ticks FAQs
Can you flush a tick down the toilet?
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) says that you can flush a tick down the toilet, but veterinarians recommend that you safely bring it to the office for identification.
Can you put a tick down the sink?
The CDC recommends that you flush a tick down the toilet instead of putting it down a sink.
Featured Image: iStock.com/Petko Ninov
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