Does the thought of a tick crawling through your pet’s fur make your skin, well, crawl? Discovering one of these bloodsucking parasites on your four-legged friend can be revulsive, but ticks can cause so much more than a cold chill down your spine. A single tick bite can transmit multiple pathogens that can lead to serious, potentially lifelong, illness, so knowing how to safely remove ticks from your pet and prevent future infestations is essential.
If you have a tick problem in your area—which most people do—follow these seven steps to keep your furry pal safe from ticks and their diseases.
Step 1: Check your pet for ticks
Ticks can quickly hitch a ride on your pet, who can be exposed to all sorts of ticks after only a few minutes outdoors. Always carefully check your pet for ticks after you go back inside, focusing on a tick’s favorite spots:
- Under the collar
- In and around the ears
- Around the eyelids
- Between the toes
- Under the front legs
- Between the back legs
- Around the tail
In general, ticks prefer warm areas with minimal fur, but they can be found anywhere on your pet’s body.
Step 2: Verify that what you found on your pet is a tick
If you find a suspicious lump or bump on your pet that you believe is a tick, verify its identity. Pet owners often confuse ticks with small masses, skin tags, or nipples on pets.
To identify a tick, count the number of legs and check the bump color. Larval ticks have six legs, whereas nymphs and adults have eight. Ticks are generally shades of brown, red, and orange, and turn a grey-brown after feeding. Immature tick stages can be incredibly small (i.e., the size of a pinhead), while attached ticks can reach the size of a small grape.
Step 3: Collect proper tick-removal tools
Once you’ve correctly identified that a tick is on your pet, prepare for the safe removal. Gather the necessary equipment, including disposable gloves, a pair of fine-tipped tweezers or a special tick-removal tool, a container of rubbing alcohol for tick disposal, and an antiseptic cleanser.
Step 4: Remove the tick from your pet
To remove the tick safely and effectively:
- Grasp the tick with your tweezers as close as possible to the skin without pinching your pet.
- Pull steadily straight back without jerking or twisting. If you squeeze the tick’s body, or jerk the tick, you may inadvertently “inject” your pet with pathogens or leave the tick’s head still embedded in the skin.
- After removing the tick, check to ensure you removed the entire tick, including the head and mouthparts.
- If you are unable to remove the entire tick, contact our team for assistance.
Step 5: Cleanse the bite wound
Once the tick is fully removed, disinfect your pet’s bite wound with an antiseptic cleanser. Wash your hands thoroughly after removing the tick and caring for your pet’s wound to eliminate any bacterial traces.
Step 6: Monitor your pet for tick-borne illnesses
Although a skin infection can occur at the tick bite site, tick-borne illnesses generally take weeks to months to cause health issues, while some infected pets never develop clinical signs. Only 5% to 10% of dogs infected with Lyme disease develop obvious illness.
If your pet is bitten by a tick carrying one or more pathogens, be on the lookout for infection and clinical signs that can include:
- Swollen, warm, painful joints
- Enlarged lymph nodes
- Bleeding and bruising issues
Some tick-borne diseases can lead to neurologic problems or kidney disease, so be wary of any abnormality in your pet’s health, because they could have a tick-borne illness.
Step 7: Protect your pet from future tick problems
Tick-borne diseases can cause lifelong health problems, so multimodal protection is essential for your pet’s safety. To protect your pet:
- Administer year-round tick prevention.
- Avoid walking in areas that are a tick’s ideal habitat.
- Stick to the middle of paths through wooded areas, and stay out of tall grass, weeds, and brush.
- Remove leaf litter and other debris from your yard to discourage ticks and their hosts from hanging out there.
Ticks can cause serious diseases in you and your pet, so ensure you protect your furry pal year-round with a quality tick prevention protocol. Give our Mercer Street Animal Hospital a call to discuss the best options for your pet’s tick protection.