Having your furry friend join you in your outdoor adventures can be a lot of fun. However, one of the less fun consequences of being in the great outdoors is that there are a lot of bugs your pets may bring home. One of the more serious hitchhikers is the tick.
Ticks can be found in woods, fields, beaches, or even your lawn. They aren’t picky eaters and will feed on most mammals, birds, and even some insects. There are at least 200 different species of tick in the US. They can be the size of your pinky fingernail, but tick nymphs can be nearly microscopic. Ticks can carry several diseases, including Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain Fever, babesiosis, and Ehrlichiosis.
Where to Check for Ticks
Tick bites can carry some serious diseases, and it is very important to remove ticks promptly and correctly to reduce the likelihood of infection. However, ticks are not difficult to remove once you know what to do. Whenever you and your pet come in from an environment that may contain ticks, check your pet over thoroughly. Ticks will latch on anywhere but are most found near the face, ears, neck, underbelly, and between toes. If your pet has a tick located in a particularly difficult location near an eye or on its mouth or ear, you can take it to the vet to safely remove it.
Prepping for Tick Removal
Once you locate a tick, you will need to be sure to prep for the removal. You will want to part the hair away from the tick to ensure that you can see it well. You may want to use water to slick back longer hair that might obstruct your vision. Extra lighting might be helpful as well.
Tweezers are the best way to remove a tick safely, so have a pair of fine-point tweezers ready, and something to clean the wound site with after. This can be triple antibiotic cream or rubbing alcohol. You may also want a jar or container to place the tick in afterward. You can wear latex or rubber gloves to protect yourself from the tick.
Removing a Tick Safely
To remove the tick, part the hair as close to the tick as possible. Take your tweezers and grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible without pinching your pet. Fine-point tweezers work best as they are more precise and help prevent the tick from tearing apart and spreading infectious materials into your pet.
Contrary to popular belief, ticks don’t have heads in the conventional sense, so the part embedded in your dog is its mouthparts. It is very important that you remove the mouthparts attached to the rest of the body to reduce the risk of infection. Once you have a firm grasp on the tick, gently and carefully pull it straight up. You need to do this in a slow but steady motion so that the mouth does not break off.
Another easy way to remove a tick is with a tick removal hook. These hooks are made specially to remove ticks carefully and quickly. They are also a great option if you are dealing with many ticks at once or if you deal with them often. Tick removal hooks have prongs that fit on either side of a tick’s body. Follow the instructions that come with your specific hook, but most work by either twisting until the tick lets go or pulling straight up on the tick’s body.
After You Remove the Tick
Once the tick is removed, examine the body to ensure you got the whole thing. You can then place the tick in a jar of rubbing alcohol with a lid. This can be helpful if your pet does develop symptoms and your vet needs help identifying what disease the tick was carrying.
Once the tick is taken care of, wash your hands and carefully clean the bite site with rubbing alcohol or use a bit of antibiotic cream. Disinfect the tweezers you used. You will want to watch the wound site for at least 48 hours. Symptoms to look for include inflammation and redness at the wound site. If you were unable to prevent the tick’s mouthparts from tearing off, do not try to dig them out yourself. Take your pet to the vet so it can be removed safely without further infection.
What Not to Do When Removing a Tick
There are a few things you will want to be careful to avoid when you remove a tick from your pet. First, you should never try to remove a tick with your fingers. Not only is this unsanitary for you, but there is a high likelihood that you will tear the tick or squeeze more possibly infectious materials into your pet. You will also want to avoid using home remedies that use nail polish, gasoline, or alcohol as a way to smother the tick. This will only cause the tick to embed even deeper. It can also cause the tick to regurgitate harmful materials or burst.
Ticks are quite common, and while not all of them will carry disease, it is important to remove any tick you ever find on your pet. If you and your pet are outdoors often and are frequently exposed to ticks, you should consider using flea and tick preventative year-round. You can get this by prescription from your vet or an over-the-counter solution. This will not only cut down on the time you take looking for and removing ticks but will also keep your pet safe from tick-borne diseases.