Just the thought of ticks makes my skin crawl. Unfortunately, though, they’re a natural part of outdoor life … and I like to be outside! I love taking my dogs hiking in the mountains or sunbathing by the water. Before we get in the car to head home, I always check them for ticks. I run my hands through their hair, feeling for any lumps or bumps. I carefully check their ears, face, neck, chin, belly, feet, and toes. A tick could be anywhere … so it’s important to do a thorough check! After I’m done inspecting my pups, I give myself a quick once over. Luckily, I’ve never found a tick on my dogs. I can’t say the same for myself.
What To Do If You Find a Tick
The most important thing is to get it off immediately. I recommend keeping a first aid kit in your car (one that contains a good pair of pointy tweezers or tick removal tools). The longer a tick remains attached to you or your pet, the greater the chance of disease transmission. The good news is that most tick-borne diseases take at least 24 hours before disease transmission occurs.
How to Remove a Tick From a Dog
If possible, try to get help so someone can keep your pup calm.
What You Need:
- Pointy Tweezer or Tick Removal Tool
- Latex Gloves
- A small jar with a screw-on lid (filled 1/2 way with Isopropyl alcohol)
- Isopropyl alcohol
What You Should Do
- Put your gloves on to keep a barrier between you and the tick.
- Using a pointy tweezer or a tick removal tool, grab the tick as close to the point of attachment as possible. Be very careful not to pinch your dog. (FYI: The only part of the tick that will be attached to the dog is the tick’s head)
- Using steady pressure, pull the tick straight out — no twisting or turning. Keep a steady pressure until the tick releases his grip and comes out.
- Make sure you have the entire tick. Any mouth parts left in your pet’s body can cause an infection.
- Place the tick in the jar filled with isopropyl alcohol and cap it. Save it in case the vet wants to see it/test it.
- Cleanse the affected area and wash your hands (even though you were wearing gloves).
- Monitor the site for the next week or two for any changes or signs of infection. If you notice any signs or have any concerns, contact your vet ASAP. Bring the tick that you saved in the jar of alcohol to the vet with you for evaluation.
What Not To Do:
- Never use heat or a flame in an attempt to detach the tick from your pooch.
- Never twist or turn the tweezer when pulling the tick out.
- Never use petroleum jelly, nail polish remover, or other chemicals to try and smother the tick. The tick could regurgitate, releasing toxins into the host’s bloodstream.
So What The Heck is a Tick & How Do They Get On Me?
Ticks belong to a species called arachnoids. They are not insects. Rather, they are related to spiders, scorpions, and mites.
Ticks don’t jump or fly, and aren’t usually found in trees. Instead, they hide in low places like brush, bushes, or in the grass. Normally ticks sit and wait for an unsuspecting host to walk by as they hold onto the brush with their back legs and reach out with their front legs to grab on for the ride. They start low and walk up the body to get where they want to be. Ewwww … disgusting, right!
While many people think ticks die in winter, that isn’t the case. In most places, they are a threat 12 months out of the year. Even in colder climates, the temperature has to be below 10ºF for an extended period of time before ticks begin to die.
Why Are Ticks Dangerous?
Do you know anyone who suffers from Lyme disease? If so, they were probably infected by a deer tick (AKA black-legged tick). While not all ticks transmit Lyme, many carry crippling diseases. Tick-borne illnesses are more common today due to the growing numbers of deer.
There are more than 800 varieties of ticks (some are more common than others). Other ticks we often see are Lone Star ticks and Brown Dog ticks. They do not transmit Lyme Disease, but can transmit other diseases, such as Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and other spotted fevers.
Awareness and prevention are your pup’s best defense.
- The number one way to prevent any tick-borne disease is to limit exposure to ticks.
- Tick preventatives can be purchased at the pet store, online, or your veterinarian’s office. Since all dogs are unique to themselves, they may have different needs. It’s always best to speak to your veterinarian to see which one he/she recommends for your pooch.
- A Lyme vaccine is available. You and your veterinarian can discuss its pros and cons and decide if it’s right for your pooch.
- Be aware and alert! Make sure to check your pet and yourself thoroughly after outdoor activities involving walks, hikes, playing in grassy, wooded, or natural environments.
- Inspect your dog from head to toe, a tick can be anywhere. But they love to hide in dark, moist places. As you thoroughly inspect his body, check the toes, armpits, groin area, ears, eyes, the base of the tail, or any other hard-to-see nooks and crannies they could tuck themselves into. If you find a one (or more) on your pooch (or yourself) remove it asap.
- Remember: In order for the parasite to transmit disease, it must remain on your dog for a period of time. So, get it off immediately! Wash your hands asap after removal. Ticks can carry multiple diseases, you don’t want any of its fluids on your skin. In certain cases, disease can be transmitted to humans via the fluid. Putting the tick in a jar filled with alcohol will kill it. If you want to save it for identification, just pop it into an empty pill bottle – seal and date it in case your dog gets sick.
- Popping your pooch in the tub for a quick scrubby-dubby is a good idea after a day in the outdoors.