Ticks are creepy and crawly and look enough like spiders to make me and my staff cringe. They are not just repulsive, they also carry some pretty serious diseases. That’s why we should have all pets on a tick control product that helps prevent an infestation. But even the best protected dog can get an occasional tick. If you find one, you should remove it quickly because the longer a tick remains attached to the skin, the greater the chances that a tick pathogen can transmit to your dog. You should check your dog for ticks every day (more if you know that you have been in a high risk situation, like hiking in the woods or playing in a field).
If you see something that looks like a tick, make sure that you verify before you start to pull. I see patients frequently with small skin bumps or tumors that have been traumatized because the owner thought it was a tick and pulled it. Once you know the ID for sure (look for legs and movement- use the flash light app on your phone to examine), you can safely remove it with tweezers.
Grasp the tick firmly with the tweezers as close to the skin as possible and pull firmly upward. Try not to twist or pull to the side because it will increase the chances of pulling the head off. Everyone always talks about their fear of removing a tick and leaving the head embedded in the skin, but if you do accidentally leave a portion of the tick, just use the tweezers to grasp what remains and remove it too. If it does not come out easily, do not damage the skin further by digging and twisting because it will increase the chances of infection. Your dog’s body should be able to eject the remaining tick portion itself, if you can keep the area clean and avoid infection.
Do not be tempted to apply any kind of home remedy to the area. It is a myth that petroleum jelly is a good idea and it is certainly a bad idea to hold a lighter near a dog’s hair and skin. You should physically remove a tick immediately and not wait for it to detach itself.
Immerse the removed tick in rubbing alcohol and save it in a plastic bag so you can show it to your vet if there is a problem. Or you can take a photo of the tick with your cell phone before you flush it down the toilet. Be sure to wash the area and your hands after the tick is disposed of.
Tick bites can and often do get inflamed and infected no matter what. If you remove a tick from your dog, keep an eye on the area. If it does not resolve in a few days, make sure you see a vet. If your dog ever acts stiff, lame or lethargic, even if you did not find a tick, see your veterinarian. Tick borne disease is really out there and if caught quickly, can be treated effectively. Seek medical help at the first sign of illness in your dog.
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Featured Image Source: Megan Elice Meadows via Flickr