Ticks are a common parasite that can cause problems in pets and people. These blood-sucking parasites not only cause discomfort when they bite your pet, but can also transmit a multitude of serious diseases. If you find a tick on your furry pal, learn how to proceed safely and expertly. Our team shares the steps you should follow if you discover a tick on your pet.
Step 1: Recruit a helper
Removing a tick from your pet can be tricky business, especially if you have to comb through waving locks of fur where a speedy eight-legged pest is hiding. Recruit a friend or family member to hold your pet still while you check for ticks, so you can lock in before the tick scampers away. A helper can also distract your pet while you remove an attached tick.
Step 2: Check your pet for ticks
When your pet is securely restrained, comb through their fur, feeling for small lumps or bumps on their skin. If you feel anything abnormal, part the fur, and closely examine your pet’s skin. Your helper is invaluable during this step, because you can easily lose a tiny lump in your pet’s fur.
When checking your pet for ticks, pay close attention to their favorite hideouts:
- Inside and around the ears
- Under the collar
- On the eyelids
- Between the toes
- In the armpits or groin
- Under the tail
Although ticks prefer warm areas with minimal fur, they can be found virtually anywhere on your pet, including attached to their gums or under the base of the tail.
Step 3: Identify the tick
Although you may not be able to identify the exact tick species on your pet, you should at least verify that the bump is indeed a tick. Trying to rip off your pet’s skin tag or nipple could earn you a dirty look or a bite! Once you’ve parted your pet’s fur and identified the lump as a tick, try to snap a clear photo. If your pet becomes ill, we may be able to use the picture to determine the tick species and the illness transmitted to your pet.
Step 4: Remove the tick from your pet
Before removing a tick, shed your preconceived notions about tick removal. Smothering the parasite in olive oil, nail polish, paint thinner, or any number of other items will not cause suffocation, nor will singeing them with a match. Instead, these methods will only spur the tick into transmitting pathogens faster, and cause your pet distress and discomfort.
To properly remove a tick, wear disposable gloves and use a pair of fine-tipped tweezers, or a tick-removal tool. Firmly grasp the tick’s head, as close to your pet’s skin as possible, without pinching your pet. Avoid pinching the body of the tick. Then, pull the tick straight out using steady pressure and avoiding twisting or jerking. Kill the tick and preserve the body in a jar of rubbing alcohol in case we need to accurately diagnose a tick-borne illness.
If you cannot remove the tick’s entire head or mouthparts, there may not be cause for concern. Typically, the skin can and will work out the mouthparts or head on its own. Sometimes, leaving part of the tick behind can cause discomfort or infection. Contact our LaGrange Veterinary Hospital team for advice on what’s appropriate for your pet.
Step 5: Disinfect the bite wound
After removing the tick, inspect the bite wound carefully and gently disinfect the area with an antiseptic cleanser. Disinfect the tweezers or tick removal tool with a splash of rubbing alcohol, and wash your hands thoroughly.
Step 6: Monitor your pet for illness
Ticks can transmit pathogens in a matter of minutes, or days. Depending on the tick species that bit your pet and the pathogens transmitted, your pet may not develop any illness, or may not show signs for days or months. Keep a careful eye on your pet after a bite for signs of tick-borne illness, which can cause serious health problems. Common tick-borne disease signs include:
- Swollen joints
- Swollen lymph nodes
- A decreased appetite
Certain tick-borne diseases can cause bruising and bleeding issues, while others can lead to neurologic problems. Because such a wide range of tick-borne illnesses is possible, noting any abnormality in your pet is critical for obtaining prompt treatment.
Step 7: Prevent future tick problems
Once your pet is out of the woods—literally and figuratively—protect them from future tick problems with year-round tick prevention. Products are available in oral chewable and liquid topical forms, and some also protect your furry pal from fleas, heartworm disease, intestinal parasites, and mites.
Are you concerned that a tick has bitten your pet? Or, do you need help choosing the optimal tick prevention product for your four-legged friend? Contact our LaGrange Veterinary Hospital team to talk about which options would work best for your pet.
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