Adrienne is a certified dog trainer and former veterinarian assistant who partners with some of the best veterinarians worldwide.
Ticks Are More Than an Annoyance
Ticks are not only annoying blood-sucking bugs, but they are also vectors of a variety of diseases such as Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, ehrlichiosis, babesiosis, and anaplasmosis, to name a few. For this very reason, if you live in the country or often take your dog on hikes in areas with high vegetation, you will want to inspect your dog for ticks.
Ticks may not be initially easy to detect; they can be as small as poppy seeds. However, once they are engorged with blood, they can be the size of a corn kernel. Ticks are commonly found in wooded areas, but they can also be found near lakes, ponds, in parks, and even city backyards. They are very hardy and can be found in just about every state and climate.
They usually linger around grasses, patiently awaiting their next meal. Once they find a dog, they will attach their mouthparts through the dog's skin and feed on their blood. They usually settle in areas out of the dog's reach. When inspecting a dog for ticks, make sure to look inside their ears, between their toes, in their armpit areas, and on their underbelly.
Should you find a tick, you must be very careful on how you remove it. There are particular guidelines you must follow to avoid leaving tick's head embedded in your dog.
It is important to remove the tick as soon as possible. It usually takes between 24 to 48 hours for Lyme disease to be transmitted, so you want to always inspect your dog carefully and act swiftly. This article is a guide on how to safely remove an embedded tick from your dog.
Avoid These Risky Methods!
Should you find an embedded tick on your dog, you must know how to properly remove it. There are a lot of methods suggested, but many do not work or are simply dangerous.
You might have heard of using a match, a cigarette, petroleum jelly, lighter fluid, nail polish, or alcohol. These methods have caused serious burns to dogs and even major skin irritations due to the application of chemicals.
Such methods may even encourage the tick to regurgitate more infectious fluids, exposing your dog to more pathogens.
It's also important to protect yourself from dangerous secretions, so wearing gloves is a must. In order to effectively remove a tick, read on for some guidelines.
Items Needed to Remove a Tick
- Rubber gloves
- Jar with alcohol
- Dog's favorite treats
How to Remove an Embedded Tick From Your Dog
- Wear some latex gloves and arm yourself with the tweezers. Bring your pet to a well lit area where you can see clearly. Part the dog's hair and, with the help of the tweezers, grasp the tick as close to the skin as you can. Pull the tick firmly straight up. You are aiming to grasp the tick's head to prevent the head and body from separating.
- Do not twist the tick. Twisting may stress the tick and expose your pet to more pathogens. You may cause the mouthparts to break. Simply pull straight up until the tick removes its grasp. Your goal is to remove the tick alive so that it doesn't secrete pathogens. You should remove the whole tick. Don't forget to praise your dog and give him a tasty treat!
- Do not flush the tick down the toilet, it will survive the trip and look for another meal soon. Instead, place the tick in a jar with rubbing alcohol in it. Label the jar with the date collected. Should your dog ever develop potential signs of a tick-borne disease, you will have a specimen that can evaluated by a vet. They can determine whether it may have transmitted a tick-borne disease to your dog. Usually, a dog starts showing signs of Lyme disease within 2-5 months.
- After removal, clean the skin where the tick was embedded with soap and water. Plain Neosporin can be applied on the area where the tick was attached. This medication is safe if your dog tries lick it off (but try to avoid it).
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Think of a tick as a little germ-filled balloon. Squeeze it too hard on its back end, and all the germs get pushed to the front end.
What If the Tick's Head Remains Embedded?
If the body of the tick separates and the head still remains embedded (you can often see it as a dot of black in the center of the wound), you can try to treat the area just like if the dog had a splinter. Try to remove it carefully with the tweezers. If you are still having difficulty, avoid stressing the skin too much. You may ultimately be causing more damage than the tick's head may be.
At this point you may decide to have your vet attempt to remove the tick's embedded head. Your vet may numb the skin using a topical anesthetic and then gently scrape it off using a surgical blade.
Alternatively, you may watch the area for a few days for signs of infection. The tick's head will be naturally expelled by the dog's skin days later.
It is normal for a sore to form days after the tick has been removed. It may take up to a week or two for the sore to disappear, according to veterinarian Dr. Wade.
If the tick head is still embedded your dog will be likely to develop a local pustule where the head is and it will cause a sore and then should resolve after a week or two.
— Dr. Wade DVM
Preventing Future Encounters
Ticks are nasty disease carriers. And new studies have found that they tend to stick around even in cold weather. For this reason, using special products that repel them can be a lifesaver. These products may need to be used year-round.
If you use Advantix, please be aware that such products can be toxic for cats. Also, try to stay away from cheap over-the-counter products that have been known to cause toxicity in some cases.
A good tick prevention product is important. Preventic is a brand that produces a collar that should repel ticks. It may help safeguard yourself and your beloved dog from these annoying parasites. It can provide priceless peace of mind.
Treating the yard with a tick preventive can also help keep these pesky parasites away. Removing clutter avoids giving ticks a place to hide. Clearing all tall grasses and brush around the home and yard can also help a lot.
On top of that, consider vaccinating your dog against Lyme disease. Lyme disease has been confirmed in dogs in all 48 continental states. However, the disease is more widespread in the Northeast, such as areas from Pennsylvania to Massachusetts, and along the upper Midwest, in Wisconsin and Minnesota.
The biggest thing to hit on when it comes to ticks is the importance for year-round tick prevention. People sometimes think if it's not spring or summer, ticks aren't out and that's not true.
— Dr. Richard Gerhold, DVM
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
© 2008 Adrienne Farricelli