Finding a tick attached to one of your pets is always concerning. There is plenty of research to show that ticks are responsible for many infections in both animals and human beings. Once a tick has attached itself to an animal, the best action you can take is to remove it quickly and properly. This will minimize the risk of infections and help to prevent the transmission of diseases.
How to identify ticks
There are several tick species that can be found around the U.S. In colder parts of the country, ticks are most common as the weather starts to warm after winter, but they can be found year-round in some states. No matter where you live, however, your pets will be most at risk of picking up ticks in areas of dense foliage.
Ticks are tiny, eight-legged arachnids that are oval and generally smaller than your pinky nail unless fully engorged. Some ticks are reddish-brown or black while others can be grey, yellow, or white (especially when engorged). If you have long-haired pets, you should inspect for ticks regularly as they can be harder to spot on animals with thick or long fur. Signs of ticks include:
- Small bumps under the fur
- Visible irritation of sensitive flesh, scabbing
Lethargy, appetite loss, fever and other signs of general illness may be signs that a tick has transmitted an infection to your pet. If you see these signs, you should take your pet to the vet even if you have already removed the tick. A blood panel may be necessary to ensure a more serious disease has not been transmitted.
How to properly remove a tick
While there has been some research into the use of local anesthetic as a method of tick removal, the safest, most effective way to remove ticks is still to pull them from your pet’s body with tweezers or a special tick removal tool. Plastic or metal tick removal tools are readily available at pet stores, veterinary practices, and, of course, online stores. However, you can also remove ticks safely with tweezers or string as long as you follow these simple steps:
- Wash your hands
Removing a tick from your pet will create an open wound, so it is important to wash your hands thoroughly to prevent bacteria from entering the wound.
- Pinch the tick close to the skin
Whether you use a tick removal tool, a bit of string, or a pair of tweezers, you must grip the tick close to the skin it has attached to. Grip it by the head, never the abdomen, as squeezing the abdomen will squeeze blood and internal material from the tick into the wound, drastically increasing the chance of infection.
- Pull directly away
When removing the tick, pull gently but firmly and directly away from your pet’s body. Often gentle pressure will cause the tick to release on its own, but this is not always the case. If it doesn’t, just keep pulling and the pressure will forcibly remove it from the skin. Once it is out, dispose of it safely. Washing it down a drain or putting it in the toilet will prevent a live tick from making its way into your home.
- Wash the area
Once you have disposed of the tick, wash the wound to clear bacteria from the area and allow it to heal properly.
Prevent further tick bites
Preventing ticks from attaching themselves to your pets (and yourself) is partly about being aware of where and when they are most active, and partly about clearing them from the foliage in your yard. Taking some preventative measures will save you a lot of time and stress in the long term.