Your pet is more than a furry friend; they are part of the family and you want them to enjoy a long, active life. A big part of keeping pets healthy goes beyond trips to the dog park and filling the water bowl. If your pet spends any time outdoors they may pick up ticks or get tick bites. While any type of animal may be exposed to ticks, dogs are especially vulnerable. Every pet owner should understand the risks involved with tick bites, how to identify the pests, how to check for ticks and the best way to remove a tick.
What’s the Risk?
Besides being a source of irritation, ticks carry serious diseases and can make your pet very ill. An attached tick can transmit a disease to your dog in as little as 24 to 48 hours, which means that pet owners need to be constantly vigilant and check for ticks frequently. Once the disease is transmitted it can take 7 to 21 days for the first symptoms to show up. And it’s not just pets that are at risk. Ticks can move easily to other pets and to people, putting your whole family at risk of illness. Unfortunately, vaccines are not available for many tick-borne illnesses, making prevention and early treatment even more important.
What Does a Tick Look Like on a Dog?
For pet owners who have never seen one, ticks can be tricky to identify. Ticks have eight legs and can be black, tan or brown depending on their species. Ticks also come in a variety of sizes and, while some are easily visible, others are as small as the head of a pin and ticks on dogs can easily blend in to a dog’s fur.
How to Check for Ticks
Prompt tick removal requires checking for the pests each time your pet returns from time spent outdoors, especially in areas of mass vegetation. When your beloved pooch or feline returns from outside, run your hands and fingers over the animal’s entire body to check for bumps or raised areas. If you do feel an area of concern, inspect the area closely to determine if it is a tick. Ticks are small and like to hide in crevices and warm spots, so pay special attention when checking these areas:
- Between the toes
- Under armpits
- Inside ears
- Around the chin and face
How to Remove a Tick
When you find a pest, stay calm and follow this step-by-step process for removing a tick from your pet.
- Gather your supplies: gloves, tweezers, antiseptic, and a small container of isopropyl alcohol.
- Put on gloves to protect yourself from tick-borne illnesses.
- Use tweezers to grab the tick near the pet’s skin.
- Pull straight outward to remove the tick. Ticks can break apart during removal, so be sure not to leave any part behind as this can cause in infection.
- Drop the tick in a small container of isopropyl alcohol. Write the date on the container and keep it. That way your vet can identify the species and narrow which diseases that tick may transmit.
- Clean up the area of the tick bite and apply antiseptic to your pet’s skin.
- Clean and disinfect the tweezers.
After Removing a Tick
Knowing how to remove a tick is just the first part of the job. Once the tick is gone, pay attention and be on the lookout for signs of infection and disease. Check the site of the bite frequently, and if it becomes hot, red, swollen, or shows other signs of infection, take your pet to the vet immediately.
You’ll also need to keep an eye out for symptoms such as arthritis, swollen joints, loss of appetite, fatigue, fever, swollen lymph nodes, and difficulty breathing. These symptoms may indicate that the tick passed on a disease before it was removed. Visit your vet, taking along the preserved tick, for testing and treatment. Staying vigilant to protect your pets from ticks will help make sure they stay safe and healthy when playing outdoors!
Make sure prevention is a big part of your pet routine! Using topical products on a regular basis that kill existing ticks and keep new ones away will make your pet much more comfortable in the long run!