Ticks are small, blood eating ectoparasites that can attach themselves to both animals and humans. During the months of May to October, or year round in hot climates, your pet is especially susceptible to picking up ticks in long grasses and bushes on walks, in the yard, or at the dog park. Ticks are small reddish-brown, black, or tan bugs with eight legs that attach to you or your pet, burrow in the skin, and feed on blood. Ticks will change to a grayish colour when they are fully fed or “engorged”, even though they start out as a different colour. In order to properly understand how to prevent ticks, check for them on your pet, and remove them safely, read on!
Roll Before You Roll Out
After a walk in the wilderness or a jaunt at the dog park, both you and your pet are at risk of taking ticks home with you. In order to avoid the nasty critters hitching a ride home on clothes or hair, try using a lint roller or a piece of duct tape (sticky side out) on all of your clothing and over your pet's coat to remove them. This trick is best used on dry clothing and pet hair, and can help to eliminate ticks before they get the chance to join you on the car ride home. A great method of disposing of the sticky papers or tape if you do pick up ticks is to place them in a sealed plastic bag and dispose of it in the nearest trash can. Keep in mind that the best method to prevent ticks attracting to your pet is to visit your veterinarian for a prescription for an anti-flea, anti-tick medication.
Check Me Out!
Ticks are scary, but with regular checks and thorough grooming, you and your pet can handle the threat! During tick season, it is always a good idea to do daily checks on your pet(s) so that any found ticks can be removed immediately. Left unchecked, ticks can spread diseases such as Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, along with many others. It is easiest to check your pet when they are standing, as then you can see every inch of their skin. Stroke your pet with firm pressure and part the fur to see the skin, searching for any small or large lumps. Make sure to check “hidden” areas such as: in and around the ears, around the eyes and mouth, around the bottom, and in between the toes as these are all areas that ticks can hide.
So, you’ve found a tick. Put down the lighter, put down the petroleum jelly, and put down the hydrogen peroxide, as none of these are going to banish the nasty critter from your pet and may do more harm than good. Some tools you will need to safely remove the tick are:
- Tweezers or a tick removal tool
- A plastic bag that can be sealed
- Rubbing alcohol
- Soap and warm water
- A good light source or a flashlight
- Rubber gloves
According to the Humane Society of the United States, removing a tick can be quick and easy if done properly. Once your supplies are organized, make sure that your pet is resting comfortably and then proceed with these recommended steps for removing ticks:
- Put on rubber gloves to protect yourself
- Grasp the tick as close to the skin and as firmly as possible with the tweezers-aim to grasp the tick close to its mouth area
- Pull the tick out with a straight outward motion
- Place the tick in a small bowl filled with rubbing alcohol to kill it
- Use your light source to check that all legs and the head of the tick have been removed or infection could set in
- Clean the wound with soap and warm water
- Using your tweezers, place the tick in a sealed plastic bag and dispose of it outside of your home
- Wash your hands thoroughly
Be a Detective
After the tick has been eliminated, watch the wound carefully to monitor for infection. Signs of infection can include redness, swelling, and unpleasant discharge. You should also keep an eye on your pet for any signs of illness such as fever, lack of appetite, lameness, difficulty walking, trouble breathing, or any unusual behaviours.
When in Doubt, Vet it Out
If you have removed the tick promptly, your pet will probably experience no issues. However, do not hesitate to contact your veterinarian if you notice anything out of the ordinary. If you have any concerns, are nervous removing the tick, or think that you may have left a piece of the tick behind, your veterinarian can provide the best medical advice. Your veterinarian can also prescribe preventative medicines as well as the best tips for dealing with ticks.
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