Summer is great for pet owners because you can spend more time outdoors with your furry friend. But it’s also peak season for ticks, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
That means it’s important to watch where you walk because you could end up with an unwanted tick clinging to you or your pet. You may not even think about letting your pet into the house without checking them for ticks first after roaming through tall grass and wooded areas where ticks tend to nest. But skipping a tick check can be bad news for your pet.
Ticks are small, can easily remain invisible in your pet’s fur and can be dangerous. Entomologists reported a 15% increase in the tick population in 2021, leading tomore common than before. And every state is home to at least one of the seven tick species found in the US, all of which can .
The good news is that ticks can be removed from your pet – although there are a few removal methods that could potentially harm your furball. I explain how to keep ticks away and when it is time to take your pet to the vet. It is also important to know the symptoms that may be of concern after your pet removes a tick.
What diseases cause ticks?
If you’re concerned that your dog has a tick-borne illness, a heartworm test for ticks can show whether your pet has been exposed, according to Dr. Todd Ray, a veterinarian at the Leitchfield Veterinary Clinic in Kentucky. Here are two of the most common diseases dogs get from tick bites.
Ehrlichia: This is the most difficult tick-borne disease to prevent, Ray told me, and the most common tick-borne disease in dogs. Ticks can transmit Ehrlichia in as little as three hours and can be deadly to dogs. They will go through three stages of disease where their platelet counts will drop, they will become extremely sick and may have abnormal bleeding, according to Veterinary Partner, an animal health center.
Lyme disease: While this disease is common in dogs, it has relatively minor effects on canines. Ray says the most common symptom ofin dogs is that they experience painful swellings in their joints. But if left untreated, it can lead to kidney failure and serious cardiac and neurological effects. Other symptoms include fever and loss of appetite, according to the American Kennel Club. The tick must be attached for 36 to 48 hours before it transmits the disease.
If your pet has any of these symptoms, take him to a vet immediately.
How can you be sure that all parts of the tick have been removed?
It’s pretty easy to tell if you’ve removed the entire tick if you know what you’re looking for, according to Ian Williams, an entomologist and technical services manager at Orkin — which is part of the largest pest control company in the US. If you’re not careful, the tick’s head and mouth parts can get left behind and potentially cause an infection, but this won’t increase your pet’s risk of illness (more on that below).
The best way to completely remove a tick is with tweezers. The goal is to grab the tick as close to the skin near its head as possible, Williams said.
You want to avoid squeezing too hard as you could crush the tick, making it harder to remove. Once you have a good grip on the tick, pull it straight back and not sideways – otherwise the mouthparts of the tick may be left behind. Williams says the tick will release itself.
What should I do if not all parts of the tick have been removed?
After removing a tick, clean the area with soap and water to disinfect the area and wash away any stuck parts. If mouthparts of the tick were left behind when you tried to remove the tick, Williams says it won’t pose a disease threat to your pet. If possible, try to remove the remaining parts with tweezers to avoid infections. If that’s not possible, you should leave it alone and let the skin heal, according to the CDC.
However, you should continue to monitor the area, as well as your dog or cat’s symptoms, as it can take weeks to months for symptoms to start showing. If symptoms appear, take your pet to the vet for analysis (more on signs it’s time to see the vet below).
Also note that while not every individual tick transmits disease – in fact only female ticks transmit disease – the young nymphs responsible for 90% of the spread in humans are about the size of a poppy seed, making it difficult to tell they are on your pet. It’s best to remove all ticks and take other preventative measures in your yard to keep the populations from spreading (read on for tips).
Five methods never to use for tick removal and why
There are home remedies that you should not use on your pets – or yourself – when removing ticks. They won’t work, according to the experts I spoke to.
- Never use a match or fire to try to release a tick. This can cause burns to your pet’s skin.
- Soap and water does not expel ticks. This is best used to clean the affected area after removing the tick.
- Alcohol. Save this for cleaning the area, not killing the tick.
- never try digging out a tick with a sharp object. Not only is this painful for your pet, but it can also cause an infection if the object is not sterilized.
- Cover the tick in oil to “suffocate” it is a no-no. The goal is to remove the tick as quickly as possible to prevent it from transmitting disease. Don’t wait for it to detach itself.
How often should I check my pet for ticks?
Ideally, you may want to check your dog for ticks every time you let him back in the house. But that’s not always possible, so if your dog or cat goes outside, at least check it daily. You can extend the time between tick checks if your pet is on tick medication. Your garden maintenance also plays a vital role (I’ll explain more below).
Again, timing is important for tick removal to reduce the risk of your pet contracting a disease.
Which parts of my dog should I check for ticks?
Ticks try to find areas of skin with folds where ticks can hide. When checking your dog for ticks, the CDC says to look behind and in the ears, under the collar, under the tail, and between the toes. Also look around your pet’s eyelids, under the front legs and between the hind legs.
If a tick is present on your pet but hasn’t latched on yet, it’s a safe practice to wear gloves when checking your dog for ticks, Williams says. This is to prevent the tick from attaching itself to you.
When should I take my pet to a vet?
When you remove a tick from your dog, you can save it for examination and identification. It’s best to keep it alive if possible, according to the Lyme Disease Association, and place it in an airtight container or zip-top bag.
As for your pet, most tick-borne illnesses don’t show up until four to eight weeks after the tick bite, Ray says. You can note when you found the tick on your dog and keep an eye on the symptoms. For example, if your pet is showing signs of malaise or is unable to hold onto food, it may be time to take it to the vet.
Also keep an eye on the area around the tick bite. If you notice hair loss, redness, or inflammation, it’s a sign of an abnormal bite. A vet can assess and screen the area for tick-borne diseases.
How can I keep ticks off my dog?
Vaccines are not available for most tick-borne diseases that dogs can get, according to the CDC. That is why it is important to take preventive measures to prevent ticks from settling in your pets.
A tick repellent is one of the best methods. dr. Byron Blagburn, a professor and researcher of veterinary parasitology at Auburn University, recommends two topical medications as extremely effective against ticks: Vectra 3D and. He told me not to kill ticks right away.
Chewable tablets – for example– are also recommended by Blagburn as they go into the dog’s bloodstream and kill ticks that cling. It works because the tick absorbs the oral treatment and dies.
And yes, you can give your dog both topical and oral treatments. Ray, the Kentucky vet, recommends giving your dog the oral treatment on the first of the month and applying the topical treatment mid-month (or on the 15th). Treatments are most effective when you keep them apart.
Note: never use products for people that repel ticks on animals. Always ask your vet before using any products on your pets.
Garden landscaping also helps to keep ticks away
Maintaining your yard and mowing your lawn is another way to keep ticks away. This is because they tend to linger in areas of tall grass and undergrowth, waiting for their next meal. Leaving wide paths and margins between your yard and home can help reduce your exposure to ticks, both for you and your furry friend.
If you live near a wooded area that’s more difficult to maintain, Williams, Orkin’s entomologist, suggests using pesticides labeled for ticks in that area. You can also separate your yard from the woods with mulch (this can prevent tall grass from shooting up) or put up a fence to keep your dog from jumping into tick-infested areas.
Now that you know how to keep your pets safe, here’s how:a serious tick-borne disease in humans.
The information in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified healthcare professional if you have any questions about a medical condition or health goals.