Ick-Ick! Parasite Prevention and Best Practices for Removing a Tick from a Pet
With the arrival of tick medications like Bravecto (which is taken once every 3 months and can totally kill ticks), it is possible to avoid the unpleasantness of the “icky” tick. However, if your pet hasn’t been on an effective medication, beware. Because in the case of ticks, they’re everywhere! They lie in wait on tall grass and brush, are predominant in wooded areas, and active all year except winter, so it’s a good idea to know the score about removing a tick from a pet.
The Yuck Factor
Few bugs inspire such hatred from people. Related to spiders and mites, ticks are found around the world and throughout North America. The difference between these arachnids is that ticks are parasitic blood-suckers that just so happen to spread terrible diseases (like Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever).
Unlike fleas, ticks have to wait to attach themselves to prey moving by. Ticks are typically found on a pet’s head, neck, ears, feet, and chest, but they can cling to the tail and back as well. In other words, they take any opportunity to attach themselves, positioning for a blood meal.
Closely examining the body by touch is critical, as ticks can be well-hidden under a fur coat. Run your hands from the top of the head to the tail, beneath the arms and legs, belly, between the toes, and any other spots a tick can burrow in. The warmer and darker the spot, the more preferable for a tick.
Removing a Tick From a Pet
It’s a heart-dropping moment to find a tick on a pet. Brace yourself and stay as calm as possible.
Your pet first aid kit should always have the following items for this very reason:
- Headlamp or flashlight
- Small container with tight-fitting lid
- Rubbing alcohol
- Fine-tipped tweezers
- Cotton swabs
Removing a tick from a pet isn’t fun, but with this step-by-step guide, we hope it’ll be quick and painless:
- You must protect yourself first by putting on gloves.
- Try to keep your pet still (you may need another person to help).
- Set up a strong, consistent light on the area in question.
- Swab the area around the tick.
- Holding the tweezers, take straight aim at the tick’s body as close to it’s head as you can (sometimes the head is beneath the skin; you don’t want to tear off the body from the head which can cause infection).
- Without twisting or angling the tweezers, pull the tick straight out.
- Drown the tick in rubbing alcohol in the small container.
- Date the container and store it in a safe place.
- Watch carefully for any signs of tick-borne illness over the next several days and weeks. Lyme disease can cause depression, appetite loss, swollen lymph nodes, lameness, and kidney failure.
- Contact us immediately for blood tests, diagnosis, and medication.
Preventing parasites from a gaining a foothold is always preferable to treating disease. Depending on your pet’s lifestyle, age, and health, we can discuss which oral or topical parasite preventative is right for them. That way, if a tick is found on your pet, they’ll die before being able to hurt them.