Ticks are out in full force in the spring and summer months and can be harmful to humans and animals alike. When you take your dog out for a walk or to roam around and play, always remember to do a thorough tick check when you’re back inside.
If your furry pal has been unfortunate enough to bring an unwanted passenger home, we’ll show you in this article all you need to know to remove it safely. We’ll even throw in some bonus tick prevention methods.
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Anatomy Of A Tick
Ticks are arachnids, which means they are classified in the same group as spiders.
Adult ticks have eight legs covered in short, spiny hairs, and have a tiny claw at the end. These spines and claws help ticks grasp grass, leaves, branches, and other vegetation blades.
So what do ticks eat? Usually it’s blood from the host animal (or person) that’s on the menu for an adult tick.
Their small bodies make it easy for them to latch onto passing birds, animals, and of course, dogs.
Their small bodies make it easy for them to attach themselves to a host and eat their fill before anyone notices. Even hungry adult ticks are often smaller than sesame seeds, so they can be difficult to spot, and they can blend well into the fur of an animal.
Many ticks have to stay in place for a day or more to finish a meal, so the ability to go unnoticed is central to their survival.
Ticks hold on to plants with their third and fourth pair of legs while outstretching their first pair of legs, waiting to climb onto the host, and your pet pooch is the ideal target. The tick will roam around on your dog until it finds the perfect spot to latch on.
The tick then secretes a substance from its mouth, which glues it to the host and dissolves days later when the tick is sated and ready to drop off. Tick saliva also contains anticoagulants to keep a host’s blood flowing.
So as the warm body and soft fur make a perfect spot for a tick and the fact that they can give your dog some pretty serious diseases like Lyme disease (which we’ll talk some more about later). So every owner should check for ticks after a trip outdoors where ticks are known to be present.
If identified it’s important to remove it as quickly as possible. Here is a how to go about that process.
Step 1: Check Your Dog
After roaming outside in areas where ticks could be lurking, check your dog for ticks carefully.
The main areas to check are:
- In and around the ears
- Around the eyelids
- Around the neck
- Around the tail
- Under the front and between the back legs
- Between the toes
If you find a tick attached to your dog, you should remove it immediately and carefully, getting all parts of the tick’s body removed from the skin.
Step 2: Equipment Needed To Remove The Tick
Two ways to remove a tick from your dog are to use a tick removal tool or tweezers with a pointed end.
You will also need a set of gloves, some pet-friendly antiseptic, disinfectant, and a sealed container to dispose of the tick once you remove it.
Step 3: Expose The Tick
Use water or rubbing alcohol to flatten your dog’s hair around the tick with your gloves. Next, gently part your dog’s fur around the tick and keep it flat with one hand, leaving your other hand free to pull the tick out.
Take care with this step to successfully remove the tick. Ticks bury their head into the dog’s skin, so their abdomen is the only visible part, so be careful not to leave the head embedded when removing the tick.
Step 4: Remove The Tick
You can use both a dedicated tick remover tool or tweezers to get rid of a tick stuck on your dog.
A tick hook tool is shaped to get under the tick’s body and pull it out in one motion without squeezing; squeezing the tick could push bacteria-rich tick saliva into the bite wound. You can buy these tools from your local vet’s office or some supermarkets and online retailers.
Follow the instructions on your tick-removal tool to remove the tick. The general process is usually:
- Slowly slide the device underneath the tick.
- Pinch and pull gently.
- Move steadily and straight upward to remove the tick.
We do not generally recommend regular tweezers for tick removal, as these are more likely to crush the tick or leave the tick head embedded in your dog. If you’re using tweezers, you must grasp the tick as close as possible to your dog’s skin. Be careful not to pinch your pet.
Pull it out slowly in a straight, steady motion. Don’t jerk because anything left behind can lead to an infection.
Step 5: Clean The Area
Gently wipe the affected area on your dog with an antiseptic designed for pets or with soap and water.
Step 6: Search For More
After removing the tick, check your dog’s fur thoroughly because there can be more ticks on your dog. Then, follow the same process to get rid of other ticks you might find.
Step 7: Dispose Of The Tick
After removing the tick, place it in a jar with alcohol, close the lid, and throw it away. You can also tape the tick to a piece of paper and throw it away. The paper will dry out the tick.
Tip: Take a picture of the tick before disposing of it. You can show the image to your vet for identification if your dog shows any symptoms of tick diseases.
Throw away the gloves and wash your hands thoroughly after disposing of the tick.
Ticks carry a severe bacterial infection called Lyme disease, that can also affect dogs.
- Loss of appetite
- Swollen and painful joints
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Treatment for Lyme disease
If you catch it early, Lyme disease can be treated with antibiotics. If you think your dog or cat has Lyme disease, contact your vet, who will run tests and start treatment.
Dogs are very susceptible to tick bites and tick-borne diseases. Unfortunately, vaccines are not available for most of the conditions that dogs can get, and they don’t keep the dogs from bringing ticks into your home. For these reasons, it’s essential to use a tick preventive product on your dog.
Tick bites on dogs may be hard to detect. Signs of tick-borne disease may not appear for 7-21 days or longer after a tick bite, so watch your dog closely for changes in behavior or appetite if you suspect that a tick has bitten your pet.
It’s always a good tip to talk to your local veterinarian about:
- Tick season in your area
- The best tick prevention products for your dog
- Tick-borne diseases in your area
Furthermore, to reduce the chances that a tick bite will make your dog sick:
- Check your pets for ticks daily, especially after they have spent time outdoors
- If you find a tick on your dog, remove it right away
- Reduce tick habitat in your yard
Other preventative measures include tick dips, collars, powders, and sprays, keeping dogs indoors, checking dogs daily, and treating your house and lawn for pests.
While tick bites, unfortunately, can be a frequent occurrence for those who like to spend a lot of time outdoors with their dogs, regular checks and quick removal of them will reduce the chance of any disease spreading.
So remember – If you have it available, use a proper tick removal tool, pay attention to removing the tick’s entire body, and dispose of it safely afterward.
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This is a Guest Post written by Elina Agnati
Passionate about pets, wildlife, and nutrition, she decided to start up WhatAnimalsEat.com. A resource for anyone looking for tips and guides on how to treat your pet right, or what to feed your local wildlife. When Elina is not busy writing online blogs, she can be found hiking outdoors or cooking up a tasty meal for both humans and furry friends.