This is the time of year when my dog loves to run through the tall grass in the field next to our home. . .which means it’s high time for ticks. These tenacious little arachnids carry any number of diseases–from Lyme disease to ehrlichiosis, anaplasmosis, and Rocky Mountain spotted fever–and your dog is not the only one in danger. Dogs often bring ticks into the house, and they find their way onto the human inhabitants. Vigilance is your main weapon against ticks becoming a problem, so it pays to do regular tick checks of your dogs, your family, and yourself.
At least once a day, run your fingers through your dog’s fur, making sure that you check everywhere: head to toe, behind the ears, behind the joints. If you feel a bump, take the time to inspect it carefully. Sometimes, it’ll be just a scab or a skin irregularity, but you’ll feel better having checked. The reason you check every day is that time is of the essence in the battle against disease. If a tick is found within 24 hours of biting, there’s a good chance your dog has not been infected with Lyme, which takes time to transmit. Even if your pup has been infected, treatments are most effective following early detection.
So, now that you’ve found a tick, your next job is to remove it. There are lots of misconceptions about the best way to do this, so let’s start with what you should not do:
- panic and reach for a match, petroleum jelly, or gasoline. These increase the likelihood of the tick vomiting inside your dog, spewing out any diseases it may carry.
- pull so hard that the tick’s body separates from its head, which will remain embedded and increases the risk of infection.
- squeeze the tick too hard while pulling, lest you push its insides into your pup. You want to keep the tick alive and intact until it’s completely removed from your dog.
Instead, here is the veterinarian-recommended, tried-and-true method:
- firmly grasp the tick’s body as close as possible to your dog’s skin with a pair of tweezers — but, again, not so that you puncture or squish it — and then gently tug until the tick gives up and releases its bite.
- consider purchasing a tool specifically designed for tick removal. There are many on the market, but the Tick Key is the most effective. Its shape is designed so that your pull exerts just the right force to safely remove an intact tick from the skin.
- wrap the tick in a damp but not wet paper towel, so its body stays hydrated. Place it all in a Ziploc bag, write the date on it, and toss it in the fridge. Then call your vet about getting the specimen tested to determine if it’s carrying diseases.