Often fleas get all the attention when it comes to your pet’s health, but an active dog or an outdoor cat could come into contact with ticks just as easily. Ticks carry diseases and because they may be attached to your pet for a long time before you notice, there is a high risk of transferring disease.
Different types of ticks are found throughout Canada and the United States. They are usually found in wooded, bushy areas or tall grasses. Your dog or cat, or yourself for that matter, could pick up a tick just walking through tall grass. A female tick (after feeding and dropping off her host animal) lays hundreds of eggs in one place. Once they hatch, they can migrate to bushes or nearby grasses, and wait for their own blood host.
A tick is an obligate parasite, which means it requires a blood meal from a host (such as your dog!) to live. To get that blood meal, the tick will imbed itself in skin. The biggest concern with ticks is that they carry several diseases. It’s unlikely that the blood-sucking will cause an issue on its own, but other tick secretions transmit disease.
The best way to prevent the spread of disease from ticks is to check your pet for ticks each time they come in from a bushy or tall-grass area. Ticks could attach themselves anywhere on your pet but they’re most common around the neck and head (including ears) or on feet. It takes several hours for a tick to fully attach itself to your pet, and it’s uncommon for any disease to be transmitted immediately. This means you have time to find and remove the tick without any adverse effects – as long as you check for them regularly.
There are also several products at your local store which prevent against both fleas and ticks, protecting your pet from harm.
How to Remove a Tick
Stay calm and don’t rush. Once you’ve spotted a tick for removal, you need to approach the situation (and your pet) calmly to avoid mishap.
First, disinfect the area with rubbing alcohol. Then, using a pair of tweezers, grab the tick as close to your pet’s skin as possible and using steady pressure, pull straight upwards in a smooth motion. Don’t twist when you remove the tick and avoid a jerky motion.
If possible, have a second person hold your pet steady to increase the chances of a smooth removal.
Wear gloves to avoid direct contact with the tick, and if possible, don’t let the tick or any secretions come into contact with your pet during removal.
Once removed, place the container of soapy water or alcohol. Simply throwing it in the garbage or flushing it will not kill it, and you shouldn’t squish it as that will expose you to potential disease. It’s important to make sure the tick is disposed of properly so it doesn’t reattach itself to your pet. Be sure to discard or wash your gloves, and wash your hands with soap and water after removing a tick.
Sometimes you will fail to remove the whole tick, leaving its ‘head’ imbedded in your pet, even if you follow these instructions. Don’t panic! Simply disinfect the area again with alcohol, and try a warm compress to see if your pet’s body will naturally expel section still attached. Don’t try to remove that section separately with tweezers. It’s safer to leave it alone. Check with your veterinarian if you’re worried.
Whether you remove the whole tick or not, watch the bite area for inflammation (redness, swelling, etc.) over the following week. If the area becomes inflamed, visit your vet for evaluation.