How To Identify And Remove Ticks From Your Pet

It’s going to happen to most animal lovers at some point in their lives; their pet will return from a walk or a runabout in long grass having picked up an unwelcome passenger- a tick.

Ticks are part of a family of ectoparasites (external parasites) which live off the blood of mammals, latching onto the body of a dog, cat or even person and feeding until they are satiated, before disengaging from the skin and dropping away to start the whole process over again.

Ticks are understandably rather unpleasant, both in appearance and in their behaviour, and if you find a tick on your dog or cat, the temptation to immediately try and scrape it off or otherwise remove it can be hard to ignore. But unless you remove a tick carefully and entirely, you run the risk of leaving part of the tick embedded under the skin, which can lead to a range of potential infections and complications.

During the summer months particularly, most veterinary practices will receive several visits a week from anxious clients wishing to have a tick removed from their pet, which any vet or veterinary nurse can competently remove in just a few moments. But identifying and removing ticks at home doesn’t have to be hard, if you just follow some simple advice to make sure you get it right first time.

Read on to find out how to identify and remove ticks from your pet.



Identifying ticks



The first step towards being able to find ticks on your pet and consequently remove them, is knowing what a tick look like! Ticks come in a variety of sizes depending on how old they are and how recently they have fed, from the size of a pin head up to around the size of a fingernail. They are oval or rounded in appearance, and come in a range of colours from a pale cream up to a fairly deep dark grey or brown, and everything in between.
Generally, the appearance of a tick on your pet’s skin will look like a small rounded pebble, as once a tick has attached itself to your pet you will be unable to see their legs or the probe which they use to pierce the skin with.



Finding ticks on your pet



Ticks can and will latch on to any area of exposed skin on your pet, but generally go for the least hairy areas where there is a good blood supply right below the surface. Particularly favourable spots for ticks to latch onto include the face and neck, underbelly and the insides of the legs. Any time you come back from a walk with your dog, or if your pet has been exploring in long grass (particularly in humid or damp environments such as woods or marshy areas) it is wise to give them a quick look over for the potential presence of ticks.




How not to remove a tick



Before we go on to explain to you the best ways to go about removing a tick from your pet’s skin, first of all here are a few ways not to remove a tick, despite what you might have heard or done in the past!




  • Do not simply brush, scrape or pull the tick forcibly off the skin. This can lead to the tick’s probe breaking off under the surface of the skin and leading to a range of potential infections and problems.

  • Do not just leave the tick alone for your pet to deal with.

  • Do not remove the tick with bare hands or your fingernails- ticks can spread diseases and infections such as Lyme disease, which both you and your pet may be vulnerable to.

  • Do not attempt to burn or singe the tick off.

  • Do not spray the tick with an insecticide or toxin.

  • Do not use alcohol to remove a tick, nor attempt to suffocate the tick using a layer of Vaseline or soap.



Appropriate ways to remove a tick



There are several suitable options for removing a tick from your pet safely and effectively. First of all before you begin, make sure that you have thought about how you are going to dispose of the tick after you remove it. Ticks are parasites which can spread diseases, and should not just be thrown outside or left alive. Have to hand a suitable small jar or other small sealed container which you can place the tick in after removal for safe disposal.




  • By far the easiest, safest and most effective way to remove a tick from your pet is by means of a tool called a ‘tick twister.’ These are small plastic picks with a claw-shaped head which slots between the body of the tick and your pet, giving you the leverage to twist the tick harmlessly and effectively out of your pet’s skin in one piece. If you’ve ever taken your pet to the vet to have a tick removed, this is almost certainly the tool which your vet or veterinary nurse will have used. Most vets sell tick twisters over the counter, or you can order one from a variety of retailers online. It’s a handy piece of kit to have in reserve!

  • Or, use a pair of blunt needle-nose tweezers to remove the tick. Grasp the tick as close to your pet’s skin as you can- do not take hold of the body of the tick or squeeze the body, as this can kill the tick, leaving the front part of the head embedded under the skin releasing toxins. Then gently and with a consistent pressure, twist and lever the tick away from the skin. Do not apply too much force, because as mentioned, you do not want the head of the tick to break off under the skin.



Aftercare



Whichever method you use to remove your tick, it is vital to make sure that you remove the whole of the tick and don’t allow the head end of the tick to break off and remain embedded under the skin. If this does occur by accident, pop your dog along to the vet for them to have a look at, and possibly arrange a course of antibiotics.

Once you have removed the tick, give the affected area of your pet’s skin a thorough wash and a wipe over with a topical antiseptic. Keep an eye on the affected area for a couple of days afterwards to make sure it does not become sore or inflamed.

Finally, while it is relatively rare, ticks can transmit Lyme disease to you or your pet once they have latched onto the skin. Be aware of the potential symptoms of Lyme disease, which can include loss of appetite, lameness and general lethargy and depression. If you have any concerns, talk to your vet immediately.


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