The right (and wrong) way to remove a tick from a dog
Let's get one thing out of the way: Ticks are gross. They latch onto unsuspecting hosts and suck their blood. They carry disease, and to top it off, they often hide in hard to find places.
For most people, the natural instinct when they find a tick on their dog is to get it off immediately. But there's a lot of confusing information floating around. Most people agree that you aren't supposed to just pull them out, but beyond that, the facts get hazy. So how do you remove a tick from a dog?
Why Ticks Are Terrible
You can find ticks anywhere in the contiguous United States, and while there are different species of ticks, there is nowhere in the country that is immune to tick-borne diseases. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, ticks may carry and transmit 16 known pathogens that cause human diseases. Dogs are susceptible to at least seven major tick-borne diseases according to the American Kennel Club Canine Health Foundation.
Most ticks feed on different hosts throughout their lives. Once they board a host, a tick "inserts its feeding tube. Many species also secrete a cement-like substance that keeps them firmly attached during the meal. The feeding tube can have barbs which help keep the tick in place." (And now you know why it's so hard to remove a tick.)
While they feed, their saliva may transmit any disease they are carrying. For dogs, those diseases may include Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Ehrlichiosis, Anaplasmosis, Babesosis, Hepatozoonosis, or Bartonellosis. Symptoms of these diseases may include fever, lethargy, joint pain, swelling, bleeding, poor appetite, or neurologic symptoms. Depending on the pathogen, symptoms of these diseases may appear anywhere from one week to five months after a tick bite.
How to Remove a Tick From a Dog
1. Find the tick
Some species of ticks are the size of a sesame seed and may be nearly impossible to find. All ticks, however, can burrow between your dog's toes, under their ears, and in their armpits. They can be especially hard to see on a black or brown dog, so rub your hands thoroughly over your dog anytime they've been outside. If you feel any bumps, investigate further to assess whether or not you've found a tick.
2. Remove the tick
The Humane Society recommends wearing gloves when you remove a tick from a dog to avoid coming into contact with a potentially disease-carrying parasite. Using tweezers, grab the tick as close to your dog's skin as you can. Pull the tick straight out in a slow, steady motion.
If you prefer a specially designed tool, the Ticked Off Tick Remover gets rave reviews, so you can save your tweezers for splinters.
3. Save the tick
Yes, this isn't our favorite part either, but if your dog begins to display symptoms of a tick bite, you'll need the tick so your veterinarian can test for disease. Drop the tick into isopropyl alcohol and write down the date. It probably goes without saying that you need to secure the tick in a water-tight container.
4. Clean the area
Clean the tweezers and your dog's bite area thoroughly with an antiseptic, and wash your hands with warm water and soap.
How to Prevent Tick Bites
With the prevalence of ticks throughout the U.S., there is no guaranteed way to keep them from biting your dog. There are, however, steps you can take to reduce the possibility.
NexGard is a monthly, chewable flea and tick medication that dogs seem to love. NexGard is FDA-approved and is available through your vet.
The same company that makes NexGard also produces Frontline. Frontline Plus and Frontline Gold are topical flea and tick medications for dogs. Frontline kills fleas and ticks on contact and is available without a prescription.
3. Seresto Flea and Tick Collar
Seresto is made by Bayer and will protect your dog from fleas and ticks for 8 months. The slow-release of imidacloprid and flumethrin kill and repel fleas and ticks with one easy "application."
There are plenty of other tick prevention medications available. Ask your vet if they have a recommendation.
Another way to keep your dog healthy and safe is through pet insurance. Did you know pet insurance may cost less than your monthly movie subscription service? Get in touch with your Pekin Insurance agent to find out more.