Ticks are the scourge of many a dog owner; not only are these creatures unsavory, they also transmit the dangerous disease to your pets. According to experts, this is going to be a particularly bad year for ticks, and tick-transmitted disease; that is why it is so important to regularly check your dog for ticks, and once found, remove them promptly. To do that though, you need to know how to safely remove engorged ticks from your pet’s skin, and that is where we are here to help. Read on as we let you in on the do’s and the don’ts of tick removal.
Though smaller, ticks rather resemble spiders in appearance – they have four sets of legs, no antennae, and can’t jump or fly – and in fact, they are more closely related to the arachnid family than insects like flies and mosquitoes. Ticks feed on human and animal blood; once they have found a suitable host, they burrow their little heads into your skin, unfurl their feeding tube, and release a slew of chemicals that numb your skin, thin out the blood, and suppress your immune system function. They then set to work feasting upon your precious life-stream – they take their time about it too; the average time taken for a tick to complete a ‘meal’, is two to three days. In that time they swell to almost double their regular size (ideal for a female of the species that is ready to breed).
Ticks and disease
Ticks are also carriers for some very dangerous diseases, most notably, Lyme disease, which in those infected by it can result in severe joint pain, and inflammation of one’s brain which can in some cases be fatal. Rocky Mountain spotted fever (for those of you living in the United States), and anaplasmosis, are some other diseases commonly carried by many tick species. They too can potentially be lethal. Even worse, ticks can carry many diseases at once.
That’s pretty scary stuff for your pet lovers out there! Luckily though, there is some good news, which is that ticks don’t transmit disease instantly. In fact, in the case of Lyme disease, it takes at least 36 to 48 hours for the bacteria that cause this affliction to infect your body. And most of the other diseases carried by ticks take many hours to be transmitted as well. The upshot is that if you remove a tick from your dog within the first 24 hours, the chances are that he will remain disease-free.
How to remove ticks from your dog
But just how do you go about removing ticks that have attached themselves to your dog’s skin? Get it wrong, and you could cause the tick to release all of its bodily fluids – including any disease-causing pathogens present – directly into your dog’s blood-stream. Remove an engorged tick correctly, though, and you could save your pooch from acquiring a life-threatening disease.
Here are some of the major DO’s for removing ticks from your canine friend.
First: as mentioned, ticks should be removed within the first 24 hours of a bite. That means you will have to thoroughly check your dog’s entire coat, each and every day. In particular, you will need to closely examine his groin, anal area, in and around the ears, the tail, and his eyelids – as these are the places ticks like to hang out. If you’ve got a long-haired dog or a double-coated one, go through his locks with a hair dryer: as the hairs part, your pet’s skin will be exposed and you will notice if there any ticks attached to it.
Second: when removing ticks from your hound, you are best off using tweezers – the smaller the better. (Although there are special tick removal devices on the market, they can be expensive and hard to find – they vary greatly in terms of their quality as well). Position the tweezers as close to the skin as you can get them, then place them around the body of the tick. Don’t jerk or twist the tick, simply pull upwards, slowly increasing the pressure until the tick is pulled clean away from the skin. Be sure afterward to clean the bite site; soapy water will do. Make sure as a final precaution that the tick is dead and has been safely disposed of.
Now for the major DON’Ts of tick removal
First: never remove ticks using your fingers, lest you risk infecting yourself!
Second: don’t crush or squish ticks, as this might cause the tick to inject infectious body fluids from its mouth directly into your dog’s bloodstream. Crushing or squishing ticks increases the risk of infection.
Next: you don’t need to worry about removing the tick’s mouthpart from your pooch’s skin. It’s the body of the tick that contains the infectious fluids, not the mouthparts. Sometimes they will be really well embedded in your dog’s skin; not to worry, they will drop out of their own accord in a few days.
Also: never attempt to suffocate a tick, or try to kill it whilst it’s still on your dog, whether by using nail polish, insect repellent, fire or the like. Again, this could cause the tick to regurgitate all of its bodily fluids directly into your dog’s blood, increasing the risk of disease.
DON’T use chemical preventative measures, like sprays, collars, topical ointments, and tablets when it comes to keeping your dog tick-free. Although they are effective enough, many of them contain toxic chemicals that can be harmful to your beloved pet, and not just to the ticks you want to remove! You are better off going the ‘manual’ route of closely examining your dog’s coat and skin for ticks on a regular basis. Although time-consuming, it’s a lot safer!
Finally: once the tick is removed, don’t just throw it in the trash, or flush it down the sink – it might crawl back out, and re-attach itself to your dog or another one.
When it comes to removing engorged ticks on dogs – and keeping them away for good – make sure to follow the techniques presented in this article; they will make all the difference in keeping your dog – and you – tick- and disease-free.