Removing ticks safely from your dog
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Ticks are a major problem for both dogs and humans because of the dangerous diseases they carry and transmit. Even when you take precautions, you may find a tick on your dog, typically seen as a bump or swollen area with a tick burrowed just under your dog's skin.
Prompt and proper removal of ticks is important in preventing an attached tick from transmitting an infection to your dog. It can take between 24 and 48 hours for a burrowed tick to infect its host, so removing it quickly is critical.
If you have inspected your dog and found a tick burrowed on your dog's skin, follow these steps to remove the tick safely. Note, if the tick is too deeply burrowed into your dog's skin, or you are uncomfortable with removing the tick yourself, please take your dog to a veterinarian so it can be removed.
Learning the proper way to remove a tick is important because if the pest is removed incorrectly, this can result in the infection being "injected" into the dog's blood stream. Incorrect removal can result in:
- The tick's mouth parts being left behind in the skin - this can result in septic abscesses and serious blood infection.
- Compression of the tick's abdomen - can cause tick to regurgitate the blood meal, injecting infective agents to into the blood stream of the dog
- Puncture of the tick's body - can cause tick to regurgitate the blood meal, injecting infective agents to into the blood stream of the dog
- Stress to the tick - an cause tick to regurgitate the blood meal, injecting infective agents to into the blood stream of the dog
Do not use petroleum jelly, rubbing alcohol, oils /butter, paraffin, nail polish remover or any liquid solutions to stimulate the tick to release its grip. Do not apply a freezing agent, or burn the tick with a cigarette, lighter or match. All these methods may get a tick to release its grip, but they also stress the tick and thereby significantly increase the chances of it infecting your dog.
There are really only two safe ways to remove an attached tick: with fine-tipped (precision) tweezers or with a tick-removal tool
To begin, you will need the following items:
- Pair of latex or rubber gloves
- Clean pair of fine-tipped (precision) tweezers or a commercial tick remover, such as the Tick Twister
- Isopropyl alcohol
- small container or zip-lock bag
Remove the tick. Wear latex or rubber gloves while removing the tick to avoid contact with your skin.
If gloves are not available, use tissue to protect your skin. Do not handle the tick with your bare hands, as you may infect yourself through breaks in your skin or through your eyes, mouth or nose.
If using tweezers:
- Gently grasp the tick as close to your dog’s skin as possible. Try not to pinch your dog's skin. Be careful not to squeeze or squish the body of the tick.
- Pull outward in a straight, steady motion. Do not twist or jerk the tick, as this may leave the mouth parts embedded. If parts are broken off, remove any embedded mouth parts with tweezers or a sterilised needle.
- Make sure the entire tick is removed.
If you're using a tick remover:
- Gently press the remover against your dog's skin near the tick.
- Slide the notch of the remover under the tick.
- Continue sliding the remover until the tick is caught in the small end of the notch and is pulled free. (The tick will remain in the bowl of the remover.) As tick removers vary slightly in function from each other, be sure to read the instructions on packaging.
Sterlize the bite site. Clean the bite site on your dog's skin with antiseptic and make sure to clean your tweezers or tick remover with isopropyl alcohol. Dispose of your gloves and wash your hands, too!
Preserve the tick. Once it is removed, you wil want to save the tick for identification and testing purposes, in case your dog develops symptoms of an illness. If you would like to identify a tick, read our article: Identifying Ticks .
- Drop the tick into a small container that contains isopropyl alcohol (the alcohol will quickly kill the tick). Or, put the tick in a sealed ziplock bag (preferably with preserving agent) and store it in a freezer.
- Mark the date on the container.
- If your dog begins displaying symptoms of a tick-borne illness, your veterinarian may want to identify or test the tick.
Monitor your dog. If you are unsure when your dog may have been bitten, you may want to take your dog to a veterinarian for a check up.
Keep an eye on the bite area for infection. If your dog's skin remains irritated or infected, make an appointment with your veterinarian.
Watch your dog for symptoms of tick-borne diseases. Some symptoms include arthritis or lameness that lasts for three to four days, reluctance to move, swollen joints, fever, fatigue, swollen lymph nodes, loss of appetite, and neurological problems. Read our article on Canine Lyme Disease: Symptoms, Treatment and Prevention for more information on signs of this tick-borne disease.
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