Experts warn us each year that it’ll be an especially bad year for ticks. They also share the reminder that the disease incidence is becoming endemic in new areas.
If your dog plays in wooded areas, once in a while he’ll probably pick up a tick or two. Yes, even if you use prevention. No matter what you use for prevention … even the toxic, carcinogenic pharmaceutical products aren’t 100% tick proof.
Don’t try to remove an attached tick by burning it with a match or smothering it with Vaseline. Neither will work, both will let the tick stick around longer than desired, and the whole match thing … yeah, those don’t go well next to dog/cat fur and skin.
Avoid squeezing the body of the tick when handling it or trying to remove it. Doing so can cause “regurgitation” of the nasty and disease-causing bacteria, protozoa, and other microorganisms from the tick’s gut into your pet’s bloodstream. And these could be the very disease-causing agents you’re trying to protect your pet from in the first place.
Don’t handle the tick with bare hands. Ticks don’t just transmit diseases to cats and dogs! Depending on the tick type and disease, you could be at risk as well. Wear exam gloves when removing ticks to stay as safe as possible.
How to Remove a Tick
Now that we’ve got the main “don’ts” out of the way, here are the things you DO want to do when removing a tick from your dog:
Use a tick-removal tool (your best and easiest option), or a good pair of tweezers or curved hemostats, to remove the tick from as close to the skin (and the tick’s mouthparts) as possible.
If using one of the tick removal tools, be sure to follow the instructions on the packaging for best use.
If using tweezers or hemostats, grab the tick’s head as close to your pet’s skin as possible and pull with gentle, steady traction straight back out. Don’t twist.
Clean the area of your pet’s skin from where the tick was removed.
Keep a close eye on your pet following tick removal, both the site on the skin from where the tick was removed and also just generally with their appetite, energy, any limping, or other concerning changes. Changes in the way your pet is eating, drinking, acting, or getting around could be related to the tick and should be checked out by your veterinarian. Usually such signs, if related to the tick, are observed within 2 to 3 weeks. Note that it typically isn’t recommended to treat a dog with antibiotics just because they’ve been exposed to ticks, as there are many factors involved in whether or not the dog will become clinically infected with the Lyme disease-causing bacteria, or any other pathogens. That said, if you’re overly concerned, you can always bring your dog (and the tick) to your vet when you first notice/remove the tick and discuss options and recommendations with your veterinarian then.