Finding a tick on yourself or your dog can be an extremely frightening experience. Not only are ticks nasty to look at, but they can harbor diseases, the worst being Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain Spotted fever. Before you light a match or squish the tick with your bare hands, wait! Here is what you need to know to remove a tick from your dog.
Ticks live in grassy or wooded areas, and are most active during the spring and summer months when they are looking for hosts. Often, a tick will crawl to the top of a blade of grass, wait for a passer-by, and attach itself to anything that touches it. Because dogs are often outside, it is only natural that if you live in a tick populated area, eventually your dog will pick one up. Once the tick has found a host, it will bury its head under the skin, and begin feeding on the host’s blood. Daily tick checks are extremely important; the sooner you remove the tick, the better!
To check your dog for ticks, rub your hands all over his body, feeling for any small bumps or lumps. Pay special attention to the head and neck, ears, and paws. If you feel any abnormality, pull the hair back and look at that exact spot. A tick will commonly appear brown or black, and the size will vary depending on how long the tick has been attached. It is especially important to check long haired dogs, like golden retrievers, very carefully, as their thick hair can easily obscure a tick.
Removing a Tick from Your Dog
Once the tick is located, grab yourself a pair of latex gloves and put them on. This will protect you from any diseases that the tick may be carrying, as they are dangerous for humans and animals alike. The best way to safely remove the tick from your dog is with a pair of sterilized tweezers or a hemostat. A swab of alcohol or a flame will sterilize your utensil. With either instrument, grasp the embedded tick as closely to the dog’s skin as possible, and gently pull straight away from the dog. A gentle hand is very important in tick removal, as you do not want to break the tick’s body away from its head, leaving the head in the dog’s skin. If this does happen, consult your veterinarian immediately. Some ticks hold on a bit longer than others, but with a firm, gentle pull, the tick should release its hold in under a minute. Once you have removed the tick, either flush it down the toilet (make sure it goes!), put it into a glass or plastic sealable jar for analysis, or crush it with something other than your fingers, and dispose of it. Crushing the tick will actually expose any diseases it harbors, so make sure not to crush the tick anywhere within your home.
Once you remove a tick from your dog, be sure to check the animal for a rash or reddish spots. Watch for any changes in behavior, including soreness and limping. Consult a veterinarian if any of these characteristics are seen, as they could be a sign that the tick has infected your dog with a disease. If you find yourself removing a number of ticks in any given season, investigate flea and tick medicines, and limit your dog’s access to wooded, overgrown areas.