Ticks and your pets
Ticks are an increasing problem with pets and pet owners. These nasty little parasites are responsible for a variety of illnesses, so proper handling and removal are important. The most common tick-borne diseases include Lyme disease, Anaplasmosis, Babesiosis, and Rocky Mountain spotted fever (RMSF). Most are transmitted by the Blacklegged Tick (aka “deer tick”), while RMSF is transmitted by the American dog tick & Rocky Mountain wood tick.
Avoid using your hands when removing a tick. Make sure you use tweezers, special tick removal instruments (found at most pet shops), or gloves. The tick can be freely picked off if not yet embedded. Place the tick into a jar of alcohol. Don’t flush the tick down the toilet, because it could very well crawl back out (the alcohol will kill it, water won’t).
Use tweezers or tick removal instruments if the tick is embedded. Don’t use a match or alcohol to remove the tick, as these can irritate the tick and cause it to inject bacteria-laden fluids into the animal. Be very careful not to squeeze the tick, as bacteria inside the tick’s body could be forced into the the dog or cat. Grasp the tick very close to the head and pull gently yet firmly until it is pulled free. Drop the tick into a jar of alcohol to kill it, or seal inside a folded-over piece of tape (using clear tape is helpful if you are bringing your pet to the vet to identify the species of tick if you are concerned about possible exposure to tick-borne illnesses). Clean and disinfect the wound to prevent infection, and wash your hands thoroughly afterward.
There may be a small swelling in the animal’s skin where the tick was removed. This is due to a reaction to the tick’s saliva, and will usually go away. Keep an eye on it, however, to watch for possible infection. Don’t worry if the tick’s head remains in the skin. It isn’t a danger and rarely happens. If the tick has been embedded, closely watch your pet for any signs of rash, redness, or fever. If you see any of these signs within two weeks of the bite, have your pet checked out by your vet to rule out possible tick-borne illness.
Diseases Transmitted by Ticks – List of tick-borne diseases (CDC).
Preventing Ticks on Your Pets – Tips on prevention and where to check on your pet for ticks (CDC).
Tick ID – Useful information on identifying tick species (CDC).