How To Find and Remove A Tick
When you take your dog for a long walk, what do you take with you? Probably poo bags, a treat or two, and maybe a tennis ball to throw. But what about a tick removal tool? There are hundreds of species of ticks all around the world, and the UK is no exception. Ticks can be found all over the country, where they’re just waiting to hitch a ride on your dog or cat and infect them with nasty diseases. Do you know how to remove a tick if you find one in your pet’s fur? Read on to learn everything you never wanted to know about these nasty little bugs.
What is a Tick?
Ticks are small insects, closely related to spiders and mites. They’re blood-feeding parasites that will attach them to any convenient living host unfortunate enough to pass them by – including humans, dogs, cats, horses, and even birds! They can’t fly or jump, but will wait on plant stems or leaves ready to latch on to a host using the hooks on their legs.
Ticks can be red, brown, or black in colour and are very small – at least, until they’re full of blood! A nymph tick (the second life stage of a tick) is about the size of a poppy seed, and adults are often no more than 3mm long. This can make them pretty hard to spot, and unfortunately, these tiny little creatures can cause BIG problems.
Once a tick attaches itself to your or your pet’s skin, it will begin feeding – filling itself up with blood until it swells to over a centimetre long. This is when ticks are easiest to spot, as they look something like a lump or balloon, but by this time, the damage can already be done. When a tick bites, it releases fluids into the host’s body that can cause allergic reactions, infections, and diseases. In some cases, a tick bite can be deadly.
How to Find a Tick on My Pet
While preventing tick bites in humans can be as simple as wearing long sleeves and trousers, your dog or cat doesn’t have that option! That’s why it’s important to perform tick checks on your animals often, ideally daily. Fortunately, searching for ticks is as simple as checking for them with your fingertips while stroking your pet – something few animals are going to complain about!
You can also check for ticks while grooming. Brushing against the direction of your pet’s fur as well as with will help you see ticks on their skin. Be sure to also check around and inside the ears, around the eyes, on their chin and muzzle, and between their pads and toes.
There are a number of products on the market for preventing ticks, but these must only be used on healthy animals and following manufacturer instructions EXACTLY. These products can be toxic to your pet if used incorrectly or overdosed. Be sure to NEVER use a tick-control product for dogs on your cat! These usually contain Permethrin, a chemical that can be fatal to cats. Stick to something made specifically for cats and be careful of cross-contamination if you have a dog in the same household.
How to Remove a Tick
Removing a tick at home is simple enough, if you know how to do it safely. Incorrect tick removal can result in leaving behind the tick’s mouth parts or squeezing the tick’s fluids into or onto the host’s body, both creating a serious risk of infection.
It is crucial to remove the entire tick without compressing, puncturing, or injuring the tick in any way. The best way to do that? Use an O’Tom Tick Twister® tick removal tool. These are favoured by professionals in the vet, medical, and forestry industry, and for good reason! Tick Twister® is designed to remove ticks quickly, painlessly, and most importantly, completely.
Tick Twister® hooks around the tick without exerting any pressure, and each pack comes with two sizes to chose from depending on the size of the tick. Slot the tool around the tick from the side, then lift the tool lightly and turn it. 2-3 full rotations will usually be enough. You can twist the tool in either direction – but stick to the same one! Twisting in one direction and then the other will cause the tick’s mouth parts to break off.
Once you have removed the tick, disinfect the bite, and wash your hands thoroughly. (Ideally, you should wear rubber gloves while removing the tick too.) You can dispose of the tick by squashing it in a tissue then flushing it down the toilet. Alternatively, you can keep the tick for later identification by sealing it in a plastic bag and popping it in the freezer.
DO NOT USE:
- Tweezers – these will put pressure on the tick, causing its mouth to break off. For the same reason, don’t try to remove a tick using your fingers or nails either.
- Petroleum jelly or another liquid – this will irritate the tick, causing it to vomit fluids into the host’s body. Lovely.
- Fire or ice – again, this will irritate the tick. Plus, your pet probably won’t be too happy about a lighter that close to their skin.
These methods might look like they remove a tick completely, but remember that you can’t see if a tick’s mouth parts have been left behind without the use of an electron microscope. Unless you’ve got one of those hanging around in the loft, it’s better to use the correct tool in the first place.
I Removed The Tick – Should I Go To The Vet?
If you’re certain you removed the tick correctly and your pet is not showing any symptoms, there’s probably no need! If you have any doubt, though, it’s better to give them a call.
Ticks put your pets at risk of a whole host of diseases, though, including Ehrlichiosis, Lyme Disease, and Babesiosis. Early diagnosis will increase the chances of successful treatment, so it’s crucial to keep an eye on your pet following a tick bite. Be sure to report any symptoms to your vet.
Watch out for…
- Weight loss/loss of appetite
- Vomiting or diarrhea
- Swollen glands
- Swollen joints or limbs
- Discharge from the eyes or nose
- Dark urine
- And more
Sometimes symptoms can show up months after a tick bite, so be sure to mention it to your vet even if you think it was too long ago to matter.