Ticks are nasty little creatures. If this seems harsh, consider the plentiful research that shows ticks are responsible for the transmission of deadly diseases and infections to animals and humans alike. Finding a tick attached to your pet, or yourself, can be a jarring experience, but you don’t need to panic! Knowing how to deal with ticks, and prevent bites in the first place, can help you to avoid these issues.
How to spot a tick
Ticks are a part of the arachnid family and are known for their oval shape, as well as having eight legs. Ticks are reddish-brown, grey, yellow, or black and are no bigger than a fingernail even when fully engorged. Ticks can be very hard to spot on animals. This is especially true if the animal has long, thick, or dark fur. You should check your pets for ticks after they have been in dense foliage, especially on exposed areas such as the belly, inner thighs, and ears where fur tends to be less dense. Other than actually seeing an attached tick, you may see or feel:
- Lumps under fur
- Irritated or scabbed skin
- Continual nipping or scratching of a particular area
If a tick bite makes your pet sick, they may also seem lethargic, show a loss of appetite, vomit, and there may be swelling or inflammation in the area. If you see these signs, take your pet to the vet for treatment.
How to remove ticks (And how not to)
There are many different methods of tick removal, and all of the ones that are most often recommended have been tested. However, not all methods are safe or even effective. The methods of tick removal that you should never attempt when you find a tick on your pet are:
- Applying petroleum jelly (it will not smother the tick and will make it hard to grip and remove)
- Burning it out (dangerous to your pet for obvious reasons, and not effective in removing ticks)
- Letting it drop off on its own (increases the chance of infections drastically)
Instead of these ineffective methods you should pull the tick free. This is easy to do. All you need is a pair of tweezers or a tick removal tool. Grasp the tick close to the skin (not by the abdomen as it will squeeze matter from the tick into the wound and increase the chance of infection) and pull gently but firmly away. This will remove the tick. Once you have removed it, clean the wound to reduce the chance of complications.
Preventing tick bites
Ticks can live year-round in climates that are temperate and mild. If you live in an area that has hard winters, however, ticks will be most active as the weather starts to warm in spring. Ticks prefer dense foliage and often attach to pets when they run through or lie in long grass. You can prevent tick bites in several ways, but the most effective is to use tick repellent treatments on your pets and keep your yard free from the kind of dense foliage that ticks love. As well as this, you should perform regular checks of your pets to find any ticks that may have managed to attach to them. The quick identification and removal of ticks is the best way to prevent illness and infection after your pet (or you) has been bitten by one.