For people living in many areas of the United States, ticks are a part of everyday life. Checking for ticks after every outdoor adventure becomes second nature. The occasional removal of a tick from your skin might even be something that you’re used to.
Ticks and tick bites can be harmful to dogs in the same way they can be harmful to people. The difference is that dogs cannot check themselves for ticks, and they cannot remove ticks themselves, either. That’s why it’s important to add frequent tick checks and tick prevention to your dog’s care routine.
Keep reading for tips on how to safely remove ticks and prevent tick bites from harming your fluffy friend.
How to Know If Your Dog Has a Tick
After you have spent any time in the great outdoors, you should make a habit of checking your dog for ticks right away. If you live in an area where deer density is high or Lyme disease has been reported, check your dog even after short walks on paved trails. It does not take long for a tick to latch onto your pet. It is even more important to check your pet after long periods of time spent in wooded or grassy areas or after a romp on a marshy beach.
Ticks that haven’t yet bitten your dog but are hiding in its fur can be hard to spot. If you have a shorter-haired breed of dog with lighter hair, spotting a tick is a lot easier. If you have a long-haired breed or a breed with dark hair, you’ll need to look a bit more carefully.
You can use a comb to carefully look through your dog’s fur and brush out insects if you suspect possible tick exposure. A comb won’t remove an attached tick, but it can help you see your dog’s skin more clearly for a tick check. Comb your dog’s hair away from the direction of your body so that you don’t brush a tick off of your dog and onto your own skin.
What to Do If Your Dog Has Been Bitten by a Tick
If you do find a tick that has already bitten your dog, the tick may have started to become engorged. You may notice that your dog seems irritable or that they are repeatedly itching the same spot. If you discover a tick attached to your pup while you’re cuddling on the couch, don’t panic.
Veterinarians and pet experts suggest that timing is everything when it comes to removing a tick. If you remove a tick within 24 to 48 hours of the initial tick bite, you can prevent the transfer of tick-borne pathogens -- meaning there’s usually not much to worry about.
Start the tick-removal process by getting a container ready to dispose of the tick. A glass jar with a screw top works great for this purpose. Remember that ticks are quite small and can get out of many “airtight” containers, but it is important to keep the tick in case your dog exhibits signs of Lyme disease. You can make your container escape-proof by wrapping plastic wrap around the edges of the lid.
Next, take a deep breath and grab your fine-tipped tweezers. Get as close to your dog’s skin as you possibly can (right behind the tick’s mouthparts) and grasp the tick with firm pressure before pulling it away from the dog’s skin. Pull in one direction with even, steady pressure. You’ll need to get the head of the tick as well as the body, so inspect it to make sure you got the whole thing.
Drop the tick into the container you’ve prepared and seal it shut. Then, clean the area of the tick bite thoroughly with an antiseptic, such as rubbing alcohol. If you believe that the tick has been attached to your dog for more than one day, call your vet to see if there are other steps you need to take.
When It Comes to Ticks, Prevention Is Key
Follow your vet’s recommendations to protect your pet from tick bites year-round. For most pups, this will mean keeping your dog on a flea/tick medicine, even during the cooler months.
In your own yard, keep your grass cut to 3" or less to reduce foot traffic from uninvited animals. Ticks wait on the edges of blades of grass and will transfer to a potential host if one brushes up against them, which is another reason that shorter grass might mean fewer ticks in your life. Trim back vegetation along trails, paths, and yard edges. Ticks prefer some shade, and open, sunny areas are not as inviting for them.
If you have rodents in your yard, consider using a pet-safe product to keep them away. Getting rid of mice or rats that scamper through your green space will reduce your dog’s risk of tick bites. Make sure to follow label instructions to keep your pup safe from toxic ingredients while you de-mouse your property.
Checking your dog daily means you can usually catch a tick bite early and there won’t be a huge risk of tick-borne illness. If ticks continue to be a big concern where you live, there are over-the-counter products sold in pet stores and many home supply stores that can effectively prevent most tick bites. These products are usually applied to your dog’s skin.
While prevention is incredibly important, you can do everything right and still end up with a tick on your dog. If you stay mindful and check your dog often, concerns about ticks don’t have to put a damper on enjoying the great outdoors with your doggo.