We all wish we lived in a world without ticks. That we could take our puppies through the fields and forest preserves without a care in the world. But the unfortunate truth is, ticks are here, ticks are there, ticks are everywhere. The best thing we can do is be prepared for when they do arrive unannounced and uninvited. Knowing what to do when you find one is critical to preventing the spread of disease.
Effective and timely tick removal is vital. Within 12- 24 hours of them being attached to their hosts, ticks begin spreading disease. They do this by releasing disease-laden fluids such as saliva and regurgitated gut contents into their host as they feed on blood. These bugs survive by attaching to warm-blooded hosts such as ourselves and our dogs. Some of the most common tick-borne illnesses include Lyme Disease, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and Ehrlichia. The Deer Tick is the tick primarily responsible for transmitting Lyme disease in the northern and north central United States.
How to Remove a Tick
There are many wives tales about how to remove a tick from dabbing on liquid soap, petroleum jelly, nail polish, touching it with heat from a lit match or my favorite, “tickling” under its belly. These methods are dangerous, gross and some may even encourage the tick to dig deeper or release microbes faster due to stress. Tweezers remain the safest and most effective method for removing ticks and should be apart of every dog First Aid Kit.
With the tweezers in hand, grasp the tick as close to the dogs skin as possible and pull straight out. Do not be tempted to twist or jerk the tick in your excitement. The goal is to keep the head of the tick attached and not leave it logged in the skin. Once the tick is removed, clean the area with antiseptic and place the tick in a container or zip locked bag. While keeping the creature may not sound appealing to you, it holds vital information that may be needed for the verification of illness.
Make it a habit to check both you and your pets after all outdoor activities. Avoid tick-prone areas if possible, wear lighter clothes that cover your arms and legs and apply a tick repellant. Traditional repellants that contain DEET work well or for a more natural tick option, the essential oil Rose Geranium can be used. A few drops of this essential oil placed on your dogs collar will keep those pesky ticks away. It can be combined with vegetable oil (1 tablespoon to 10 drops essential oil) for use on humans. Make up a new batch every 4 months to keep it fresh. Do not use this mixture on your cats.
For more information, visit the following websites for tips on removing ticks
- Center for Disease Control http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dvrd/rmsf/Q&A.HTM#tick
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration http://www.fda.gov/AnimalVeterinary/NewsEvents/FDAVeterinarianNewsletter/ucm130778.htm