Seeing a tiny tick scurrying through your pet's fur is enough to make your skin crawl, but removing a tick bloated from feeding on your four-legged friend is much worse.
Fortunately, there are many excellent ways to keep ticks off your pet and to prevent them from making your furry pal their next meal. Learn how to keep your pet tick-free and how to safely remove a tick if you find one.
Why Checking Your Pet for Ticks is Important
Ticks can transmit a multitude of diseases, some of which can lead to debilitating illnesses with lifelong effects. And, ticks can infect not only your pet but also anyone in your household, including you. Some of the most common tick-borne illnesses pets and people can contract include:
- Lyme disease
- Rocky Mountain spotted fever
- Tick-borne relapsing fever
By regularly checking your pet for ticks, you can prevent the tiny parasites from latching on and transmitting serious diseases.
How to Limit Your Pet's Exposure to Ticks
Since ticks are responsible for a multitude of diseases, limiting your pet's exposure to these parasites is essential to reducing their risk of contracting disease. Minimize the potential for a meeting between your pet and a tick by:
- Avoiding tall grass and brush
- Walking on pavement
- Staying in the middle of wooded trails
- Keeping your lawn cut short
- Removing leaf litter and debris from your yard
How to Check Your Pet for Ticks
After returning from an outside adventure, carefully check your pet for ticks. Begin by running a hand over their entire body, feeling for small lumps or bumps. If your pet has short enough fur, you can comb through their coat with a flea comb to remove any crawling ticks. Keep in mind that ticks are tiny before they feed, and are typically no larger than a poppy seed until they become bloated with blood.
When checking your pet for ticks, focus on the following areas where these parasites like to hide:
- In and around the ears
- On the eyelids
- Under the collar
- In the armpits and groin
- Between the toes
- Under the tail
Although ticks prefer these locations, they can be found anywhere on your pet, including attached to the gums and other seemingly impossible places.
What to Do if You Find a Tick on Your Pet
Before performing a thorough exam of your pet for ticks, gather disposable gloves, a pair of fine-tipped tweezers or a tick removal tool, and a jar with rubbing alcohol. Enlist the help of a friend or family member to hold your pet still if you discover a tick. They can distract your furry pal as you remove the tick to ensure all parts are extracted.
When removing a tick, grasp the tick's head as close to your pet's skin as possible without pinching them. Use a steady, even pressure to pull the tick straight back, avoiding twisting or jerking motions. Once you've pulled the tick out, double-check to ensure all the mouthparts have been removed. If not, you will need to remove them to prevent an infection. Then, place the tick in the jar of rubbing alcohol to kill it, and to preserve it for identification purposes if your pet becomes ill.
If you can't remove the tick, or if you tried and left part of the head behind, contact our team for help.
What to Watch for After Removing a Tick From Your Pet
Tick-borne diseases can take weeks to months to cause apparent illness, and many pets do not show any signs. If your pet develops a tick-borne illness, they may show the following signs:
- Swollen, painful joints
- Enlarged lymph nodes
- Lack of appetite
While some signs are common with most tick-borne illnesses, others are specific to particular pathogens. For example, some diseases can cause bleeding and bruising problems, while others can lead to ascending paralysis.
How to Prevent Tick-Borne Disease in Your Pet
Preventing tick-borne disease in your pet has three main components:
- Avoiding prime tick habitats
- Removing ticks from your pet before they attach
- Administering year-round tick prevention
Topical applications and oral tablets or chews are available to protect your pet not only from ticks, but also from fleas, intestinal parasites, mites, and heartworms. The key is to administer the product all year long to avoid gaps in protection because Conroe does not have an "off-season" for ticks.
Ticks can cause serious, lifelong diseases in your furry pal, so protect them all year long with effective tick prevention. Give our Stone Ridge Veterinary Medical Center & Pet Resort team a call to discuss the best tick preventives for your pet's needs.