Imagine that you and your dog have just returned from a walk through your neighborhood. What’s the first thing you do when you re-enter your house? It should be a thorough check of your dog to see if any ticks have attached themselves to your beloved pet.
Ticks feed on blood from your animal and can carry infections and serious diseases to not only your pet, but also to any other pets in your house (including indoor cats), you, and your family. Ticks find it easy to attach to people and pets by waiting along paths and in grass and low bushes. Ticks hold onto their perch with their lower sets of legs and reach out with their first pair of legs to climb onto warm-blooded animals passing by.
You can help prevent ticks from getting onto your pet by using a veterinarian-recommended tick and flea prevention product, such as a collar, shampoo, or treatment. If you own both dogs and cats, use the proper tick-prevention product for each pet. Do not use dog-specific products on cats and vice versa.
Here’s how to check your pet for ticks:
- Feel all the fur on your pet to find any little bumpy areas, and check those carefully.
- Examine inside and outside the ears and lips.
- Look around the eyelids and under the collar or harness.
- Examine around the tail, between the back legs, and under the front legs.
- Finally, check between the toes.
- As you check your pet for ticks, also look for “flea dirt” or feces—tiny dark spots that will turn red from digested blood when put on a wet paper towel.
If you don’t find a tick, consider your job well done. If you do find a tick, remove it safely by following these steps:
- Use clean, fine-tipped tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin’s surface as possible.
- Pull upward with steady pressure until the tick releases. Don’t twist or jerk the tweezers, or the tick’s mouth may break off beneath the skin and become infected. If the mouth does come off, remove it with the tweezers.
- Clean the bite area and your hands with rubbing alcohol or soap and water.
- Dispose of the tick by placing it in alcohol, placing it in a sealed bag destined for the trash, or flushing it down the toilet.
You can help discourage ticks on your property by removing leaf litter, clearing tall grasses, mowing your lawn frequently, and placing playground equipment, decks, and patios away from yard edges and trees. Also, remove old furniture and trash from your property to prevent ticks from hiding there.
If you have any concerns about ticks being on your pets, please reach out to your veterinarian.