Ticks are more than just a nuisance. These pests can transmit serious diseases to people and pets. Knowing how to check your pet for ticks and how to remove them safely from your four-legged pal’s skin is crucial. If your pet spends time outdoors, read our Columbia Pike Animal Hospital team’s four tick tips, and learn how to protect your pet from these pesky parasites. 

#1: Administer tick prevention to your pet 

Prevention is the best way to protect your pet from tick bites and their associated diseases, including Lyme disease, ehrlichiosis, anaplasmosis, and Rocky Mountain spotted fever. We recommend year-round parasite prevention for every pet. While ticks tend to be more active during the balmier months, many species can survive near-freezing conditions, so keep this in mind when considering your pet’s year-round preventive medication. A variety of products are available that can help prevent ticks from attaching to your pet, including spot-on treatments, tick collars, and oral medications. While indoor pets have a reduced tick-borne disease risk, ticks can hitch a ride inside on clothing and shoes, putting everyone at risk. Talk to your veterinarian to determine which products are best for your pet. 

In addition to parasite prevention, consider having your veterinarian administer the Lyme disease vaccine if your dog frequently encounters ticks. The vaccine works against the bacteria that cause Lyme disease, but you’ll still need to use tick preventive measures to ensure your pet does not contract any other tick-borne diseases. 

#2: Avoid tick-dense areas while outdoors with your pet 

Ticks can be active throughout the year, but are especially prevalent during the spring and summer. Ticks live in all parts of Virginia, thriving in warm, humid environments where tall grasses, trees, and shrubs grow. When walking your pet outdoors, avoid heavily wooded areas, tall grasses, and leafy debris. You can treat your yard with repellents to make the environment less tick friendly. In addition, to help reduce the tick population around your house, follow these landscaping techniques:

  • Clear tall grasses and brush from around your home and your lawn’s perimeter.
  • Place a three-foot wide barrier of mulch, wood chips, or gravel between your lawn and wooded areas, and around patios and play equipment. This helps restrict tick migration into your yard’s recreational areas.
  • Mow your lawn frequently, and rake dead leaves.

#3: Check your pet for ticks after being outdoors

Ticks may be tiny, but they can cause big problems for your pet by transmitting numerous diseases. Checking your pet for ticks is an important part of keeping them healthy and protecting them from infectious diseases. Check your pet for ticks every day, especially after they spend time outdoors. Immature ticks are exceptionally tiny, making them difficult to spot as they crawl through your pet’s fur. When checking your pet for ticks, start by running your hands over their body, feeling for bumps or lumps. Pay particular attention to areas where ticks are most likely to attach, such as around your pet’s ears, under their collar, in their armpits, and between their toes. If you feel any small lump on your pet’s skin, part their fur, and examine the growth closely.

#4: Remove ticks promptly and safely from your pet 

If you find a tick on your pet, remove it quickly to prevent disease transmission. Do not attempt to burn, poison, or drown an attached tick, because doing so increases the disease transmission likelihood, making complete removal more difficult. To remove a tick safely from your pet’s skin, follow these tips:

  • Get close to the skin — Using tweezers, grasp the tick’s head as close as possible to your pet’s skin.
  • Pull without twisting — Use slow, steady pressure to pull out the tick straight. Do not twist the tweezers, as this may cause the tick to break, allowing part of the parasite to remain embedded in your pet’s skin.
  • Preserve the tick — Place the tick in a jar with rubbing alcohol, and take a picture to help determine the tick’s species should your pet become ill. 
  • Clean the bite — After removing the tick, clean the bite wound on your pet’s skin with antiseptic, and wash your hands thoroughly.
  • Monitor your pet — Some ticks can transmit pathogens in as few as 15 minutes, while others require 48 hours’ attachment to your pet. If you removed an attached tick from your pet, be on the lookout for the following tick-borne illness signs:
    • Lethargy
    • Fever
    • Lameness
    • Swollen joints
    • Enlarged lymph nodes
    • Appetite loss 

Ticks can transmit serious disease to your pet. Ensure your four-legged friend is protected by contacting our Columbia Pike Animal Hospital team to determine the best tick prevention product for your precious pet.