Man paddles a kayak with dog in lapYou’re petting your dog, when all of a sudden you feel that foreboding little lump… Yuck! It’s a tick! Now what? How do I remove a tick!?

Your first reaction may be to pull that pest off of your pet’s skin as quickly as you can. However, when done incorrectly, the head of the tick can remain embedded in your pet’s skin and continue to pose risk of diseases like Lyme disease.

To safely remove a tick (and educate you as to why it matters), your friends at Animal Internal Medicine and Specialty Services have compiled tick removal tips and information regarding one of our least favorite outdoor nuisances.

Troublesome Ticks

Along with the gross factor, ticks are one of the most nefarious of outdoor foes because of the serious illnesses they can transmit. These vector-borne illness are often referred to as tick fever and include:

In most of these illnesses, the prominent symptom is fever, but also symptoms can also include:

  • Lethargy
  • Loss of appetite
  • Swollen joints
  • Vomiting with or without diarrhea

In some cases, and if left untreated, tick-borne illnesses can result in damage to the major organs of the body and result in neurological conditions, such as seizures.

As tick-borne illnesses are becoming more common in the West, we recommend keeping your pet on a tick-inclusive parasite preventive year-round.

Step-by-Step Instructions to Remove a Tick

Because ticks are endemic throughout the United States, even if your pet spends most of his time in indoors, it’s important to get in the habit of inspecting your pet after a walk or outdoor activities.

Time is of the essence in tick-borne diseases including Lyme, since it takes 48 hours for the tick to transmit the disease after attaching to a pet. The sooner you find the tick and safely remove it, the better your chances of preventing the transmission of diseases.

When inspecting your pet’s coat and skin, pay close attention to the inside of ears, under the tail, between the toes, and under the armpits, where it is easy for a tick to hide. If you find a tick, follow these steps to safe removal:

  1. Gather a pair of tweezers, gloves (for your own protection against tick diseases), and rubbing alcohol or antiseptic.
  2. Using your tweezers, grasp the tick at the head or as close to the skin of your pet as possible.
  3. Pull outward and straight, avoiding twisting your wrist.
  4. Store the tick in isopropyl alcohol so that, if your pet should display any symptoms of illness, the tick can then be tested.
  5. Inspect the area, making sure you did not leave behind any part of the tick.
  6. Disinfect the bite site using your disinfectant.
  7. Remember to also clean your tweezers using the isopropyl alcohol.

Over the next two weeks, check the bite site for signs of a rash or reddening of the skin. If you believe your pet has developed signs of illness, follow up by making an appointment for him to be examined.

Since many tick diseases can create subtle or delayed symptoms, keeping a close eye on the bite site is a good way to catch the early warning signs (redness, rash, inflammation, etc.). However, some pets remain asymptomatic for a long time, which is why prevention is so important to keeping your dog or cat free of these illnesses.

To learn more about vector-borne diseases, we welcome your questions.