Ticks! Now What?
What if I find a tick on my cat or dog? First, we will start with a very important Don’t: Some sources may recommend burning or smothering or irritating the tick to get it to drop off of the animal. These bad suggestions include using a hot match, alcohol, vasoline, etc. It is important NOT to do this as it may cause the tick to dump the disease organisms into the pet.
Removing a tick from your dog or cat using a pair of tweezers is the most common and effective method. Most household tweezers have large, blunt tips. You should use fine-point tweezers to avoid tearing the tick and spreading possible infections into the bite area.
Spread your dog’s fur, then grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible. Very gently, pull straight upward, in a slow, steady motion. This will prevent the tick’s mouth from breaking off and remaining embedded in the skin. People often believe it’s the head of the tick that embeds in the skin. But ticks don’t have heads, in the conventional sense, so what gets inserted into your dog is known as “mouth parts.”
Another option that is even easier to master is the use of a tick removal hook. It’s especially useful if you live in a tick-dense area where you dog is frequently playing host to the vexing little critters. There are several types of hooks, like the Tick Twister or the Tick Stick. You simply put the prongs on either side of the tick and twist upward.
Many people are concerned about leaving part of the tick behind in the skin of the pet. The mouthparts of a tick are cemented into the skin and may not be retrieved without removing a little piece of surface skin. Not to worry if the mouthparts are left behind as they will not be causing disease. The infectious organisms are stored in a ticks saliva and stomach and are transferred into the pet while the tick is feeding.
After you’ve removed the tick, make sure to wash your hands thoroughly, clean the bite site with rubbing alcohol, and rinse the tweezers or tool with disinfectant.
You may want to save the tick for testing. A lab can determine if the tick contains infectious organisms so that if your pet develops symptoms, we know how to treat them. The tick can be live or dead, but must be in good condition. Place it in a ziplock bag with a piece of wet tissue or cottonball. Do not freeze.
IGENEX laboratories will test the tick for several diseases but there is a fee. Their testing info can be found at Igenex.com/product/tick-test/. Residents of Livingston County may have ticks that are attached to people tested without a fee. They can be reached at 517-546-9850.
You can have your dog tested for tick born diseases at 8 to 12 weeks past a tick bite with a test we have in the office called Idexx 4DX. This test will detect antibodies to 4 tick-born diseases ( Lyme, Ehrlichia, and two strains of Anaplasma) and also heartworm disease. We routinely use this test when you have your annual heartworm test done.
It is important to watch for symptoms after ticks are found attached to your pet. They can manifest themselves anywhere from days to weeks after a bite. Sometimes sypmotoms first show months to years later. Signs to watch for include lethargy, inappatence, lameness (sore joints or muscles), or fever.
Preventing tick bites is the most important step in combatting Lyme and other tick-borne diseases. The Centers for Disease Control is reporting that ticks are making a move across Michigan from the west side where they are more common to the east side of the state. We are expected to see an increase in the tick populations in this area. That is exactly what we have seen over the past few years- a rapid explosion in the number of ticks seen and reported on cats and dogs.
There are numerous products on the market that will kill ticks before they can transmit disease. Be careful to get a safe and effective product. At Fowlerville Veterinary Clinic, we recommend using the oral products such as Bravecto, Nexgard, Credelio, or Simparica.
Frontline and Revolution are some other effective products and are applied topically. Ask a staff member about one of these products if you have any questions.