Ticks are a fact of life for pets, but we sometimes seem very poorly equipped at dealing with them appropriately.
Although flea infestations can be much more obvious to pet owners, most people will know that treating the pet and the environment is the safest way to guarantee a flea-free house. The presence of a tick on our beloved companions however is usually synonymous of panic.
“What is it? How do we get rid of it? Am I hurting my pet by doing so?”
This likely stems from the fact that ticks carry diseases which can be fatal to both pets and their humans.
So why are ticks so scary and how can you safely ensure they are removed from your pet’s skin?
Firstly, let’s demystify the bug in question!
Here is what a tick looks like up close and personal:
Not the most appealing of fellas, we’ll grant you this. Ticks are of the arachnid family and enjoy nothing more than a feast of blood on your pet’s skin. Put plainly, they are a miniature cross between a spider and a vampire. That image alone would justify a little panic over how to appropriately deal with the parasite.
When a tick grabs onto your pet, it sinks its head below the surface layer of the skin, burying itself as deeply as possible, feeding on the animal’s blood. This process is called hematophagy.
Like with mosquitos, the exchange of fluid between the animal and the parasite can also work both ways, meaning that the animal is at risk of contamination from the tick. Possible transmission of Lyme disease, Erlichiosis or Babesiosis could have disastrous (and sometimes fatal) consequences for your pet, but also for yourself.
So what to do to ensure your pet is tick free?
Prevention, prevention, prevention
As in many cases, prevention is key. Not all products efficient against fleas are efficient against ticks, so it is important when searching for a suitable spot-on treatment or collar, that you ensure they do work on ticks as well. It is also advised that you check your pet thoroughly after a walk outdoors, especially if you have been in the woods, as ticks thrive in warm and humid forested areas. Adult Ticks can range from 2mm to 5mm in width, making them much easier to spot on your animal than fleas.
Grandma doesn’t always know best
As much as we like to think old remedies do the trick, it is not always true. Smothering the tick with Vaseline will only make the surface more slippery and more difficult for you to work on. Acetone (which can be found in nail varnish remover products) is also not recommended as it makes the tick more brittle, making it harder to remove it. Finally, burning the tick with a match is heavily advised against. Not only will the tick expel its content back into the animal as a result (increasing the chances of potential contamination) but you are also seriously at risk of injuring your pet!
Tweezers are a pet owners’ best friend
When it comes to ticks, the only real solution is to remove them. There are a lot of tick removers available out there, but a pair of good old tweezers will also do the trick. The important task here is to ensure that most if not all of the tick is removed, so it is important that you grab the parasite as close to your pet’s skin as possible, and gently (but firmly) twist to pull the tick out. Try to remove the whole tick, but if you see a black dot in the skin where the tick was, it may mean that the head has stayed lodged in place. Although it should normally be expelled by the body without any problems, you should keep an eye on the area in case an infection develops.
So next time you see this pesky parasite on your pet …
Tweeze the life out of him!