Do you know what to do if you find a tick on your dog or cat?
Step 1: Removal
Using either Tick Twisters or tweezers with thin pointed tips- grab the as close to the skin as possible then pull or twist with a slow and even speed to avoid separating the head from the body. It is best to disinfect the area and instruments with rubbing alcohol before and after tick removal.
If the head remains imbedded in the skin there is an increased risk of a local skin infection or irritation. However, no diseases can be transmitted without the body attached,
If you do not feel you can achieve this goal, bring you pet in to your veterinarian for their expert help.
**Do Not attempt to burn the tick off**
Tick Twisters can be purchased on Amazon and are green plastic instruments that allow you to insert the hook around the head of the tick and slowly twist to remove the tick intact. See photo.
Step 2: Identification
What should I do once I have removed the tick?
You should save the tick and attempt to identify what kind of tick it is! Place your little hitch hiker on a piece of clear tape then use another piece of that tape to pin it into place. We recommend placing the specimen into a plastic sandwich bag for safe keeping.
How do I tell the difference between species?
Ticks are small blood-sucking parasites that belong to the arachnid family.
They come in a variety of shapes and colors. The big 3 species found in the Chicagoland area are: American Dog Tick, Blacklegged Deer Tick, and the Lone Star Tick.
One way to identify a tick is by its scutum or shield. This is the area directly behind the head that covers approximately one third of the body.
Blacklegged Deer Ticks are carriers of Lyme Disease (Borrelia Burgdorferi). Even though the adult Blacklegged Deer Ticks are active year round the most likely time for disease transmission is May through July. They stay active in winter by insulating themselves under a layer of snow or leaves. If the temperature is above freezing you can find them creeping! It’s important to note that Deer Ticks do NOT cause the classic bullseye rash (erythema migrans) in pets like they do in people. Signs of Lyme disease in your dog is fever, stiffness or lameness that will shift from leg to leg.
American Dog Ticks can transmit Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (Rickettsia rickettsii). Signs of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever are usually vague with general malaise, fever, poor appetite. An anemia and low platelets can be detected on blood work. Remember that this tick’s name is misleading as these ticks are not choosy when searching for a blood meal. They will readily feed on dogs, cats or people.
The Lone Star Tick has been moving north from the southeastern portion of the United States and becoming more common in our area. These ticks do NOT carry Lyme Disease but can transmit another serious disease called Ehrlichiosis. The signs of Ehrlichiolsis in your dogs is fever, swollen lymph nodes, and bleeding disorders. These creepy crawlies can also cause humans to have an allergy to red meat!
Why do ticks appear different after a feeding?
As ticks feed their bodies expand to accommodate for the amount of blood they are consuming. A similar comparison is the color of a balloon that has not been inflated to one that has. After the tick has been imbedded into the skin and having a blood meal they are referred to engorged ticks. The ticks shown below are true to size for comparison after feeding.
Need Help with Accurate Tick Identification?
Since identifying ticks can be very tricky we recommend using a great resource called TickEncounters. You can submit information about your tick along with a photo or video and they will identify the tick and inform you if this may be a risky tick. This is a free service. Please see the links below:
Step 3: Consider Testing your Tick
Did you know your tick can be tested to determine if it’s capable of transmitting a disease such as Lyme?
Tickreport.com will have you ship out your specimen, analyze it and inform you what kind of diseases it may be a carrying. There is a small fee for this service. Remember even though the tick may be carrying a disease causing organism, there are many factors that will determine if the disease can actually be transmitted to your pet.
Step 4: Prevention
Prevention – What can I do to lower the risk of my pet getting exposed to tick borne illnesses?
Here are some tips on how to be more proactive against a close encounter of the tick kind:
- Keep your pets on tick prevention year round. We recommend the monthly oral preventative Nexgard.
- Brush your pets and do “tick checks” when they come in from outdoors (don’t forget to check inside/around ears and between their toes!)
- Consider the Lyme vaccine based on your veterinarian’s recommendation
Remember that pets bringing ticks into our homes greatly elevates the risk to our human family members. Protecting your pets will protect the whole family!