Getting outside with your dog provides exercise, fresh air, and time for bonding, but it can also call for a bit of detective work once you get back indoors. Ticks congregate in tall grass and wooded areas, and these tiny, blood-sucking arachnids can embed themselves under your dog's skin. They can do more than just gross you out and take a chunk of skin with them: ticks can carry pathogens like Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, and hepatozoonosis. During and around tick season, always check your dog for ticks after being outside, but don't panic if you find one. They're usually easy to remove with the help of a simple household product: dish soap.
You've just come in from a forest romp with your dog. When you take off your pet's leash, you notice that a tiny insect seems to be stuck under their skin. If it's dark red or brown in color and has a flat, oval-shaped body, it's probably a tick. The smallest ticks are about the size of a sesame seed, so you'll need to look closely to find them. Don't forget to check yourself too. If your dog has a tick, you might have picked one up as well.
The most important thing to remember about tick removal is that you should never break the body of the tick while it is in contact with your dog's skin. Doing so can release pathogens into the bloodstream that could make your pet very sick. If you don't think you can get a tick off your dog without breaking the body, take them to a vet or animal hospital instead. Either way, make sure ticks are removed within 24 hours.
Follow these simple steps to get your pet (and your home) tick-free in no time:
To remove the tick, you'll need to collect
Put on a pair of latex or rubber gloves. Then, mix the warm water with about three tablespoons of dish soap, and shake or stir until combined. Place a cotton pad in the soap solution and allow it to soak for a few minutes.
Remove the cotton pad from your soap solution and place it directly on the tick. Hold the cotton pad in place for a few minutes. The idea is to loosen the grasp that the tick has on your dog's skin. If you're lucky, holding the wet cotton pad in place for a few minutes will cause the tick to fall off itself. If that doesn't happen, you'll need to remove it.
If you're using a tick twister, slide the prongs underneath the tick's body so that its head and mouth are caught in the twister. Gently twist the tick in an upwards direction. It should come away easily and in one piece from your dog's skin.
If you're using a regular pair of tweezers, press them gently into your dog's skin until you have the tick's head in your grasp. Slowly and firmly pull the tick in a straight, upwards motion. Don't twist or wiggle your tweezers as you pull, as this increases the risk of breaking the body.
Once you've removed the tick, place it in a small glass container filled with rubbing alcohol. If your dog gets sick within a few days, take the tick with you to the vet so they can test it for diseases and more quickly diagnose your pet.
Use a pet-friendly antiseptic wash to clean the wound area and monitor the spot for the next week for any signs of infection. Give your dog a treat or spend some time comforting them if the removal process was stressful.
After you've removed a tick from your dog, you'll need to stay vigilant for any signs of illness. If they are acting abnormally, it's important to get a diagnosis and treatment as soon as possible. Common signs of sickness caused by a tick are loss of appetite, lethargy or laziness, fever, irritation around the spot the tick was embedded, vomiting, problems walking or moving the legs, swelling around the joints, extreme sensitivity to touch, and difficulty breathing.
Removing a tick as soon as you see it is good, but preventing ticks from getting on your dogs in the first place is even better. The easiest way to avoid ticks is to mow your lawn regularly and keep your pets away from overgrown or woody areas. If you like to explore with your pet, though, that might not be practical. In that case, use a tick-and-flea prevention treatment to protect your pet. These easy-to-apply treatments can be bought at most major retailers and veterinary offices.
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