Hot barbeques and cold drinks with family and friends are often first thing on our minds at the beginning of spring.
Pet professionals, on the other hand, commonly associate spring and summer with the onset of something far less desirable – tick season.
Every pet owner should be prepared with a safe and non-invasive tick prevention and treatment plan.These little parasites aren’t to be underestimated.
What are Ticks and Why are they Dangerous?
Ticks belong to the arachnid family – the same as spiders. They are found all over the world, but tend to flourish in warm, humid climates. Ticks can come in a variety of colours, and feed solely on a diet of blood, known as hematophagy.
Ticks find their hosts by detecting body heat, breath, and odour – among other things. While they are incapable of jumping or flying, ticks will often hang from leaves and grasses waiting for a suitable host to brush by.
Ticks can carry a wide range of disease-causing agents. Moreover, they can habour more than one pathogen at a time, so a host may easily be infected with multiple pathogens from just one tick. This compounds the difficulty in making a proper diagnosis.
How to Safely Remove a Tick
Step 1: Supplies and Equipment
You will need:
- Pair of gloves
- Sterilized tweezers or a tick-removal tool
- Isopropyl alcohol
- Small container with lid
Step 2: Tick Removal
Make sure to wear your gloves. Ticks can transmit diseases to people, too!
- Use the tweezers to gently grasp the tick as close to your dog’s skin as possible.
- In one motion, steadily pull the tick out from the skin. Be sure to remove the whole tick, as any remains left on the host may lead to infection.
Using a Tick-Removal Tool
- Place the remover tool against your dog’s skin and slide the remover notch under the tick.
- Keep sliding the tool until the tick is caught in the small end of the wedge and is removed in its entirety.
Step 3: Keep the Tick
In a small sealable container, put the tick in and cover it with alcohol. The alcohol will kill the tick.
Mark the date on the container and keep it in a safe place. In the event your dog begins to show symptoms of a tick-borne illness, bring the container to a Veterinarian for testing.
Step 4: Finishing Up
- Use the antiseptic to treat the affected area
- Use the alcohol to clean your tweezers or removal tool
- Wash your hands
Be sure to monitor your pet – especially paying attention to the affected area where the tick was removed. If the affected area does not show signs of improvement after a couple days, or appears to look infected or irritated, it’s best to contact your veterinarian.
Know the symptoms of tick-borne diseases. They may include (but are not limited to):
- Lameness lasting for consecutive days
- Swollen joints
- Reluctance to move
- Loss of appetite
- Neurological problems
Beware of Pesticides
There are many over-the-counter products available for the prevention of ticks, however, the vast majority of them contain chemical pesticides.
It is well documented that these “Spot-On” products have a perpetual history of causing adverse reactions in dogs – primarily in dogs weighing less than 20 pounds. Reactions range from mild skin irritation to seizures and death.
In April 2009, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued an advisory about spot-on products after receiving over 44,000 reports of adverse reactions during 2008 – including 600 deaths.
Safe Tick Prevention
Pet owners looking for a safe means of tick prevention have to look no further than one simple tried-and-true method – checking your pet by hand and sight.
To keep your pooch tick free, simply begin by slowly running your fingers over your dog’s body. Remember to be thorough – check in the armpits, inside ears, between toes, etc.
If you feel a bump or a swollen area, inspect to determine whether a tick has burrowed into the skin.
Regular checks like these will ensure your pooch stays tick-free without the use of pesticides.
Brandon Forder is an animal health expert and co-owner of Canadian Pet Connection; an industry leader in nutrition, behaviour and healthy lifestyles for pets for more than twenty years. Get to know us! www.canadianpetconnection.com.