What do bushes, tall grass and dense vegetation have in common? If you guessed that they’re prime tick habitat, you’re either well-informed or you made an educated guess based on the title of this article. Ticks are nasty little disease-carrying arachnids, and if your dog spends time in areas where ticks like to hang out, a tick check should be part of your daily routine.
You can’t always avoid ticks entirely, but there are steps to take to keep your pup – and yourself – safe from disease.
An Ounce of Prevention
As much as you might not like to admit it, your backyard can be a major breeding ground for ticks. By keeping your lawn, bushes and trees trimmed back, you create fewer areas for these parasites to live and breed. If the problem persists, consider using a yard spray or granular treatments – you can find them at pet stores, garden centers and most big box home improvement stores.
While hang time outdoors is still needed, you can limit the amount spent during the height of tick season to lessen the risk of your pooch becoming a meal for ticks. If the threat of ticks alone leaves you worried, you can use one of the following preventative treatments to ward away these tiny vampires:
• Spot-on Treatments: Over-the-counter spot-on medications can be purchased from the veterinarian or pet store and are applied directly to the dog’s skin.
• Oral Medications: Once-monthly pills work to kill both ticks and immature fleas – proving both effective and convenient.
• Shampoos: Medicated shampoos will generally kill ticks on contact, but your dog will need to be washed every couple of weeks, as the effective ingredients wear off over time.
• Tick Collars: Tick-repelling collars have to make contact with your dog’s skin in order to work, and are usually only useful for protecting the head and neck.
Give Fido a Thorough Search
After spending time outside, it’s important to meticulously search your dog for parasites. Start by running your fingers slowly through your dog’s fur. Be sure to inspect the torso, in between toes, inside ears, under armpits, and around the face, chin, and tail. If you find a bump or swollen area, pull the fur apart and check to see if a tick has burrowed there.
An embedded tick can vary in size — from the size of a pinhead to a grape, depending on how long it’s been attached. They are usually black or dark brown in color, but turn a grayish-white after feeding to an engorged state.
The Removal Process
So what do you do if you’ve found a tick? Get that sucker out of there! To safely remove a tick, follow the steps below. If you’re nervous or unsure about the process, you can take your dog to the veterinarian, who can do it for you.
What You’ll Need
• Pair of gloves
• Clean pair of tweezers
• Isopropyl alcohol
It’s important to wear gloves while removing the tick to prevent contact with your skin as ticks can spread disease to humans, as well as animals.
• Gently grasp the tick with the tweezers, getting as close to your dog’s skin as possible.
• Pull outward in a straight, steady motion. Make sure to remove the entire tick – anything left behind can lead to an infection.
• Place the tick in a small container containing isopropyl alcohol and mark the date on the container. If your dog displays symptoms of a tick-borne illness, your veterinarian might want to test the tick.
• Clean your dog’s skin with antiseptic. Sterilize your tweezers with isopropyl alcohol.
• Wash your hands.
• Watch the area where the tick embedded closely. If the skin remains irritated or becomes infected, make an appointment with your veterinarian immediately.
Don’t let tick season ruin your dog’s good time. By exercising a little common sense and making use of preventative measures, your canine companion can happily romp outdoors without picking up tiny hitchhikers.