Written by Jenna Bourgeois

Ticks are a commonly found parasite in our region.  They mostly like to hide in tall grass and bushes, and like to latch on to our pets when taking a nice stroll or playing in the grass. They can’t jump or fly, but they will patiently wait on strands of grass and drop on an unsuspecting animal or person that passes by. Once they are on the animal they live by burrowing their head in the skin and feeding off the animal’s blood for as long as they can. They hope to  grow through their life cycles, and eventually lay more eggs.

How do I find ticks on my pet?

It is recommended to check your pets for ticks, especially after a walk through grass or the woods. They like warm weather, so they will be more likely to be around in the area in the warm, humid seasons from early spring to fall. The best way is to sit down with your pet and run your hands through its fur on his whole body in a well-lit area.  It is most effective to run your hand against the direction of the fur. Some are big enough that you will be able to feel them, some you might barely see with the naked eye.  Although they can be found anywhere on the body, you really want to focus on the front-end of your pet; the face, shoulders, upper-back, front legs. This is usually because the animal will walk through the grass or bush, and the front-end will be the first thing the tick gets in contact with.

What do I do if I find a tick?

I’ve heard of so many tips and tricks that people try at home to remove ticks on their animals. I’ve heard of suffocating it with Vaseline, pouring rubbing alcohol on it, burning it off, pulling it off, the list goes on and on. Honestly, these are all very bad ideas and can actually cause more harm than good. Most of these home remedies can irritate the tick and either end up leaving the head of the tick still imbedded in your pet’s skin, or make it regurgitate, which will leave saliva or blood that could be transmitting disease directly into your pet’s bloodstream. I strongly recommend bringing your pet to your vet and letting them take it off. They have the proper tools and most likely a steadier, relaxed hand. If you feel that you must do this at home, the best thing to do is use tweezers.  You have to try to get the tweezers just behind the head, as close to the skin as possible and pull firmly and steadily outward. You don’t want to squeeze the body of the tick, as this could actually make it regurgitate. Another great tool is the Tick Twister, some veterinarians have these for clients to take home. You simply slide it under the tick’s body, as close to the skin as possible and twist. The tick will let go on its own as you’re twisting. Make sure to disinfect the tick bite once it’s gone.

Should I worry about disease?

What people are most afraid of when they think of ticks is disease. Lyme disease is an infection caused by bacteria that is sometimes carried from animal to animal by tick bites. Lyme disease can affect not only animals, but humans as well. It may affect skin, heart, nerves or joints. This infection can be treated with antibiotics and in most cases, patients will have a full recovery. Studies show that an infected tick must be attached for at least 36 hours to transmit Lyme disease. This is where checking your animal for possible ticks often, and making sure to remove them as soon as possible is very important. Not all types of ticks carry the disease. It’s a good idea to save the tick in a plastic bag, with a wet piece of paper towel in it to keep it hydrated and bring it to your vet. Your vet may offer to send the tick off to a laboratory for proper identification to see if it’s a possible type of tick that could potentially transmit Lyme. From there, they can do more tests to know if the particular tick was in fact carrying the disease or not.

How can I prevent this?

Visit your veterinarian, and they can prescribe you with safe tick prevention. This will help prevent the actual tick to latch on to the animal, but if they still manage to, will die off within a few hours, dramatically reducing the chances of Lyme to be transmitted. It is recommended that if you’re animal spends a lot of time outdoors or you do seem to have to remove ticks from them frequently, they should get vaccinated for Lyme disease.

Remember, don’t be scared to bring your animals out for a walk. The great outdoors is a great place to get your pet to exercise and drain a lot of built up energy. Using these simple tips and preventions will keep your pet happy and healthy in the warmer months and keep these creepy crawlers away!