Keeping pets safe from ticks
Although summer is nearly over, tick season is still among us. More than just creepy, ticks can spread a plethora of diseases that can affect both humans and dogs, and finding one on your dog is always a little scary. The good news is that if you arm yourself with the right information and follow a few simple precautions before and after an adventure in the woods, you and your pupper will be just fine.
With fall on the horizon, read on to learn about keeping pets safe from ticks and what to do if you find one. We even bust some myths in the process.
Myth #1: Summer is over, so tick season is over
As the weather in the summer gets warmer, our pets spend more time outside, which can expose our doggos to ticks. While summer is the time to be on the lookout for ticks, tick season doesn’t end with summer — it lasts until late October. In fact, adult ticks are most active in the fall.
So, before you go on an adventure in the woods, the best way to avoid a tick bite is to keeping pets safe from ticks in the first place.
This includes topical medication and medicated collars that help keep ticks away form your pet. Depending on where you live, you might also consider talking to your vet about vaccinations for Lyme disease.
Myth #2: I vaccinated my pup — he’ll be fine
While vaccinations help, especially when coupled with topical medication, there is no protection that is 100% effective. To be certain that your pup has no ticks, it’s important to inspect your pet after any adventure in the woods. You’ll want to do a head-to-tail inspection of your pupper. It’s important to look at the lifecycle of ticks beforehand so you know what you’re looking for.
Pay special attention to the groin, between the toes, in or around their ears, around the tail, anal area, and eyes — this is where ticks like to hang out. Ticks need to be embedded for at least 24–48 hours to spread infection, so you have a quick window here after all your outings to do a proper once over.
Tip: If you have a long-haired dog, use a hairdryer set on a cool setting. This will allow you to easily part hair and see skin.
Myth #3 I found a tick and now my dog must be sick
Did you know that not all ticks carry diseases? And not all tick-borne illnesses show symptoms right away. It’s really scary to find a tick on your dog. We’ve all been there! But just like we said above, a tick needs to be embedded for 1–2 days before it spread disease, and not all ticks are carriers for disease!
So, if you caught it a couple of days after, chances are everything is okay. Breathe in, breathe out, boop your dog’s nose, and follow the steps below for proper removal of a tick.
What to do if you find a tick
If you find a tick on your dog, don’t panic, but do get it off of your dog as soon as you find it. Be careful of how you take the tick off — you don’t want to squish or crush it, as this could squeeze infected bodily fluids into your dog. Grab a pair of tweezers, place them around the tick and as close as you can to the skin of your dog.
Pull gently upwards with steady hands, applying pressure until the tick lets you pull it out. Don’t twist or jerk. Clean the bite area with rubbing alcohol or soap and water. Dispose of the tick by killing it with alcohol of flushing down the toilet. Be careful not to touch it with your fingers — you don’t want any infected saliva or blood on your skin, as they may contain pathogens.
If the mouthpart of the tick is still in your dog’s skin, don’t worry. Sometimes this happens when they’re really good and stuck in there those nasty buggers. Think of it as a splinter — it will naturally fall out in a few days.
If you’re worried your dog might have been infected with a disease, or just want to be 100% certain, keep the tick in alcohol and take it into your veterinarian for testing.
What to do if you find a tick and it’s been over a week
It doesn’t matter how rigorous you were about the pat-down — ticks are masters at hide-and-seek. Chances are your dog has indicated to you via excessive itching or chewing that he has a tick. If you’ve found a tick and it’s been a little over a week since the time you were out and about in the woods, then repeat all of the above steps, but this time, keep the tick and get it tested.
Grab your pair of tweezers and complete steps 1-5 above, and then keep the tick and take it in to get tested. There is no easy or quick way to determine if your dog has been infected by a tick. As we mentioned above, not all ticks carry diseases and not all tick-borne illnesses show symptoms right away. Taking the tick in for testing at your veterinarian is the only way you can know if your dog contracted a disease.
In the meantime, keep a close eye on your dog for the next couple of weeks to see if they begin displaying any signs of illness. The most important thing to remember is to always pat down your dog after every adventure in a wooded area. Make it a part of your routine before heading home — plus, your pooch won’t mind all the pats and extra attention, so this is a win-win.