Removing And Preventing Ticks

by Nicola Parry, DVM

Ticks are parasites that need to feed on animals to survive. They attach to the dog (or you!) by inserting their sharp mouthparts into the skin, and begin feeding on your dog’s blood. Only when feeding is complete (after hours or days) will they leave the dog. Typically when they attach they are small, and may go unnoticed, especially if your dog has a long coat, or if they attach in a difficult-to-see region of the body. After feeding, however, they are larger because their body expands as they engorge on their blood meal.

The risk of tick infestation varies in relation to the time of year, with the summer months being a particular problem. Geographical location is important too, and some regions (like the northeastern United States where I live) can present more of a problem than others. Although ticks are typically associated with disease transmission, not all ticks actually carry diseases; however, because they can transmit conditions like Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever (also transmissible to people), the threat of disease should be taken seriously.

8 Signs Associated With Tick Infestation

  • Skin irritation and redness – This is probably the most common. The others, although possible, are less commonly experienced.
  • Lethargy
  • Fever
  • Weakness
  • Anemia
  • Joint swelling
  • Lameness
  • Paralysis

Tick Prevention Techniques

  1. Reduce The Risk Of Initial Attachment
  • Avoid grassy areas when out walking
  • Use insecticides:
    • Pharmaceutical products range from over the counter products like tick collars, to prescription-only compounds available from your veterinarian.
    • Natural products like Flea The Scene. This safe, gentle and effective spray can be applied in combination with pharmaceutical products to help combat ticks.

  1. Reduce Their Attachment Time
  • Check his coat for ticks after a walk
    • If you find a tick – remove it immediately!

Tick Removal

Many methods are described for tick removal, including the use of commercially made tools, but the simplest technique involves using regular tweezers.

  • Wear gloves
  • Using the tweezers, gently and firmly grasp the tick as close as possible to its attachment to the skin
  • Gently, but firmly (and without twisting or squeezing), pull to remove the tick

If At First You Don’t Succeed

Don’t panic! If some of the tick’s mouthparts remain accidentally attached to your dog after your removal attempt, this is not an urgent problem. Your veterinarian may be able to remove the remaining portions and treat any inflammatory reaction that may arise at the site. You too can help to reduce any irritation that your dog may feel, simply by using his favorite grooming products. Comfy Dog Oatmeal Shampoo and Fur Butter conditioning treatment will help to reduce the itchiness. Then follow up with a spray of “Itchin’ For Relief”. It also never hurts to be using “Healthy Skin Shiny Coat” – these easy-to-administer drops are given by mouth, and help to improve skin and coat quality in general, as well as having the added benefit of helping to reduce itchiness over time.

So there are certainly ways for you to help reduce the chances of ticks causing problems for your dog. And remember that some diseases that ticks transmit to dogs, can be transmitted to you too. So controlling your dog’s exposure to these annoying parasites and their associated problems can be beneficial to your health too.

Nicola Parry is a veterinarian at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She is ACVP board-certified and her career has taken her along various paths, including general practice and academia. She enjoys teaching veterinary pathology, as well as writing for the veterinary, medical and scientific worlds. She currently lives in Massachusetts with her oddball cat, Tiddles

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