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How to Safely Remove Ticks From Your Pet

Ticks and fleas, are pesky parasites that feed on warm blooded creatures, such as our pets. We've been on a constant battle with them for centuries and continuing. Control and prevention of ticks is extremely important in reducing the risk of disease associated with ticks. This includes removing the ticks as soon as possible and trying to prevent attachment.

Ticks are not insects. They belong to the same class as mites, Acarina. Ticks are primary the most important to worry about in conjunction with disease transmission.

Ticks are divided into 3 different families. Only 2 of these families are present in the US, the Ixodidae (hard tick) family and the Argasidae (soft tick) family. Within the Ixodidae, there are about 60 different species that have been reported in the US. Within the Argasidae family, there are about 20 reported US species.

There are 4 stages in the life cycle of a tick:

  • Egg
  • Larva
  • Nymph
  • Adult

This life cycle can be completed within 2 months. The larvae, nymph and adults all feed on blood. After a feeding, the tick falls from the feeding source and the larva will molt to a nymph. The nymph will then molt to an adult and the female adult will lay eggs. Male ticks ingest far less blood than females.

Ticks find prey by heat sensors. They attach themselves by first clinging to clothing or fur or falling from trees onto the object when they sense heat. The tick then migrates to an area that has little hair, commonly the ears, skin around the ears, or lips and lock itself in place and starts feeding until the meal is completed. Afterwards, the adult female tick will find shelter and lay her eggs and die.

Removing the Tick

  • To remove an attached tick, use a pair of fine-tipped tweezers or special tick removal instruments. This is important, because you do not want to crush the tick and force harmful bacteria to leave the tick and enter the pet's bloodstream. Do not touch the tick since diseases can be transmitted. Consider wearing gloves when removing a tick.
  • With a tweezers or tick removal device, grab the tick as close to the head as possible. Do not grasp the tick by the body. Without jerking, pull firmly and steadily directly outward. Do not twist the tick as you are pulling. Frequently, pieces of skin may come off with the tick.
  • If the head of the tick remains in the skin, try to grab it and remove as much as possible. It is not life threatening if you are unable to remove the entire head. Your pet's immune system will try to dislodge the head by creating a site of infection or even a small abscess. If you are concerned, contact your family veterinarian.
  • After removing the tick, place it in a jar of alcohol to kill it. Flushing them down the toilet will not kill them.
  • Clean the bite wound with a disinfectant. If you want to, apply a small amount of a triple antibiotic ointment.
  • Wash your hands thoroughly.
Tick Twister
Tick Twister
Pet Swab
Pet Swabs

The Wrong Way To Remove Ticks

Do not use your fingers to remove or dispose of the tick. The contents of the tick can transmit disease. Once an embedded tick is manually removed, it is common for a welt and skin reaction to occur. A little hydrocortisone spray will help alleviate the irritation, but it may take a week or more for healing to take place. This skin irritation is due to the irritating and destructive tick saliva. Do not be worried about the tick head staying in; it rarely happens. The swelling is due to toxic saliva, not toxic heads.

Tick Control & Prevention

Control and prevention of ticks is extremely important in reducing the risk of disease associated with ticks. This includes removing the ticks as soon as possible and trying to prevent attachment. Ticks are considered excellent carriers and transmitters of various diseases. Ticks within the Ixodidae (hard tick) family transmit the majority of disease. The brown dog tick and the American dog tick are the most common carriers of disease. This includes cytauxzoon, ehrlichia and Lyme disease.

The best method of controlling disease transmission is through a combination of tick avoidance and using tick preventative medications.

Frontline Flea Control for cats and dogs is a once a month topical treatment which is highly effective.
  • Most collars don't work well because they often don't ward off ticks attaching to areas near the back and hind end of the animal since the collars are up front around the neck. The Preventic Tick Collar, however, works well since its mode of action differs from most collars. It actually releases a compound by contacting the skin of the pet and thus provides whole body protection.

    2. Shampoos

  • Ovitrol Plus Flea & Tick Shampoo for Dogs & Cats is a soothing, oatmeal-enriched insecticidal shampoo that offers immediate and residual control.

  • Adams Pyrethrin Dip (4oz) kills and repels fleas, ticks, lice, gnats, mosquitoes and flies on dogs and cats.

    3. Sprays

    Because ticks lay their eggs in their surrounding environment, it is important to treat your yard, house and your pet's bedding as well as your pet.

  • Adams Carpet Spray (16oz) Contains Nylar® insect growth regulator, and the botanically-derived insecticide Linalool Kills all four stages of the flea - adults, eggs, larvae and pupae. It breaks the flea life cycle and controls reinfestation for up to 210 days. Use on carpets, drapes, rugs, upholstered furniture and pet bedding.

  • Yard Spray by Virbac (32oz)is an outdoor treatment that is an important part of a comprehensive flea and tick control program. Virbac's Yard Spray makes it easy to treat lawns and other outdoor areas. Kills fleas, ticks and fire ants on contact. Treats up to 6,000 square feet.
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