Tick Removal Techniques on Dogs
Identification of Ticks
- Ticks go through three distinct life phases: the larval stage, where the tick is still considered an insect; the nymph stage, or the adolescent and immature adult phase; and the fully-grown adult phase. Ticks are not true insects, but are arachnids, and are part of the same family of creatures as the spider and scorpion. Because of this, all adults have at least three pairs of legs (see Reference 2).
Ticks that are still in the larval stage have six legs. Nymph and adult stage ticks have eight legs. Both genders of ticks feed from hosts. Before feeding, ticks have a generally flattened body. The longer they have been attached to a host, the larger, or more engorged, they become. The color and shape of a tick will change as it engorges as well, making identification particularly difficult at times (see Reference 1).
- When removing a tick, the most important thing to keep in mind is not to burst its body. Always use an instrument such as fine-tipped tweezers or a special tick removal implement to grasp the tick. Place the instrument at the mouth or head, right where the tick enters the skin. Do not grasp the body of the tick, for fear that it will burst. When a tick bursts, it can spread bacteria and disease, leading to a possible infection to your pet or yourself (see references 1, 3).
Remove the tick in one steady motion. Do not jerk your hand, but pull slowly and steadily. This will likely elicit a painful reaction from your dog, so you may want to have someone on hand to keep her calm and restrained. Don't twist the tick as you are removing it (see references 1, 3)
Do not apply any lubricating agent in hopes that it will help with the removal of the tick. Petroleum jelly, rubbing alcohol, a hot match and kerosene are some of the erroneous aids that have been suggested. These items may cause the tick to dig into your dog further and deposit more of the potentially infectious saliva (see references 1, 3).
Disposal and After-Care
- Contrary to popular belief, flushing a tick down the toilet will not kill it. Place the tick in a jar of rubbing alcohol. Do not carry the tick to the jar with your bare hands, but rather continue to use the removal instrument. Wash your hands thoroughly after the removal of a tick to ensure that any infectious material you may have come into contact with is removed.
Clean the bite wound on your pet with a disinfectant agent. If desired, apply a triple antibiotic ointment to the spot where the tick was embedded. A welt, swelling, hives or other dermatological reaction may occur. Hydrocortosone cream or spray can aid in the reduction of swelling. If a bull's eye pattern appears, or your dog's behavior or actions are abnormal, contact a veterinarian for a further checkup. Bloodwork can confirm or rule out any tick-borne illnesses. It may take up to a week or more for the bite wound to begin to heal, because of a reaction to the tick's saliva. Don't be alarmed by this.