During spring, many of us will be happy to spend some extra time with our pets in the fresh air, however, there may be critters hidden in your pup’s favourite outdoor spots that can be dangerous.
Insects such as ticks tend to spike in numbers during the spring months, particularly amongst long, damp grass and shrubbery, which make it easy for wandering dogs to pick up a tick bite.
We spoke to the experts at Pets4Homes, the UK’s largest pet rehoming website, for their top tips on how to remove a tick from a dog.
There are a few ways to prevent your dog from coming into contact with ticks. Preventative treatments are available in a variety of forms, including spot-on treatments, collars and tablets. These work in different ways but, whichever you opt for, it is best to start using it a few weeks before you think your dog is likely to be in the same area as a tick, to make sure the treatment is at its most effective. If you have any concerns or questions about using these products at home, you should always ask a vet before starting the treatment.
Spotting a tick
Knowing how to spot a tick is key to catching them before they can do too much damage. They usually appear as dark specks on the fur, which may be surrounded by red, irritated skin. Excessive scratching is usually a tell-tale sign of a tick's presence, too. Ticks like to latch themselves around the face, neck, underbelly and inside of the legs, so make sure to check these areas carefully if you’ve been out and about with your dog.
How to remove a tick from a dog
Once you have spotted a tick on your dog, it is best to act quickly to remove it. You can remove it yourself, but make sure to be careful, as it is easy to accidentally leave some of the tick behind without the right equipment.
The best way to remove a tick is to use a specialist tool such as a tick fork or tick twister. These tools are available online and are usually pointed to help you get beneath the tick easily, as using hands or flat-headed tweezers to remove a tick usually results in squeezing the tick’s body, which can cause it to vomit into the wound, and potentially allow tickborne diseases to enter your dog’s system.
Similarly, covering the affected area with well-intentioned substances like Vaseline or rubbing alcohol can also make ticks regurgitate, so they should be kept away from the wound, too.
When using a tick fork or tick twister to remove a tick, be sure to use a twisting motion beneath the tick and the skin to pull the whole insect out, rather than a straight pull. A twisting technique will prevent any part of the tick from being left behind, as their small spines burrow into the skin so pulling the tick straight off can cause these spines to break off and stay in the skin. Once you have removed the tick, be sure to dispose of it securely by sealing it in a plastic bag or flushing it down the toilet, to ensure that it doesn’t come back to bother your dog again.
After removing the tick, it is important to clean the area with a topical antiseptic to prevent infection and inflammation. Washing the area with clean, warm water can also help to ease any discomfort that your dog is feeling post-removal. It is a good idea to keep an eye on your dog in the following weeks to check for the signs of Lyme Disease. If your dog seems restless or stiffer than usual, schedule an appointment with your vet for a check-up. However, if you see any swelling around the lymph nodes, which would be seen around the shoulders and under the jaw, then it’s important to take your dog to the vet as soon as possible.
While most tick bites are relatively harmless, erring on the side of caution and consulting a professional is always wise.