With spring well underway, tick season is in full swing, but what should you do if one of these critters attaches itself to your four-legged friend? Ticks aren’t just annoying, they can transmit diseases when they feed; and this makes removing them promptly vital! So read on to find out more about these blood-sucking pests, and how to remove a tick from your pet safely if they do happen to hitch a ride home!
Ticks are eight-legged parasites that hide out in vegetation like grass and woodland, and wait for your pet (or you!) to pass by. Ticks are blood feeders, and after silently leaping onto your pet’s fur, they crawl down to the skin and begin the process of feeding. Once they’ve embedded their mouth parts into your pet’s skin, they stay firmly attached for many days (or even over a week1), growing increasingly larger as they feed, only dropping off when they’ve had their fill.
Aside from the obvious fact that no-one wants a tick (or several!) attached to them for days on end, the real issue with ticks is the diseases they can transmit while feeding. Lyme Disease (a potentially life-altering condition) can be passed to both pets and people via an infected tick bite, and is the most common tick-borne disease in the UK. This is why checking your pet’s coat for ticks, and promptly removing any you find, is so important! Our step-by-step guide tells you all you need to know about giving these pests the boot, and how to help stop them terrorising your pets in the future, too!
You may be able to remove a tick without assistance, but if your pet is especially wriggly, or you’re a novice tick-tackler, it’s best to get someone to help you gently hold your pet. Quite how you position them will depend on the location of the tick, but if you can, get them to sit or lie down on their side – making sure they are comfortable.
Ticks are disease carriers, and pose a threat to us as well as our pets, so to be on the safe side, put on some disposable gloves to avoid having to touch the critters.
Ticks often like hairless areas of skin, such as the groin, armpits and face; so it may be that the tick is fairly easy to spot, but ticks can attach anywhere. If you need to, part the fur around the tick, so that you can see it clearly.
When ticks attach, they embed their mouthparts firmly into the skin (since they plan to stay put for many days, they don’t want to risk being knocked off before they’ve finished their meal!). Tempting though it may be to try to yank them out quickly to get the job over with, it’s best not to do this, as it risks breaking the tick’s body away from its head. This may result in part of the tick’s mouthparts being left behind in your pet’s skin.
This is where a tick hook comes in! A simple, but very effective tool, tick hooks make removing ticks super easy. Slide the tick hook carefully around the head of the tick (the part nearest your pet’s skin). Once in place, twist the hook round, at the same time as applying a gentle pulling action, and the tick should pop out! It really is that simple!
Once you’ve freed your pet from this irritating pest, the last thing you want is for it to crawl off, potentially to bite another pet or person! There are a few ways you can get rid of the tick: pop it in a tissue and flush it away, or put it in a small container with a lid and put it out with the rubbish. Just make sure it’s gone for good!
Most of the time there’ll be nothing to see, but it’s worth checking that the whole tick was removed intact. If you do think part of the tick might be left behind in your pet’s skin, don’t panic, but do have a chat with your vet to see what they advise.
To be on the safe side, keep an eye on your pet over the following weeks. Removing ticks as soon as possible gives the best chance of avoiding an infection, but you can never entirely rule out the possibility of disease transmission following a tick bite, especially if you’re unsure how long the tick had been attached for.
Dogs with Lyme Disease often show no signs at all, but when symptoms do occur, they can include enlarged lymph nodes, a fever, tiredness, and lameness. Ticks can pass other diseases on to our pets, too. A disease called babesiosis can cause severe illness in dogs within a few days of infection; symptoms can include a fever, weakness, pale gums or jaundice, and it can be fatal. Thankfully, the disease is rare in the UK in dogs that haven’t been taken abroad. However, a handful of cases in non-travelled dogs in Essex in 2016 alerted vets to its presence in the UK, and despite its rarity, it’s still one to watch out for.
If you do notice any unusual signs in your pet in the weeks to months following a tick bite, then speak to your vet for advice.
If you’ve had to remove even a single tick from your pet, it’s safe to say that there will be more where that one came from, and that your pet is at risk of being bitten again when they’re next walked in that same spot! The best way to protect your pet from these disease-carrying pests, is to keep up with regular tick treatment, throughout the tick season (which, in case you’re wondering, runs from March- October).
Fipnil Plus is an easy solution to the problem! A simple monthly spot-on, Fipnil Plus is easy-to apply, kills both fleas and ticks, and is available for use in both dogs and cats.
So there you have it, removing these pesky critters is fairly straightforward once you know how! But better yet is to try and avoid a close-encounter of the eight-legged kind in the first place! By keeping up with regular tick protection for your pet, you know you’re doing all you can to protect your four-legged friend, allowing them to enjoy their springtime adventures in peace!