As spring blossoms throughout the Treasure Valley, people and pets might encounter some unpleasant critters; Emergency Veterinarian Dr. Kara Lindberg tackles ticks—and what to do if you find one on your pet.
In today’s veterinary blog quick instructions on performing a tick check on your pet, steps for safe removal, and when to see your family veterinarian.
Since growing up in Minnesota, where pets deal with ticks throughout the warm months, I have been pleasantly surprised at how few ticks I have treated in Idaho. However, while ticks may be less prevalent here, there seems to be a misconception that there are no ticks in Idaho and that subsequently, our pet does not require preventative medications. That is simply not the case. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) developed a map display that illustrates which ticks live here (and those that reside in the areas where you may have a summer camping trip planned). You may access that interactive map HERE.
Tick are ectoparasites. That means that they live outside the body of its host. As a relative of mites and spiders, ticks feed on the blood of animals—a process that enables them to potentially transmit disease.
Tick-borne diseases include:
- Lyme disease
- Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever
Please note, many of these diseases are found in only one region, and are transmitted by a particular type of tick. Plus, ticks often must feed for several hours before disease transmission. To help prevent tick-related diseases in your pet, contact your family veterinarian about effective preventative medication.
Check your dog regularly for ticks. This is especially important for pets that are often outside or following a walk near the Greenbelt or in the foothills. To perform a “tick check,” run your hands along your pet’s body, from head to toes to tail. Pay careful attention in and around the ears, in between the toes, and in the armpits. If you feel any bumps or lumps, investigate further.
If you discover a tick, the CDC has recommended the following steps to safely remove it.
1. Using fine-tipped tweezers, grasp the tick as close to the skin surface as possible.
2. Pull upward with steady, even pressure. Don’t twist or jerk the tick; this may cause the mouth-parts to break off and remain in the skin. If this happens, remove the mouth-parts with tweezers.
3. After removal, thoroughly clean the bite area and your hands with soap and water.
4. Dispose of a live tick by submersing it in alcohol, placing it in a sealed bag or container, wrapping it tightly in tape, or flushing it down the toilet. Never crush a tick with your fingers.
If you find a tick on your pet and you do not feel comfortable removing it, see your veterinarian right away. Incorrect removal may cause more harm, your family veterinarian can demonstrate how to remove it properly and provide information on tick preventatives.
If you are concerned that your pet may be sick following a tick bite, see your vet right away. Many tick-borne diseases can take several days to weeks before manifesting symptoms (e.g. lethargy, fever, lameness), so monitor your pet closely.
If your pet is behaving acutely abnormally, whether or not you suspect a reaction to a tick, it is always appropriate to consult your veterinarian right away. If your veterinarian is unavailable, WestVet is open and able to address your concerns 24 hours a day.