An overview of a tick isolated over white ** Note: Slight blurriness best at smaller sizes

We celebrated National Walk Your Dog Week earlier this month, but really, the entire fall season is a great time to get outside and enjoy the beautiful weather and scenery with your dog and your kids. However, letting your dog roam the great outdoors does come with risks – the biggest one being those pesky ticks that just love to latch on and hide in animal fur.

Ticks can be found anywhere from rural areas to city parks, and they pose a serious threat to your pet. They can transmit diseases such as Lyme disease, ehrlichosis, and Rocky Mountain spotted fever. These illnesses can cause paralysis or even death.

Throughout tick season, it’s important to be vigilant in checking your pets for ticks. You can be proactive about keeping ticks away by using topical medications or tick collars and bathing your pet regularly.

If you do happen to find a tick on your pet, here’s what you need to know.

What to do if you find a tick on your dog:

Determine whether it is a tick or skin tag

Skin tags or other growths on your dog’s skin can look just like a tick, so it’s important to figure out exactly what the foreign bump is before trying to remove it. Using a magnifying glass, examine the bump. Ticks will be brown with a flat, oval body. However, when they have been feeding for a while, they can look round and bulbous. Check for legs along the side of the tick’s body. Ticks are most commonly found around the ears and neck of a dog.

Skin tags are typically thin and flat, so they may look like ticks. However, pulling on them can be painful for the dog and can cause bleeding. If the bump doesn’t have legs, feel it gently. Skin tags should feel like living skin, while ticks will feel hard and smooth.

How to safely remove a tick

Once you’ve confirmed that the bump is in fact a tick, it’s time to remove it. There are many tick removal gadgets and tricks on the internet – like the Tick Twister and the Tick Key – but the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends using a simple and straightforward method: fine-tipped tweezers.

CDC-recommended removal method

Place the tweezers parallel to the skin and grip the tick as close to the skin’s surface as possible. Be careful not to grip so hard that you break the head and neck. Pull gently and slowly, straight up and away from the skin to remove the tick. Pulling gently and evenly should allow you to pull the entire tick out without the mouth-parts breaking off. In case the mouth-parts do get stuck in the skin, remove them with the tweezers. If you can’t remove the mouth-parts easily, leave them alone. They should eventually come out on their own.

After removing the tick, disinfect the bite area with rubbing alcohol and wash your hands with soap and water. Dispose of the tick by submersing it in alcohol, placing it in a sealed bag or container, or flushing it down the toilet. Do not try to crush it with your fingers. If you are concerned, you could consider taking the tick to the vet to be tested for diseases.

What NOT to do when removing a tick:

When removing a tick, there are a few mistakes to avoid.

  • Stay away from folk remedies such as covering the tick in nail polish or petroleum jelly. Your goal is to remove it quickly – not wait for it to detach.
  • Don’t burn it off with a flame or freeze it off with a freezing aerosol product, as these methods are dangerous for you and your pet.
  • Don’t twist, jerk, or quickly rip the tick off. This will increase the chances of the mouth-parts breaking off and staying embedded in the skin.

To prevent ticks from lurking in your backyard, contact DC Mosquito Squad today today and find out about our tick control services. We offer everything from barrier sprays to tick tubes to get rid of these dangerous pests.