Ah, the carefree days of summer! What do you have to worry about? Having too much fun at the beach? Eating too much juicy barbeque and even juicier watermelon? While the warm weather and relaxed pace is most certainly welcome, there is one aspect of summer that is certainly not: ticks. This year, there’s an uptick in ticks, particularly in the northeast, and spending more time outdoors increases the risk of exposure. What’s the best way to keep your pets safe?
Coming Soon to a Backyard Near You: Attack of the Blood-Sucking Monsters!
Ok, that may be a bit dramatic – but it’s still a summer blockbuster you want to miss! Bites from infected ticks can cause:
- Lyme Disease.
- Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever.
- Colorado Tick Fever.
- Relapsing Fever.
While this is concerning, there are two very important facts to remember:
- Not all ticks carry disease.
- Not all tick bites result in illness.
At the same time, there’s no such thing as being too careful when it comes to your pet’s health – or yours. After your pet spends time outdoors – whether in the backyard or on the hiking trail – always check him for ticks. Sorry; this is not reciprocal. He won’t check you. You’re gonna have to do that on your own!
The University of Rhode Island’s TickEncounter Resource Center has all the tick info you could ever want (and, likely, much more!), including pictures. Learn to identify the ticks in your area so you know what to look for. The CDC also has a lot of information on geographical distribution, avoiding ticks, and illness. Check it out – after you learn how to remove ticks from your pets!
Removing Ticks from Your Furry Friends
Step 1: Gather Your Supplies
To safely remove and dispose of a tick, you will need:
- A screw-top container, such as a mason jar.
- Rubbing alcohol.
- Rubber gloves.
- Pet treats and a glass of lemonade.
Here’s what you will not need:
- Nail Polish.
- Petroleum Jelly.
- Lighter or matches.
Common tick removal myths hold that you can “draw out” a tick by covering it with nail polish or petroleum jelly. The theory is that it suffocates them, and they back out for air. Problem is, according to experts, this doesn’t happen. They remain embedded – and a threat to your pet.
Other misguided advice includes burning the ticks. Two problems with this one: your pet has hair, which is flammable. Two, applying heat can increase the tick’s saliva production and if it’s infected with something this can increase pathogen transmission. So…not the best way to go.
Step 2: Get Ready
After you remove the tick, you’ll dispose of it in the container. Add a bit of rubbing alcohol: this will both kill and preserve it. Why preserve this little pest? If your pet should become ill, you can take it to the vet for testing to confirm a diagnosis. While you’re at it, use some of that rubbing alcohol to sterilize your tweezers.
Time to glove up, pet owner. It’s time to take on the blood-sucking monsters.
Step 3: Remove the Tick
Apply rubbing alcohol to the bite site. Then, using your tweezers, grasp the tick as close to your pet’s skin as you can get. Steadily pull the tick straight upwards. Those are the do’s of tick removal. Here are the don’ts:
- Don’t panic and go too fast. This increases the likelihood that you’ll leave the tick’s mouth embedded in your pet’s flesh.
- Don’t twist the tick. Doing so can cause it to expel infected fluids into your pet.
- Don’t squish the tick. It’s tempting to squash these little buggers but resist the urge. The fluids may contain disease-causing bacteria.
Once removed, put the tick into your alcohol-infused container.
Step 4: Check Your Handiwork
Now, when your grasp the tick, you may leave some of it behind. Yuck. We know. The CDC recommends using clean tweezers to try to extract the “mouthparts.” If you can’t do this easily, do not dig around in there. This can spread infection. Instead, just clean the area with rubbing alcohol or soap and water, and leave it alone.
Step 5: Wash Up…and Enjoy a Treat
Even though you wore rubber gloves, it’s not a bad idea to wash up with hot water and soap. Now, it’s time to give your patient pet (or your pet patient?) a treat. And you deserve one too: pour yourself that tall glass of lemonade and relax!
Don’t fear warm weather: be prepared! Learn to identify ticks common to your area, know how to remove them, and stock up on rubbing alcohol (and lemonade). Summer only comes once a year: it’s too nice to stay inside. Go and enjoy the great outdoors with your pets – safely.