Spending time outside with your pet is great. However, tiny, unwelcome threats abound. Ticks enjoy the outdoors too and are always on the lookout for their next meal. Therefore, after spending time outdoors—even if your pet is on a parasite preventive—you should always check their fur to ensure no ticks have latched on to your four-legged friend. Ticks threaten your pet year-round, but especially when warmer temperatures arrive. Read our Alpine Animal Hospital team’s guide to everything you need to know about ticks, and what to do if one has attached to your pet. 

The importance of checking your pet for ticks

These eight-legged external parasites live throughout most of the United States and feed by taking blood meals from mammals. A tick’s bite can transmit many diseases. To begin taking a blood meal and transmitting infection, a tick must remain attached to its host for at least 24 hours, which makes checking your pet for ticks and removing them immediately critical to preventing your furry pal from contracting an infectious disease. Tick-borne diseases range in severity from mildly debilitating to life-threatening:

  • Lyme disease
  • Rocky Mountain spotted fever
  • Ehrlichiosis
  • Anaplasmosis
  • Babesiosis
  • Tick paralysis

How to check your pet for ticks

A ticks can attach anywhere on your pet’s body, but most commonly latch on to their feet, neck, head, and ears. Most ticks have dark coloring and like to hide in areas where they blend in, so you have to look closely to find them in your pet’s fur, especially if your four-legged friend has a long, dark coat. Thoroughly examine your pet for ticks by following these steps:

  • Start at your pet’s head — Starting at the head, slowly run your hands over your pet’s body, using your fingers like a comb’s teeth. 
  • Leave no body part uninspected — Attention to detail is key when checking your pet for ticks. Look carefully under your pet’s collar, in and behind their ears, between their toes, and under their tail. You should even inspect your pet’s eyelids. 
  • Feel for bumps — Look and feel for bumps, and if you feel one, part that area’s fur to take a closer look. You may mistake a small skin growth for a tick, but you can confirm a parasite’s presence if you look closely and see the tick’s legs. Tick size varies by species—from as small as a pin to as large as a grape when engorged after feeding. 

How to remove a tick safely from your pet 

If you find a tick on your pet, you must remove it completely. Do not attempt to burn or drown an attached tick. A pair of fine-tipped tweezers is usually the most effective tick-removal tool. To remove a tick safely from your pet’s skin, follow these tips:

  • Get close to the skin — Using tweezers, grasp the head of the tick as close to your pet’s skin as possible.
  • Pull without twisting — Use slow, steady pressure to pull the tick straight out. Do not twist the tweezers, as this may cause the tick to break, allowing part of the parasite to remain embedded in your pet’s skin.
  • Check the tick and bite wound — Once you’ve removed the tick, look closely at the pest’s body to determine whether the head and mouthparts are intact. Then, check the bite wound on your pet’s skin, and use your tweezers to remove any of the tick’s parts that remain attached to your pet. 
  • Preserve the tick — After removing the tick from your pet’s skin, place it in a sealed container, and store it in the freezer. If your pet becomes ill in the future, the tick’s remains may provide valuable information to your veterinarian. 
  • Clean the bite — Gently clean the tick attachment site with soap and water, and apply a topical antibiotic and/or over-the-counter (OTC) steroid cream to help prevent infection and soothe inflammation. Continue to monitor the area for a few weeks. If the bite wound begins to drain, or the bump becomes larger, contact your veterinarian.

Monitor your pet for tick-borne disease signs

For a tick to transmit disease to your pet, they must be attached several hours up to a few days, so prompt removal is the best defense. Contact our Alpine Animal Hospital team, if a tick bite appears infected, or if your pet develops any of these infectious disease signs:

  • Lethargy
  • Fever
  • Loss of appetite
  • Joint pain
  • Hives, rash, itchy skin

Protect your pet with tick preventives and regular testing

The best way to prevent your pet from contracting a tick-borne disease is to ensure they are on a year-round parasite preventive medication and receive routine parasitic disease screening. Parasite preventives are available in oral, spot-on, and collar formulations, and our team can help you choose the best medication for your pet. 

Ticks may be tiny, but they can cause your pet big problems. Schedule your pet’s annual parasite screening and refill their parasite prevention product with our Alpine Animal Hospital team.