Safely removing a tick from your pet

It is important to check your pet frequently for ticks, especially after spending time in wooded or grassy areas. If you find a tick that has attached to your dog or cat, the best tool to remove it is a pair of fine pointed tweezers. Most household tweezers have a large blunt or slanted tip which will work if nothing else is available, but fine pointed tweezers allow you to grasp the tick as close to the mouth parts as possible to improve the chances of removing the tick intact. Do not try old remedies like covering the tick with Vaseline or nail polish, or use a lit match to try to get the tick to detach. These techniques are ineffective at best (not to mention dangerous, in the case of using a match), but they can also cause the tick to vomit which increases the chance of it transmitting diseases since the organisms which cause disease like Lyme disease are carried in the digestive tract of ticks. Do not remove a tick with your fingers as squeezing on the body of the tick is more likely to cause it to inject infectious material.

To remove an attached tick, spread your dog or cat’s fur and then grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible. Gently, slowly and steadily pull straight upwards. Using slow steady pressure is more likely to cause the tick to release its grip so you are less likely to leave the mouth parts behind.  People often believe that it’s the head of the tick that embeds in the skin when they attach. However, ticks don’t have heads in the conventional sense. They have elongated harpoon-like mouth parts which are used to pierce and attach to the skin. If the mouth parts do break off and get left behind, don’t panic it’s not a big deal. The body will naturally get rid of the mouth parts in a few days just like it would a splinter. Never dig around in the skin to try to remove the remainder of the tick as this actually increases the risk of infection. Just monitor the are for any evidence of infection. If a rash or swelling starts to develop, have the site checked by your veterinarian. There are several safe and effective tick and flea medications available so talk with your veterinarian about which is best for your dog or cat.