Is Your Pet Ticked Off?

dog-and-ticksA common parasite, especially during the summer months, is the tick. Ticks can be found in most climates. Although they are most often found in wooded, damp and grassy areas before they attach to a pet. Some tick bites are harmless, but others can cause skin damage, irritation, hypersensitivity and anemia.

The most common diseases transmitted by tick bites are Lyme disease, tick-borne fever and Rocky Mountain spotted fever. If left untreated, these diseases can cause severe health problems that can be fatal. The following are warning signs that your dog or cat may have a tick-borne disease.

Lyme disease symptoms:

  • Arthritis
  • Lameness
  • Depression
  • Loss of appetite

Tick-borne fever symptoms:

  • Weakness
  • Cough
  • Labored breathing
  • Fatigue
  • Discharge from the nose or eyes

Rocky Mountain spotted fever symptoms:

(Symptoms are similar to those of tick-borne fever)

  • Loss of appetite
  • Lethargy
  • Depression
  • Feverish
  • Lameness
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea

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Contact your veterinarian immediately to schedule an examination and a blood test if you believe that your pet has been bitten and infected by a tick. If you remove any of the ticks from your pet, save them in a bottle – your veterinarian may want to examine them in order to determine what type of ticks they were. Remove ticks with tweezers or with a special “tick remover.” Never remove a tick with your hands or a match.

This article is an excerpt from the Parasites & Their Control chapter of PSI’s Certification Program. PSI’s Certification Program is designed to provide the knowledge necessary for a PSI member to excel in pet care, health and nutrition, business and office procedures, and added services for pet-sitting businesses.

Step-by-Step Tick Removal Instructions

Step 1: Prepare its Final Resting Place

Throwing a tick in the trash or flushing it down the toilet will not kill it, and it’s actually best to hold on to it for awhile for veterinary testing in case your pet falls ill from the bite. Be ready with somewhere to put the tick after you’ve removed it—the best option is a screw-top jar containing some rubbing alcohol.

Step 2: Don’t Bare-Hand It

Put on latex or rubber gloves so you’ll never have direct contact with the tick or your pet’s bite area. Ticks can carry infective agents that may enter your bloodstream through breaks in your skin or through mucous membranes (if you touch your eyes, nostrils or mouth).

Step 3: Grab a Partner

You don’t want your pet squirming away before you’re finished, so if possible, have a helper on hand to distract, soothe or hold her still.

Step 4: The Removal

Treat the bite area with rubbing alcohol and, using a pair of tweezers, grasp the tick as close to the animal’s skin as possible. Pull straight upwards with steady, even pressure. Place the tick in your jar.

  • Do not twist or jerk the tick! This may leave the mouth-parts embedded in your pet, or cause the tick to regurgitate infective fluids.
  • Do not squeeze or crush the body of the tick, because its fluids (saliva and gut contents) may contain infective organisms.

Step 5: All that Remains

Sometimes, in spite of doing everything right, a tick’s mouth-parts will get left behind in your pet’s skin. If the area doesn’t appear red or inflamed, the best thing to do is to disinfect it and not to try to take the mouth-parts out. A warm compress to the area might help the body expel them, but do not go at it with tweezers.

Step 6: Clean Up

Thoroughly disinfect the bite site and wash your hands with soap and water (even though you were wearing gloves). Sterilize your tweezers with alcohol or by carefully running them over a flame.

Step 7: Keep Watch

Over the next few weeks, closely monitor the bite area for any signs of localized infection. If the area is already red and inflamed, or becomes so later, please bring your pet—and your jarred tick—to your veterinarian for evaluation.


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