Dogs

How to remove a tick

11.07.08 | 18 Comments

tick

If you and your dog spend any amount of time in the great outdoors, the chances are good that eventually, one or both of you will come home with a tick. After all, they stand on the tips of grass blades, just waiting for someone to brush past, some unknowing host who, they hope, will never even know once they’ve come aboard. So you want to get into the habit of checking everyone’s clothes and coats at the end of each day (even in the most unsuspecting places) for the slow-crawling arachnids, because if checked quickly, the ticks may not have enough time to actually attach themselves to the host’s skin and start sucking. Even with protective attire (ideally, light-colored clothing, long pants, tucked into socks), there will be times you’ll miss a tick.  and a few days later, in patting a hand along your dog’s coat, you’ll find a strange, wobbly bump. Look closely, parting the fur back, and you’ll see it: nice and fat, something you can wiggle back and forth (as fun as that sounds).

I use tweezers. That’s what the CDC recommends. I inflict paranoid hysteria on the kids in warning them that, if they try to remove a tick with their hands, any agents of illness that could possibly be in the tick may infect them. Our skin is a breathing, holey membrane and tiny things pass invisibly across its pores. You could also cite the various illnesses the tick is often a vector for:

  • Lyme disease
  • Rocky Mountain spotted fever
  • babesiosis
  • ehrlichiosis
  • Q-fever
  • Southern tick-associated rash illness
  • tick-borne relapsing fever
  • tularemia
  • Colorado tick fever

Not to mention how gross they look, just dangling there by their mandibles, arms splayed back in a sinister swan dive.

tick

When using the tweezers*, I find it’s most effective to very gently grasp the HEAD of the tick between the pincers, very close to the skin, and with a gently grip, carefully and slowly lever upwards as the tick lets go of its bite. If you yank straight upwards, chances are good that the tick will separate in two parts, leaving the head still tenaciously attached to your beloved host. If you squeeze the tick’s body, it could puke nasty fluids back into the host, or worse, explode! You want to remove the entire tick, of course, and you want to remove it without squeezing it or crushing it or puncturing the tick–if this happens, any harmful agents in the tick’s fluids will disperse. Have a tissue on hand, in addition to the tweezers, to safely handle the tick.

Once the tick is removed, suspended in the tweezer’s grasp, it should be preserved in some manner (in case you or your dog gets sick later) so that you can bring it to your veterinarian for analysis.  You can put it in a sealed plastic baggie or jar with the date of the bite on a piece of paper.

FINALLY, with a sigh of relief and a bar of soap, wash up and apply antiseptic to the bite wound. Then, to satisfy your curiosity, try to identify what kind of tick you’ve isolated at one of many well-referenced guides online. And keep your fingers crossed!

Just remember, in removing the tick:

  • Avoid trying to burn the tick off with a match.
  • Don’t try to smother the tick with nail polish, vaseline, or other witchcraft.
  • Tell your pediatrician if your child gets sick soon after getting bitten by the tick; this is important especially if, within 1 or 2 weeks, he develops a rash, fever, chills, headache, fatigue, or swollen gland.
  • Do not leave the tick’s head stuck in the skin–if you do, get the pediatrician or doctor (or veterinarian, whoever the case may require) to finish the job.
  • Do not squeeze the tick as you try to remove it.

*Addendum!

There is a commercially-made alternative to tweezers for the removal of ticks:
Ticked Off

There is also another brand, met with wide success in the UK (but only available for purchase there, at this writing):
The O’Tom Tick Twister

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