Ask the Vet
Tick Removal and Control
Question: I am new to dog ownership and have recently found a tick on my dog, which my neighbour removed. How do I check for them and what is the best way to get rid of them?
Answer: Ticks are very common in this part of the country. Deer, hedgehogs, livestock and foxes are but a few of the different animals that harbour them. Ticks climb up grass and plants and hold their legs up "sensing" and "looking" for their prey. Ticks are attracted to their hosts by detecting carbon dioxide and heat through special organs located on the first pair of the tick's legs. When a warm-blooded animal walks past, the tick can crawl onto them and begins feeding. Ticks insert their mouths to attach to their prey, and engorge themselves with a blood meal. During feeding, tick saliva can get into the host's body and blood stream. Hence any tick infected with parasites or micro-organisms, such as Lyme’s Disease, can then spread the disease to the host. This can be particularly serious for pets visiting foreign countries under the Pet Passport scheme, as potentially fatal diseases uncommon in the UK can be contracted unwittingly. Male and female ticks usually mate while attached to the host. A few weeks later, the engorged female detaches from the host and lays her eggs (1000 - 8000 eggs) on a leaf. After hatching the immature ticks will seek a host.
If your dog has spent time in the woods or fields, I would recommend checking for ticks within 4-6 hours, the time frame that ticks will most likely attach to their host. Start by parting your dog’s hair on areas of the body that are less furry, like the head, neck and ears. Ticks are typically round or tear shaped and range from barely visible to the size of a pencil eraser if they’ve fed on blood. They vary in colour and may be grey, brown, black or red. If you find a tick, you may remove it with the following steps either with your fingers or, if very small, with a special tick-removing instrument:
- Grab the tick by the head or mouthparts as close to the skin as possible and not by the body.
- Gently start to rotate the tick in a counter-clockwise direction. After about the third revolution, begin to pull the tick gently away from the dog’s skin as you continue to rotate until the tick is completely removed.
- Avoid squeezing the tick during removal so as not to rupture the tick’s abdomen.
- Clean the bite wound with a antiseptic.
- Wash your hands thoroughly.
Methods such as applying petroleum jelly, a hot match, or alcohol will not cause the tick to drop off and can be dangerous. Occasionally, even after expert removal, the point of attachment may become very sore and infected. In this instance always seek veterinary advice.
The administration of a monthly spot-on product available from your vet is the best form of tick control and should be in place before and during all visits abroad.