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The next creepy-crawly parasites for us to discuss are ticks. Unlike fleas, ticks are not insects. They are actually arachnids, more closely related to spiders than fleas. Ticks are especially abundant in wooded areas around us, but some people don’t realize that the most common place to pick up a tick is from the tall grass or underbrush. So, the sides of the trails in our prairie state parks are a prime location for your pets (and you) to encounter ticks.

One of the most common misconceptions about ticks is the proper way to removeticks
a tick from your pet. Did your grandma ever teach you to light a match, blow it out, and then place the match on the tick to burn it off? Mine did. And she was wrong. It’s also not a good idea to try to drown the tick in petroleum jelly or nail polish.

The correct way to remove a tick is actually very simple. Use a pair of tweezers to grab the tick as close to the pet’s skin as possible, and then quickly pull upward to rip the tick away from the skin. That’s it. Quick, easy, and simple, (and gross to some people). If you don’t feel comfortable removing a tick from your pet, bring your pet in for us to do it.

Another misconception a lot of people are concerned about is leaving the tick’s head behind. People worry about this more than they need to. Usually the “head” that is left behind is actually the tick’s mouthparts that anchor to the skin. After the tick is removed, these should fall out of the pet’s skin with time. If the area of the tick bite becomes red, starts to swell, or oozes some discharge, then bring your pet in so that we can make sure that additional treatment is not required.

What we should really worry about with tick bites are the dangerous diseases that ticks can transmit to your pets. Our hospitals have seen multiple cases of dogs positive for different tick-borne diseases including Ehrlichiosis, Anaplasmosis, and Borreliosis (better known as Lyme Disease). These diseases have the potential to be very dangerous – sometimes even life threatening, and some of the medication used to treat these diseases can be very expensive, especially for larger dogs. You can protect your pet by giving monthly tick preventative medication. We do have a new oral monthly tick preventative medication if you don’t like using the topical liquid medication. Also, we can give the Lyme vaccine to dogs that are at high-risk. (Sadly, we don’t have a vaccine against Ehrlichia or Anaplasma.) We’ll share more information about specifics of tick-borne diseases including Lyme Disease in a later blog post.

If you have any questions about ticks, tick preventative medication, or tick-borne diseases, please contact us.

By: Dr. Miller
Lakewood Animal Clinic