Ticks 101 - Basic Information Every Pet Owner Should Know

What are ticks?

Ticks are insects related to spiders. They have 8 legs and they feed off of a host animal by sucking blood. They vary in size from a tiny speck to the size of a swollen watermelon seed.

How do ticks differ from fleas?

• Ticks do not cause itching or hot spots, but they do cause illness. Sometimes the illness can be serious.
• Ticks crawl. Fleas jump.
• Ticks remain in place while feeding

How do I find ticks on my pet?

Use both sight and touch when checking your pet for ticks. Sometimes a tick can be next-to-impossible to find in dark fur, but using your fingers to search for them can help. They often feel like small, hard lumps.

Ticks are more likely to be in places where your pet has difficulty grooming. Check around your pet’s ears (be sure to check in the small flap on the edge of the ear at the base of the ear), eyes, and head closely. Because dogs are not as fastidious in their grooming as cats, it’s a good idea to check the rest of their body, paying especial attention to your dog’s neck, ears, in the folds of skin between the legs and body, and between each toe on their paws.

How do I remove and kill ticks?

What NOT to do:

  • Don’t use your bare fingers to remove a tick.
  • Do not squeeze or twist the tick’s body.
  • Don’t heat them with matches
  • Don’t pour alcohol on them
  • Don’t slather them with petroleum jelly.
  • Do not burn or use any substance on the tick; it may cause the tick to regurgitate infected materials into the wound.

The prompt removal of ticks is important because it decreases the chance of transmission of disease to your pet. Remove the tick carefully using pointed tweezers (if tweezers are not available, at least use a paper towel so that your hand does not contact the tick) as close to the skin as possible, using a firm, steady grip. Pull gently and do not twist. GRAB BY THE HEAD, where the tick enters the skin, not by the body, which can result in the tick’s body breaking in half leaving the head inside your pet. After removing the tick, crush it using the tweezers or another tool, being careful to avoid contact with tick fluids that can carry disease. Wash your hands!

Use alcohol to clean the tweezers you used as well as the wound left on your pet by the tick.

What diseases do ticks spread?

Ticks transmit Rocky Mt. Spotted Fever, St. Louis encephalitis, tick paralysis, tularemia, cytauxzoonosis, Lyme disease, canine ehrlichiosis, hepatozoonosis, anaplasmosis, and babesiosis.  There is a vaccine available to prevent Lyme disease in dogs.  At your pet’s annual comprehensive exam, your veterinarian will help you decide if your dog should be vaccinated against Lyme disease. Although Lyme disease does occasionally occur in this area, the decision to vaccinate is based on the likelihood of exposure to ticks on a dog-by-dog basis.  Dogs traveling to highly endemic areas should be vaccinated before traveling.

How can I protect my pet from ticks?

For tick control, we recommend using Nexgard  (once a month flavored pill), Frontline Plus (once a month topical product), or a Seresto collar. Please consult with us as to which of these products is best for your individual pet. Tick prevention is important in our area from early March through early December.

Would you like more information ticks? Click Here and in the search box provided under 'Pet Health Articles' type 'Cat Ticks' or 'Dog Ticks.'