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What Should I Do If My Pet Gets A Tick?

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Ticks are external parasites that inhabit the skin of dogs, cats, humans and other mammals. Although ticks are commonly thought of as insects, they are classified as arachnids, just like mites, scorpions and spiders. All ticks have four pairs of legs (eight legs in total), while adult insects have three pairs of legs (six legs in total). here are two groups of ticks, the "hard" ticks (Ixodidae) and "soft" ticks (Argasidae). Hard ticks have a hard shield just behind the mouthparts, which may resemble the “head” of the tick. Soft ticks do not have the hard shield and they are shaped like a raisin. Soft ticks prefer to feed on birds or bats and are not commonly found on dogs or cats.

There are more than 15 species of ticks in North America, but only a few of them commonly infest domestic animals.

The four ticks most commonly found in dogs and cats are:

  • American dog tick
  • Lone star tick
  • Deer or Blacklegged tick
  • Brown dog tick

The saliva of some ticks has a toxin that can cause tick paralysis in animals and humans. In addition, ticks are capable of transmitting certain diseases—ticks are vectors for many bacteria, viruses, fungi, spirochetes, and disease causing microorganisms, many of which can be spread from domestic and wild animals to human beings.

How To Remove Ticks From Your Pet?

What you will need…

  • Gloves
  • Tweezers
  • Isopropyl alcohol
  • Clean gauzes or cotton balls

How To Do:

  • Wear gloves while removing the tick to avoid contact with your skin.
  • Grasp the tick as close to your dog’s skin as possible, but be careful not to pinch your dog's skin.
  • Pull outward in a straight, steady motion, making sure that you have removed the entire tick, since anything left behind could lead to an infection.
  • Clean your dog’s skin and the tweezers with alcohol. Wash your hands.
  • Save the tick in a small container with isopropyl alcohol—you will need to bring this to the vet if your dog shows any sign of tick-borne illness.

Do Ticks Transmit Any Diseases?

A primary concern of ticks is the transmission of tick-borne diseases, which include ehrlichiosis, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, and Lyme disease. When an infected tick bites a host (an animal or person) to feed, the bacterium that causes Lyme disease (Borrelia burgdorferi) is transferred to the host. Lyme disease in humans is characterized by aches in the joints, fever, and a host of other flu-like symptoms. The best defense against this disease is to check oneself daily for ticks and remove them promptly.

Diseases That Can Be Transmitted By Ticks

  • Lyme Disease
  • Human Anaplasmosis
  • Babesiosis
  • Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever
  • Ehrlichiosis
  • Powassan Virus
  • Southern Tick-Associated Rash Illness
  • Tularemia

Ticks Prevention and Control

Fortunately, many safe and effective products are currently available to treat and prevent ticks. These include oral medications and monthly topical spot-on treatments that kill and/or repel ticks. Some products are available over the counter, while others are only available through your veterinarian. There are effective monthly preventatives that are applied to the skin at the back of the neck and represent a convenient method of control for these external parasites. Your veterinarian will make specific recommendations to keep your pet parasite free.

Should I Bring My Pet To The Vet?

Check the area where the tick was to see if an infection surfaces. If the skin remains irritated, you should contact your veterinarian. Keep an eye on your dog for signs of tick-borne diseases such as lameness, neurological problems, reluctance to move, swollen joints, fever, fatigue and loss of appetite.

For more information and products on natural tick prevention and flea control click here.

About The Author

Dr. Stephanie Flansburg-Cruz
Dr. Stephanie Flansburg-Cruz practices mixed animal veterinary medicine and she has a special interest in shelter medicine and animal welfare. Stephanie enjoys volunteering at local animal shelters, reading, writing and traveling.


Minnesota Department of Health (MDH). Diseases that can be Transmitted by Ticks.

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