Ticks are a common parasite in the northwest. Although present year-round, they are most frequently encountered in spring and summer. We often get calls from clients, concerned that their dog (less often cat) has a tick on them. Quite often, dog parents will mistake a wart for a tick, thus not all tick phone calls or appointments turn out to be a tick. It takes a good set of eyes and a little experience to tell if it is a tick. The best way to tell is to look for legs; ticks, like spiders, have 8 legs. Sometimes, a client will go so far as to try and remove a “tick” that turns out to be a wart. This can create a bloody mess, pain, and infection. Other times, pet parents may be panicked because they see a tick and think their pet is going to get a tick-borne disease. Although this is a real concern, it generally takes at least 24 hours of attachment for a live tick to transmit Lyme disease, Anaplasmosis or Rocky Mountain spotted fever. Also, most individual ticks in Oregon do not carry these diseases. Thus, same-day tick removal is generally adequate for most patients. Per Oregon State Public Health Veterinarian Dr. Emilio DeBess’s recommendations, we may prescribe a single dose of doxycycline as a precaution against tick-borne disease transmission at the time of tick removal.
Tick removal can be tricky, especially black-legged (Ixodes) ticks, which have long mouthparts. Some clients will mention using old folklore techniques such as painting them with nail polish or burning them with a match. These methods are less effective at best and dangerous at worst. The best way to remove a tice is with a special tick-removal tool or with a fine pair of tweezers/forceps. This is from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC):
How to remove a tick:
- Use fine-tipped tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin’s surface as possible.
- Pull upward with steady, even pressure. Don’t twist or jerk the tick; this can cause the mouth-parts to break off and remain in the skin. If this happens, remove the mouth-parts with tweezers. If you are unable to remove the mouth easily with clean tweezers, leave it alone and let the skin heal.
- After removing the tick, thoroughly clean the bite area and your hands with rubbing alcohol or soap and water.
- Never crush a tick with your fingers. Dispose of a live tick by putting it in alcohol, placing it in a sealed bag/container, wrapping it tightly in tape, or flushing it down the toilet.
With many pets, sedation or professional restraint will be necessary to allow proper tick removal. Thus, we recommend pets come in for this.
Regarding tick prevention, we generally recommend Simparica at our hospital. It is safe, effective, and can be combined with Trifexis or Sentinel for more complete parasite control. The Simparica-Sentinel combination is particularly cost-effective, with no redundancy in protection. Collars, such as the Preventic collar are also good options for ticks. Some OTC topicals, such as Frontline and Advantix, also kill ticks. While the ticks may attach with these products on, most will be killed before any disease could be transmitted and many will fall off the pet.