During tick season–which is spring and summer in some places, but can be year-round in milder climates–give your dog a tick check after every walk outside in brush or woods. It’s a good idea to don latex gloves before, since you can catch diseases if you come into contact with the tick’s fluids.
Run your hands over your dog’s body, feeling for pea-sized lumps. If you feel something, spread his fur so you can get a close look at the skin. Ticks can attach anywhere, but common spots are the ears, head, neck, shoulders, and between the toes.
What you’re looking for: Tear-shaped bodies with eight legs. They can be as small as a sesame seed before a meal, or, when engorged with blood, about as large as a pea. They can be brown, black, tan, or reddish.
How to remove ticks
To remove the tick, you’ll need tweezers–fine-tipped tweezers work best–or a tick removal tool. This vet’s website reviews the various kinds of tick removal tools on the market.
- With the tweezers or tool, grasp the tick by its head or mouthparts, as close to your dog’s skin as possible. Don’t grab the tick by its body or squeeze; this can make the tick expel disease-carrying fluids into your dog.
- When you’ve got a grip on the tick, pull straight back, steadily and firmly. Don’t squeeze or twist as you pull.
- Drop the tick into rubbing alcohol to kill it. These hardy buggers can survive being flushed down the toilet or drain. Squeezing the tick with your fingers isn’t recommended, as the fluid that comes out can cause diseases.
- Clean the bite area with a cotton ball dipped in rubbing alcohol. You may want to follow it up with a dab of antibiotic ointment.
Don’t worry if the tick’s head is still attached to your dog; it will probably come out on its own. Keep an eye on the area and if you see signs of infection, visit your vet.
What not to do: Try to squeeze the tick off with your fingers or apply burnt matches, petroleum jelly, and the like. These old tricks can actually make matters worse by irrititating the tick, causing it to expel disease-carrying fluids into your dog (not to mention the danger of burning your dog with a match.)