Otis was hanging out at a street fair one summer day when his dog mom noticed his eye had become red and puffy. A close inspection revealed a tick had attached to the inside of his eyelid. Yuck!
Luckily, she was able to quickly remove that pesky little sucker with blunt plastic tweezers from the first aid kit. It was a good reminder to check him over regularly, even though his prevention medication usually does the trick.
A variety of products are safe and effective for tick prevention – including oral medications, topical medications, and collars. Work with you veterinarian to determine what is best in your area and for your dog. Using regular monthly prevention is important because in many cases it is your pet’s only defense – many tick-borne illnesses are not vaccine preventable, and although many can be treated, some can be life threatening or could have lasting effects on your pet.
Check Your Dog Carefully
Ticks are sneaky – they are attracted to movement, CO2 emission, and heat. Once they find a host, they are pretty good at making themselves at home in some hard to reach areas. A tick could attach to an easy to find area on your dog, but - as Otis knows - can also be found on the inside of an eyelid, between toes, under the tail, even the hard palate inside the mouth! Check your dog thoroughly for ticks after any adventures, and if you find one, remove it.
A tick typically has to be attached for 24-36 hours to transmit disease, so most prevention products kill them within 24 hours. However, in cases of heavy infestation, sometimes the tick load can overwhelm the preventative product, so it is still important to remove any ticks you find.
How to Remove a Tick
Grasp the tick as close to your pet’s skin as possible – this is most easily done with tweezers. Grasp the tick and lift directly away from the skin without twisting, then clean the area with a mild soap and water. Ideally you will remove the entire tick body and its mouth parts at once, but don’t fret if you don’t get the whole thing. Although the mouth parts can be irritating to the skin, they are unlikely to transmit disease.
When to See Your Veterinarian
Tick-borne illnesses can take several weeks or even longer to develop, so see a veterinarian if you feel like something is off with your dog any time, but particularly if you remember seeing ticks on or around your dog in the last couple of months. Common symptoms of many tick-borne illnesses include fever, decreased appetite and lethargy, but could also include vomiting and diarrhea, joint swelling, and lameness.
Dr. Daws is a veterinarian currently practicing in Bozeman, Montana.