One of our missions at Northern Michigan Veterinary Hospital is to help educate our clients and all pet owners about their pet’s health. Every veterinary hospital in Northern Michigan should be keeping their clients up-to-date on ticks and the risk to pets. This week’s blog is information from the Michigan Department of Community Health about ticks in Michigan and how you can be prepared should you find a tick on yourself or your pet.
Grand Traverse, Leelanau, and Benzie Counties are reported by the Michigan Department of Community Health as being endemic counties and are at risk for Lyme disease. This week’s blog is dedicated to ticks and helpful tips in removing them if you find one on yourself or your pet.
First of all, what does it mean that the counties we live in are “endemic”? This means that an infected tick population has been confirmed and/or two or more laboratories have confirmed human cases with local exposure.
Michigan’s five most common ticks are the American-dog, black legged, lone star, woodchuck, and brown tick. These pesky creatures are carriers of pathogens that cause human and animal disease. In Michigan, tick-borne diseases are rare, but they do occur and can be serious if not properly diagnosed and treated.
Below is a list of things that you can do to prevent ticks from getting on you when you are hiking or camping in a heavily wooded area.
- Wear light colored clothing
- Tuck long pants into your socks and wear a long sleeved shirt
- Use insect repellants that contain DEET (5% or lower concentration for children, and 30% or lower for adults)
- Permethrin repellants can be used on clothing NOT on bare skin
- Perform regular tick checks
Ticks can attach to any part of you or your pets body but they prefer body creases.
If you find a tick on you or your pet—what do you do? While it’s important to get these little suckers off quickly, ASPCA veterinarians advise that you stay calm and don’t rush it. Moving too fast when removing a tick could potentially create more problems, both for your pet and for you.
While the following instructions employ tweezers, be aware that there are some very good products on the market designed specifically for safe tick removal. If you live in a tick-heavy area or are taking your pets to a place where they are likely to get ticks, it’s a good idea to buy one of these tools and have it on hand. They generally work better than tweezers at getting out whole tick, and are relatively inexpensive.
Step-by-Step Tick Removal Instructions
Step 1—Prepare its Final Resting Place
Throwing a tick in the trash or flushing it down the toilet will not kill it, and it’s actually best to hold on to it for awhile for veterinary testing in case your pet falls ill from the bite. Be ready with a jar that has a screw-top lid and a cotton ball with rubbing alcohol on it.
Step 2—Don’t Bare-Hand It
Put on latex or rubber gloves so you’ll never have direct contact with the tick or your pet’s bite area. Ticks can carry infective agents that may enter your bloodstream through breaks in your skin or through mucous membranes (if you touch your eyes, nostrils or mouth).
Step 3—Grab a Partner
You don’t want your pet squirming away before you’re finished, so if possible, have a helper on hand to distract, soothe or hold him/her still.
Step 4—The Removal
Treat the bite area with rubbing alcohol and, using a pair of tweezers, grasp the tick as close to the animal’s skin as possible. Pull straight upwards with steady, even pressure. Do not kill the tick just place it in the jar.
- Do not twist or jerk the tick! This may leave the mouth-parts embedded in your pet, or cause the tick to regurgitate infective fluids.
- Do not squeeze or crush the body of the tick, because its fluids (saliva and gut contents) may contain infective organisms.
Step 5—All that Remains
Sometimes, in spite of doing everything right, a tick’s mouth-parts will get left behind in your pet’s skin. If the area doesn't appear red or inflamed, the best thing to do is to disinfect it and do not to try to take the mouth-parts out. A warm compress to the area might help the body expel them, but do not go at it with tweezers.
Step 6—Clean Up
Thoroughly disinfect the bite site and wash your hands with soap and water (even though you were wearing gloves). Sterilize your tweezers with alcohol or by carefully running them over a flame.
Step 7—Keep Watch
Over the next few weeks, closely monitor the bite area for any signs of localized infection. If the area is red and inflamed, or becomes so later, bring your pet and your jarred tic to your veterinarian for evaluation.
If you ever have any questions about Ticks and Tick removal, don’t hesitate to call your pet vet in Acme. We will be happy to help and ensure that you pet stays happy and healthy now and in the future.