Ticks become active anytime the temperature reaches 40 degrees. Peak activity is during spring and fall, but your pet is at risk for tick bites throughout the warmer seasons. Don’t let the threat of ticks stop you from enjoying the outdoors. The following information from the Lebanon Animal Hospital team will help you understand tick risks and offers a step-by-step guide on what you should do if you find a tick on your pet.

Tick bite risks to pets

The most significant risk from tick bites is a tick-borne disease, including Lyme disease, ehrlichiosis, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, and anaplasmosis. Ticks transmit disease-causing bacteria while feeding on pets, and can make the pet sick days, weeks, or months later. Tick-borne disease signs vary, depending on an acute or chronic illness, and which bacteria are the cause. Possible signs include:

  • Lethargy
  • Fever
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Poor appetite
  • Limping
  • Bruising or bleeding from blood clotting problems
  • Liver failure
  • Kidney failure
  • Heart problems

Preventing tick bites

The best way to deal with ticks is to prevent them from biting your pet in the first place. This ensures diseases cannot be transmitted and ticks aren’t brought into your home. All pets who go outdoors need an effective tick preventive, usually administered in a topical or oral product that also protects against fleas. A tick collar may be a good option for some pets, and our team can recommend products that will fit your pet’s needs.

Other tick prevention strategies include:

  • Avoiding tall grass and wooded areas and sticking to paved paths
  • Keeping your yard clear from debris and cutting grass frequently
  • Checking pets for ticks after outdoor activities; use a brush for long-haired pets

What to do if you find a tick on your pet

Ticks feed on pets by attaching to them for a few hours up to several days. They can transmit disease transmission as soon as four to six hours after attachment, but typically need 24 to 48 hours. So, removing ticks as soon as you find them is the best way to prevent disease transmission and potential future complications. 

Take these steps if you find a tick on your pet:

  • Remain calm — Avoid panicking about the tick, which will only upset your pet. If you can’t bear the thought of removing the tick yourself or worry about the correct technique, call our team and schedule a quick, same-day tick removal visit. Ask a trusted friend or family member to help if we’re closed.
  • Remove the tick — Ticks are not as hard to remove as you’ve likely been led to believe. Using blunt-edged tweezers, grasp the tick at the base of their head, as close to your pet’s skin as possible. Avoid grabbing the engorged body, which could burst. Pull the tick straight out with smooth, even pressure until you feel its release. Alternatively, you can purchase a tick removal tool for a few dollars from local stores or online retailers.
  • Dispose of the tick — Because ticks carry diseases, do not smash them like other bugs. Instead, place the tick in a small container with rubbing alcohol, or flush the creature. If you’re removing multiple ticks, keep one for future identification should your pet or a family member develop tick-borne disease signs. Avoid releasing ticks back into the outdoors, where they will likely bite another pet or human.
  • Clean and monitor the tick bite site — Clean the tick bite with mild soap and water or a chlorhexidine-based wound cleanser, and apply an over-the-counter antibiotic ointment to help prevent infection.
  • Call our team — Let us know your pet may have been exposed to tick-borne disease. We’ll document this in your pet’s medical record and recommend you monitor them closely for illness in the upcoming weeks.
  • Ask about tick-borne disease screening — We cannot test pets for tick-borne disease immediately after a tick bite, because the test only becomes positive after at least four to six weeks post-infection. We may recommend testing at that point or at a high-risk pet’s annual screening.

You can reduce tick risks to your pets by ensuring proper prevention and promptly removing any ticks you find. Tick prevention for pets is also helpful for people, because any ticks your pet brings into the house could bite a human. Call us, and schedule a visit with the Lebanon Animal Hospital team for a parasite prevention consultation and tick-borne disease screening.