Ticks: how to remove them safely

Ticks are a year-round scourge but are particularly troublesome in summer. They’re extremely dangerous to pets causing deadly diseases like biliary and lyme disease. That’s why vets recommend parasite prevention all year round. It’s the easiest and cheapest way to keep your pet disease-free.

However, if you’ve missed a month or two and discover a tick on your dog or cat, don’t just rip it off. Here’s how to remove it, safely and comfortably.

Ticks: Don’t…

  • Try burning the tick with a lit match or any other heat source.
  • Suffocating or irritating the tick with petroleum jelly or fingernail polish.
  • Don’t crush, twist or jerk the tick out of the skin. That’s a fast way to expose your pet to more disease-carrying bacteria. It will also cause the tick’s mouthparts to break off.

Ticks: Do…

  • Wear rubber gloves. You don’t want to catch what’s in the tick’s blood.
  • Use tweezers to gently prise the tick from your pet’s skin.
  • Use a slow, steady, rearward pressure.
  • Clean the skin with soap and water after removing the tick.
  • Get rid of the tick by putting it in alcohol or flushing down the toilet.

Why parasite prevention is so important

The brown dog tick, common in South Africa, can hide in warm indoor nooks and crannies for up to a year, waiting for the right host to come along. Your dog may be clear of ticks today but tomorrow that one hidden tick may find him and hide between his toes, in his ears or in his armpit and you won’t see him. These ticks are tiny and masters at staying undiscovered until your dog falls ill with deadly biliary and that can be very costly to treat and treatment is sadly not always successful.

Your best bet, always, is to keep your pets protected year-round. There is a wide range of parasite preventives, from spot-ons to chews, collars to powders. Some protect against fleas and ear mites too. Ask your EberVet Vetshop or veterinary clinic for advice on choosing the best one for your pet. Never ever use parasite prevention meant for dogs on a cat. It is toxic to cats. Lactating and pregnant bitches and young animals will need special attention so ask your vet for advice before buying a preventive.

How to check your pet for ticks

The most efficient way to check for ticks is to start at one end of your pet and work your way down their body.

Use your fingers to comb through their fur, paying special attention to their head as this is a favourite spot for ticks to hang out. Be sure to check their ears, between their toes and inside their limbs.

Apply enough pressure to feel for any bumps or scabbed areas, especially on pets with longer fur. Remember that ticks can range in size, from a grain of sand to a large blueberry. The size can depend on their age, type, and whether or not they have had a recent blood meal.