Ticks are a type of parasite that feed on the blood of humans and other warm-blooded animals such as dogs. Generally, a tick feeds on a host by pricking the skin and burying itself under the skin of a host. Correctly removing an embedded tick from a dog is a delicate procedure as a piece of the tick can break off and remain under the dog’s skin. Dog owners unable to remove an embedded tick should contact a veterinarian immediately.
Dangers of Ticks
Ticks carry and transmit diseases to humans and animals. Common disorders associated with exposure include Lyme disease, which is an inflammatory bacterial disease that affects the skin, heart and nervous system; and Ehrlichiosis, a bacterial infection that kills white blood cells. For humans, report any tick exposure that occurs with a fever and or rash to a doctor immediately.
Removing the Tick
When removing an embedded tick wear gloves to avoid touching the tick and contacting any diseases. Using a pair of fine-tipped tweezers or a tick-removal instrument, gently grab the tick close to the head. Do not grab the tick by the body as this may crush the parasite and cause harmful bacteria to enter the dog’s bloodstream. Without twisting, firmly pull the tick outward. If the head detaches from the body and remains in the skin, remove as much of the head as possible. However, leaving part of the head in the skin typically is not life threatening for the pet.
After the Removal
After removing the tick, place it in alcohol to kill it. Clean the wound with disinfectant and apply a small amount of a triple antibiotic ointment to the area. If the tick's head remains embedded under the skin, the dog’s immune system will create an infection or abscess to dislodge the head. Typically, the bite wound will swell and take approximately one week to heal. During this time, the use of a hydrocortisone spay can alleviate any irritation of the wound.
Several over-the-counter and prescription medications, shampoos and sprays prevent tick exposure in dogs. To reduce the risk of tick exposure, check the dog daily, especially during tick season. To check, run your fingers through the dog’s fur, feeling for bumps on the skin. Embedded ticks are generally dark brown or black and can be as small as a pinhead or as large as a grape. Remove an embedded tick from a dog within 24 to 48 hours to avoid infection and diseases.