Spring is finally here! That means most of us will start venturing outdoors in hopes of spending more time enjoying the warmer weather. Unfortunately, given the current pandemic, that might mean some of us are limited to go only as far as our backyard. The good news? Dogs love being outdoors! Whether you decide to hit the trails, dog park, or yes, even your own backyard, your dog will thrive from getting out of the house and playing outside with you. The bad news? With the warmer temps comes the issue of ticks. These nasty little arachnids are known for not only sucking blood but also transmitting disease. Never fear! There’s no need to hide indoors full of angst over these little creatures. There are ways to protect your beloved pet, as well as yourself, while enjoying time in the great outdoors.

Flea and tick protection

There are many options when it comes to protecting your pet. One of the most important things you can do is talk to your vet about these options. The most popular options are flea and tick medications that can be applied topically or given orally once a month. These medications are designed to prevent and control the presence of fleas and certain species of ticks. It’s very important you check with your vet about the application of these medications because there is an age requirement for dogs and cats. 

If you aren’t comfortable giving medication to your pet, an alternative is a flea and tick collar. These products essentially do the same job as the topical and oral medications. The collars typically have to be changed after a certain number of months, which may vary depending on brand and product. 

Another course of action your vet will suggest is a vaccine for Lymes Disease. As previously mentioned, those pesky ticks are crawling disease transmitters. One of the best ways to protect your furry friends from Lymes Disease is by having your vet administer this vaccination. In the event that your pet is bitten by a tick carrying Lymes, this vaccine will help to prevent your pet from getting the disease. 

Daily checks

Another way to reduce the chance of your dog getting sick from a tick bite is to perform daily checks. Ticks are extremely difficult to see, unless of course they have been latched on and feeding off of your pet for a while. The best time to inspect for ticks is right after your dog comes in from playing outside. Owners who have dogs or cats with longer hair or thicker fur may need a comb to help them get a close look at their pet’s skin. This may also help to brush away and ticks who may be crawling on your pet but have not yet bitten. 

Obviously, owners want to check all over their entire pet; however, keep in mind that ticks like to settle down in warm, damp areas. Pay particularly close attention to areas such as:

  • Around the mouth (including the gums)
  • In and around the ears
  • Near the eyes
  • Between toes/pads of paws
  • Around the tail
  • Under the front legs
  • Between the back legs

How to remove a tick

So you discovered a tick on your pet…now what?! Don’t panic! You’re going to need a pair of tweezers, rubbing alcohol, and a ziplock bag or small container. 

  1. Clean the area around the tick with rubbing alcohol. 
  2. Use the tweezers to grab the tick as close to the surface of the skin as possible. Do not grab the tick by its body. 
  3. Gently pull upward. DO NOT TWIST! This can result in the tick’s “mouth” detaching from the body and staying in the skin. If this happens, the “mouth” will usually fall off on its own. 
  4. Clean the bite area with rubbing alcohol and wash your hands.
  5. Place the tick in the ziplock bag or container with the rubbing alcohol. This will kill the tick. Do not dispose of the tick! Your vet may need it to test it for any diseases it could be carrying.

What to do if your dog is bitten

Call your vet and inform her that your pet has been bitten by a tick, you removed it, and have it saved in rubbing alcohol for testing. She may request you come in for a visit or advise you to monitor your pet for any symptoms that could indicate Lymes Disease, such as loss of appetite, swelling of the joints, lethargy, or fever. If any of these symptoms arise, contact your vet immediately.

As much as ticks suck-literally and figuratively-they still don’t have to put a damper on you and your pet’s day outside! Remember to be preventative, protect your pet and yourself, and do daily tick checks whenever spending time outdoors.