Just the thought of these little blood-suckers is enough to make you shudder! Here’s some guidance on how to prevent ticks and what to do if your pet picks up an unwanted visitor.
What are ticks?
Ticks are found all over North America and there are a number of species which are native to this part of the world. They range in size from a grain of sand to a sesame seed or larger. Ticks are arachnids, so they have eight legs as opposed to the six you find on insects, and no antennae. Throughout their life cycles, ticks need several blood meals.
While many primarily feed on mice, they will also latch on to your pet, or you, to get the sustenance they need. Ticks can carry a host of diseases such as Lyme disease, so you want to do your best to avoid them if you can. Often they are brought into the home by pets, rodents or unsuspecting people.
Ticks need a humid or moist environment to survive, so one of the best ways to keep them away from your home is to keep your yard neat and tidy. They don’t like the lack of shade and can’t take the heat, so they tend to look for cool, moist places. You’re most likely to find ticks near the edge of your lawn, usually within about 9 feet of the edge. If your property borders on a wooded area, creating a wood chip, tree bark, mulch, or gravel barrier between the woods and your lawn can prevent ticks from migrating onto your grass. Clean up piles of brush, remove weeds, mow grass regularly, and trim bushes at the edge of your property. These steps should also keep mice at bay, which ticks also love to feed on.
Protect your pets by checking them daily, and using a tick repellent lotion or collar. If your cat ventures outdoors, be sure to speak to your veterinarian and use a vet-approved repellent as cats are very sensitive to many chemicals.
How to check your pet for ticks
When checking your pet over for ticks, run your hands over their body and feel for any small lumps or bumps and look for any areas that look irritated. Ticks that have had a blood meal are engorged and large enough to feel. Because ticks like moisture, they are most attracted to moist areas of your pet’s body such as under the collar, under the tail, inside the groin, between the toes, under the front legs, around the elbow and even on the eyelids.
How to remove a tick from your pet
- You’ll need a pair of fine-tipped tweezers. Use them to grasp the tick as close to the skin’s surface as possible.
- Pull upward with steady, even pressure. Don’t twist or jerk the tick; this can cause the mouth-parts to break off and remain in the skin. If this happens, remove the mouth-parts with tweezers if you can. If you are unable to remove the mouth easily with clean tweezers, leave it alone and let the skin heal.
- After the tick is removed, thoroughly clean the bite area and your hands with rubbing alcohol, an iodine scrub, or soap and water. Over the next few days, watch your pet for signs of infection or disease.
- Never crush the tick with your fingers after removing it, because this may still transmit disease.
- There are also tick removal kits that are handy to keep in your car for camping, hiking, etc. to help make tick removal easy when you are on the go with your furry pal.
In the end, probably the best form of tick prevention is your commitment to check over your pet’s body each and every day to make sure he isn’t becoming the dining room table for any of these hungry pests.
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