As we (finally) get nice weather here, a rash of questions about ticks usually follows. Ticks are very common in some areas, and a short walk in the woods can result in exposure. Ticks themselves aren’t the concern. The problem is infectious diseases that ticks can transmit, including Lyme disease. The risk and types of diseases of concern vary geographically. (In Ontario, exposure to ticks that can transmit Lyme disease is most common in Point Pelee, Rondeau, Long Point, Turkey Point and the Thousand Islands area). There are a number of ticks that may feed on people and pets, but only a few that transmit infections. Your veterinarian, physician and/or public health departments should be able to tell you what diseases are of concern in your area.
Regardless of where you live, if you and your pet might encounter ticks, you should know how to remove them. Prompt removal is the key. Most tickborne diseases aren’t transmitted immediately. Rather, the tick must be attached for a period of time for infection to occur. Therefore, close inspection of your pet (and yourself) for ticks after spending time outside, is important.
- Remove a tick as soon as you see it.
- Use fine-tipped tweezers to firmly grasp the tick very close to your skin. With a steady motion, pull the tick away from your skin. Then clean your skin with soap and warm water.
- Avoid crushing the tick’s body.
- Do not be alarmed if the tick’s mouthparts remain in the skin. Once the mouthparts are removed from the rest of the tick, it can no longer transmit Lyme disease bacteria.
- If you accidentally crush the tick, clean your skin with soap and warm water or alcohol.
Tick removal devices are also available and can be used in place of tweezers. If you use one, make sure the device does not squeeze the tick’s body as you remove it.
If a large number ticks are present on your pet, you should contact your veterinarian for assistance. Typically, a product that kills ticks will be applied to your pet.
There are various anecdotal recommendations that should be avoided, including burning the tick off with a match and covering the tick with substances such as gasoline, petroleum jelly or nail polish.