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When Ticks Attack!

Tick attached below the eye of a dog.

Ticks…. Every time one is found on an animal or another person, humans the world over, keep checking themselves for the rest of the day.

Ticks usually live in wooded and grassy areas and can find their hosts by detecting an animal’s breath and body orders, or by sensing body heat, moisture and vibrations. Some species can even recognize shadows. A tick will pick a place to wait by identifying well-used paths, then they wait on the tips of grass and shrubs for a host to wander by and brush up against them.

Here are a few tips of what to do if you find one and how to avoid them.

Finding A Tick

Ticks like to hide and gorge themselves, then drop off to digest their food before going off in search of another ‘meal’. Ticks prefer to attach close to the head, neck, ears, groin and feet but can be found anywhere on your pet’s body (and yours for that matter, commence the tick heebie-jeebies). After your dog comes in from being outside, check closely for any stowaways who may have caught a ride. The likely haunts of ticks on dogs are:

  • In and around the ears
  • Around the eyelids
  • Under collars
  • Under front legs, the ‘armpit’ if you will
  • Around the tail area, check their bum too
  • Between the back legs, the back ‘armpits’ and less hair area of the groin
  • Between the toes

Cats get ticks too. However, ticks on cats tend to stay around the head and ears but can be found other places on their body. It’s just a safe bet to look your cat over, both visually and physically, when they come inside to check for any ticks.

Safe Tick Removal

When you do find a tick on your pet, it is very important to take care when removing it. Any contact with the tick’s blood can potentially transmit infection to you or your pet. Prompt removal is necessary, just be sure to take a few precautions.

  • Latex or neoprene gloves are a good idea to avoid direct contact with the tick and the bite area.
  • Throwing the tick in the trash or flushing it down the toilet does not kill it. Find a small screw top jar, save it for re-use, or even a sealable food bag and fill it with rubbing alcohol to kill the tick. This will also preserve the tick for any testing should your pet fall get sick.
  • Use a pair of tweezers and go under the tick’s body to grasp the tick as close to your pet’s skin as possible.
  • Pull upward with slow, steady, even pressure. DO NOT twist or jerk the tick – this can cause the mouth-parts to break off and cause further infection. DO NOT try to smother or ‘burn off’ the tick as this may cause the tick to regurgitate (aka puke) it’s saliva into the bite and greatly increases the chances of disease if the tick is infected.

Tick Prevention

The vast majority of ticks do not carry diseases but dogs are highly susceptible to tickborne diseases. Only rarely are cats affected by tickborne diseases.

  • Keep your yard tick-free by mowing it regularly, clearing any tall grass or brush around your home and removing tall weeds around the edges of the yard.
  • Remove fallen leaves in the Fall and leaf litter from storms during the Summer.
  • Place a 3 foot wide barrier of wood chips or gravel between lawns and wooded areas to prevent tick migration.
  • If ticks are still an issue in your yard, consider spraying the yard with cedar oil based spray or other chemical sprays. Always follow label instructions for safe use.
  • Discuss a tick preventative topical medication or collar for your dog with your vet to determine the best product for your pet.
  • You should also never use a tick preventative topical medication or collar on your cat without discussing with your vet first. These contain potent chemicals that cats can be very sensitive to.

Sources: The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Aniamls,; Center for Disease Control,; Cornell University School of Veterinary Medicine,; US National Library of Medicine Medline Plus,; American Veterinary Medical Association,