Incision Line #1
Posted on November 08, 2011
Have you seen these folks hanging around?
Welcome to Vermont Veterinary Surgical Center's first installment of Incision Line. These articles are written by Dr. Paul Howard with the intention of bringing to you veterinary topics of interest that you may find pertinent as it relates to your specific pet. Being a surgical specialist, the topics will often come with a surgical slant, but not always, as evidenced in this our first issue on those pesky little ticks we are currently seeing most everywhere. I welcome your feedback and ask that you submit your thoughts on any topics you might wish to see addressed.
So why would a surgeon want to talk about ticks? We all recognize that ticks can be responsible for a myriad of problems, including localized irritation from bites, hypersensitivity reactions, blood diseases, lethargy, anorexia, paralysis, and even death. As a surgeon I am often asked to evaluate lame dogs. Lamenesses related to ticks always have to be a consideration when evaluating the animal. A complete discussion of tick borne diseases is beyond the scope of this article. What is important to know is that there are ticks amongst us looking to hitch a free ride on us or your pet, and they can cause serious problems to our pets.
You might ask why talk about ticks at this time of year. An afternoon walk through the woods with your dog is likely to answer the question as a recent client found out. After the dog’s appointment with us the owner went for a 5 minute walk in the woods behind my hospital before the 2 hour drive home. The dog’s short hair coat offered little opportunity for the ticks to hide and the owner quickly found 4 ticks on the dog. If ticks are bold enough to lurk around a veterinary hospital they are bound to be found anywhere in your neighborhood!
Since it is not reasonable to lock up your dogs and cats we need to do the next best thing – examine them on a daily basis to physically remove any ticks that may have decided to attach to your pet. It is imperative that you examine your dog or cat completely. While ticks can attach anywhere on your pet, in my experience I find them most often between the toes, behind the ears and on the head. I also have found them frequently hanging out in the ear canal. Thus it is imperative that the entire animal be examined.
Now that you have found a tick on your dog, how do you get it off? Many suggestions have been offered over the years, from touching the base of the tick with a hot match, dousing them with alcohol, or pulling them out with forceps. I once watched a veterinarian douse a tick with alcohol and then touch a match to it. The resultant flames were extinguished before harm was done to the poor dog. Pulling ticks off with forceps or tweezers often leaves the tick’s head behind and embedded in your pet’s skin where it can continue to result in inflammation of the surrounding area. Squeezing ticks with forceps also can inject potential disease causing organisms from the tick into your pet. Thus, I do not recommend using forceps. My current recommendation is to use a tick twister. My favorite one can be found at www.otom.com. (In the interest of full disclosure I have no financial interest in this product.) These double pronged hooks are slid between the pet’s skin and the tick’s body. The extractor is twisted and the tick’s head is extracted from the skin with the tick remaining intact. Removed ticks can be placed in a vial of alcohol for later disposal. Click below to view video demonstrating use of the Tick Twister.
Be sure to consult with your veterinarian about tick prevention medications that are available to help minimize your pets exposure to ticks.