You Removed a Tick From Your Pet, Now What?

Tick in tick removal tool
Ashley Cooper/ Corbis Documentary/ Getty Images

Ticks are notorious vectors for a variety of potentially very serious diseases; the most common being Lyme disease.

Despite best efforts to avoid tick areas (grassy areas, forested areas), wearing insect repellent/protective clothing, you may find that a tick has attached to you or your pet. If this is the case, caution is advised, as ticks may potentially carry disease organisms that may be injected into their host victim during the blood meal. There are over 850 species of ticks, and many are capable of being disease carriers.

Safe Removal

First, learn how to safely remove a tick to remove all of the tick head and mouthparts. Do not light a match to get the tick out or coat it with mineral oil to suffocate it. These methods will not work to remove a tick from your cat or dog, and could potentially cause more damage to the tick (this may be important later on if the tick needs to be tested) and/or inject more pathogenic organisms into the host. They can also be dangerous and cause further skin damage or burns to you and/or your pet. It can be helpful to be familiar with the most common ticks in your area and be able to identify them visually. The Deer Tick is the tick that spreads Lyme disease. 

Once the tick has been safely removed, place the tick in a sealed air-tight bag or small sealed container. Do not immerse the dead tick in rubbing alcohol or water. Label the specimen with the date, geographic location, and location on the body that the tick was removed from and store it in a safe place.

It Takes Time to See Symptoms of Disease

Tick-borne diseases may take days, weeks, or months to manifest. In many cases, the original tick bite may be long forgotten by the time the more serious clinical symptoms appear. Tick-borne diseases can have a wide variety of symptoms, but the one most common symptom to all of the diseases is a fever. The fever may be mild or quite high, often accompanied by malaise or aches and pains, and may be mistaken for the flu.

If you or your pet feel or seem ill with generalized/non-descript signs after a tick bite, be sure to speak with your doctor or veterinarian right away. Share with them where on the body the tick bit, where geographically the bite occurred and if you have it, give them the dead tick. Ticks can be submitted for species identification as well as tested for various diseases. Check with your healthcare provider or local public health department for more information about reported tick diseases in your local area.

If you suspect your pet is sick, call your vet immediately. For health-related questions, always consult your veterinarian, as they have examined your pet, know the pet's health history, and can make the best recommendations for your pet.