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Removing those Pesky Ticks from Your Pet

This is an exciting time of year for pet owners to finally get out and enjoy all the nice weather coming our way. As pet owners, we are very fortunate to live on Vancouver Island as there are several pest and pet hazards we do not worry about. We’ve all heard the stories of emergency trips to the vet’s after porcupine encounters or the multiple tomato sauce baths after a run in with a skunk! Yet we can sit smugly back and breathe a sigh of relief because we are lucky enough to live where we do.  However there is a trade off…..fleas!

Lightheartedly referred to as the flea capital of Canada, fleas are a year-round pest for our pets on Vancouver Island. Often thought of as a seasonal parasite, fleas have become a year round issue and can invade your homes even in the middle of winter. The best defence against fleas and flea infestations is prevention. There are several good flea control products on the market, some topical and some oral which can be found at your family vet’s office.

Another pest we tend to see late spring is the tick. The most common question we tend to get here at Van Isle Veterinary Hospital this time of year is, “how do I remove a tick from my pet?”

The best way to remove a tick is to use a pair of house hold tweezers or a commercial tick remover also known as a “tick twister”. These are very handy little tools that look like miniature crowbars and work in much the same way. Grasp the tick as close to the head as possible and with constant, gentle pressure twist the tick free. If all or some of the head remains, remove those remaining pieces and clean the area well with an antibacterial soap and warm water. You may also want to apply some antibiotic ointment to the area. Sometimes the skin will react to the bite forming a hard lump. This usually clears up within a few days but should be watched for signs of infection. If you are concerned about infection or concerned about the species of tick found (some are more prone to carrying disease), consult your veterinarian. We are very fortunate to live on Vancouver Island where disease carrying ticks are not as prevalent as in other areas of Canada. However, this does not mean we are immune to these diseases and the presence of ticks in our area should not be ignored. You should always consult your veterinarian if you are seeing ticks or have removed a tick from your pet to talk about the risks and best course of treatment and prevention.

There are many common misconceptions out there about ticks and their removal. One of which is to use a recently extinguished match or a still lit match. Holding it to the body of the tick will not cause the tick to back out or fall off; in fact, it can be rather dangerous and can singe the fur or burn your pet! Once the mouthpiece is attached, ticks can only let go after they are fully engorged. Applying fingernail polish or Vaseline is also commonly talked about. Some people feel this is helpful in that it can suffocate the tick and may make removal easier… but it will not cause the tick to fall off and can leave an even bigger mess behind.  Another common and popular misconception is that the head of the tick will continue to thrive and even burrow into your pet if separated from the body during a botched removal. Even though this sounds quite fascinating and like something out of a Stephen King Novel, it is not true. However leaving the head behind can cause irritation of the skin, even infection and should be treated.

As always, prevention is the best medicine! We are fortunate to have several effective options for repealing and controlling ticks on your pet.  Contact your family veterinarian to learn more about your options and what works best for your pet so you can get out there and enjoy this beautiful time of year.

We’re hosting a Tick Talk!

Join us, Thurs May 25th at 6:00pm for an informative evening with Dr. Alex Muzzin. Learn all you need to know about fleas, ticks and other parasites and how they effect your pet in the Comox Valley. Seats fill up fast, RSVP at 250-334-8400 or info@vanislevet.com

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