In the spring and summer, ticks are abundant. They pose a huge problem for wildlife and livestock who spend all their time outdoors. Ticks aren’t picky about where they get their meals, gladly feeding on animals and humans. Each time a tick feeds, they can pick up and subsequently transmit multiple serious and life-threatening diseases to their next host.  

The best strategy to keep your pet safe from ticks is through the use of a monthly, year-round preventive product our Billings Animal Family Hospital team has recommended. However, a tick can still bite your pet and attach to your furry pal for several hours before preventives kill these pests. Other important tick-prevention strategies include walking on paved or mowed paths and checking your pet thoroughly after each outing. If you wonder what you should do if you find a tick on your pet, follow these five steps to help reduce disease transmission and other tick-bite complication risks.

Step #1: Remain calm and double-check the suspected tick on your pet.

When you find a tick on your pet, the first step is to remain calm. Your pet can sense your anxiety, and if you are upset, your furry pal is also likely to become upset or uncooperative when you attempt to remove the tick. Before doing anything, check closely to verify the spot is actually a tick, and not a small skin growth you haven’t noticed before. If you see tiny legs, your pet likely has a tick, whereas a skin growth does not have this appearance.

Step #2: Carefully remove the tick from your pet or ask for help

A tick must remain attached to your pet for several hours or days to transmit diseases, so the sooner you remove the tick, the better. If you feel too unsure of yourself to remove the tick, contact our Billings Animal Family Hospital team, and swing by to have us remove the tick. However, if you’re comfortable trying to remove the tick at home, use a tick-twister or tick-key tool and follow the instructions. You can also follow this tick-removal strategy using tweezers:

  • Grasp the tick’s head as close to your pet’s skin as possible.
  • Using steady pressure, slowly pull the tick straight out.
  • Do not squeeze the tick’s body during or after removal to avoid exposing you or your pet to disease-laden blood.
  • A bite-site bump is normal, and does not mean the tick’s head is still embedded. Do not dig in your pet’s skin, as this could lead to infection.
  • Keep the tick in a baggy or in a small container with rubbing alcohol. Your veterinarian will greatly appreciate being able to see the tick if your pet begins to show disease signs. Another option is to take a few photos of the tick before disposing of it.

Avoid wives’ tale tick-removal methods, such as burning the tick with a match. Doing so will only damage the tick, potentially burn your pet, may increase disease transmission risk, and make removal more difficult. 

Step #3: Treat the tick bite using basic pet first aid

Tick bites cause irritation and will normally leave a firm, reddish bump on your pet’s skin for several weeks. Clean the bite site with a mild soap and water, and apply an over-the-counter (OTC) antibiotic ointment to help prevent infection. Occasionally, a tick bite may become infected or cause an allergic reaction that will necessitate a veterinary visit. During the hours or days after a tick bite, contact us if your pet exhibits the following: 

  • Increasing redness at the bite site
  • Pain around the bite site
  • Drainage from the bite site
  • Rash or hives
  • Extreme itching or discomfort

Step #4: Watch for illness signs or complications in your pet

Keep track of the date when you remove a tick from your pet, and watch them closely for illness signs during the following weeks. If your pet is exposed to several ticks in a short time frame, about six weeks later, your veterinarian may recommend a tick-borne disease blood screening to detect antibodies that could indicate disease exposure. Our Billings Animal Family Hospital team recommends running this screening test annually for pets continually at risk. Notify our team promptly if your pet exhibits these tick-borne illness signs:

  • Lethargy
  • Painful, swollen joints
  • Limping that shifts from leg to leg
  • Enlarged lymph nodes
  • Fever
  • Poor appetite
  • Red or cloudy eyes
  • Pinpoint purple bruising

Step #5: Keep your pet current on parasite preventives

Ensure your pet remains current on their flea, tick, and other parasite preventive medications. Vector-borne diseases are no joke, and preventing them is far safer, less costly, and easier than treating them. Our hospital provides a wide variety of preventive products to ensure you can find the type that works best for your pet and your lifestyle.

Don’t let bugs ruin your summer fun. Protect your pet from ticks by following our routine prevention strategies and administering the preventive products our Billings Animal Family Hospital team has prescribed. To schedule your pet’s wellness visit, or routine tick-borne disease screening, or if you would like our team to remove a tick that has attached to your pet, contact us.