Dear readers, even though we’ve talked about ticks many times before, I feel it is necessary once again to go over this stuff for three reasons. First (and most important), at least in our little area of the world here in central New York State, the business of ticks has now officially become life or death serious for both our pets and ourselves. Secondly, it seems as if a lot of people either still don’t know, or are simply just not paying attention to the proper way of dealing with these critters.
I humbly (and with head bowed in a gesture of great respect) bring this bring this point up because in the past when people did silly or folksy or downright stupid stuff in their quests to remove ticks from their pets (or themselves), it was sort of funny; NOW, however, with the certain establishment of lyme disease into our area, these wrong methods of dealing with these repulsive critters can lead to serious life threatening consequences.
And finally, in these dark and troubled times of high unemployment, financial distress, government ineptitude, cholera in Haiti, child-soldiers in the Congo, and the human carnage in Darfur, it pains me to see people worry so much and to LITERALLY!!! freak out over these critters when just a little bit of level-headed thought would ease their pain.
And that’s why I keep on trying to get this important stuff across. It seems that for every intact and living tick that a client brings in for me to remove from their cat or dog, there are another five pets brought in with the tick dead, mangled, or decapitated for me to dig it out. (Ticks, by definition, don’t have heads; they have a capitulum.)
I’ve seen ticks slathered with nail polish as well as coated with nail polish remover. I’ve seen ticks with their rear-ends barbecued to well-done by a cigarette, and still others that have had their butts blown-up by a burning match. I’ve seen them doused with mineral oil, olive oil, basalmic vinegar, kerosene, rubbing alcohol, vodka, flea spray, Tabasco sauce, gasoline, and yes, I’ve even seen them gobbed-up with my dastardly old friend, udder balm.
I can hear the talk out there now. “Ah, come on, Doc! Quit pickin’ on us. We only did what we thought was best. Our mother-in-law/neighbor/website/guru/cousin from Arkansas all told us their method would work every single time.” Most-treasured readers, I don’t say this stuff to pick on you or to make fun of you, I do it because all of the methods I mentioned above are wrong. And its important to KNOW why these techniques are wrong.
By killing the tick violently with any of the above mentioned techniques, you cause them to clamp shut their mouth parts. This clenching-down reflex is the biggest reason a tick will leave it’s ‘head’ in our pet. But more importantly, is that as the tick wiggles and writhes in its death throes because of whatever junk you applied to it, the poor little beast will expel whatever blood it has in it’s guts directly into the dog or cat. Unfortunately for your pet, along with this regurgitated blood will come whatever disease organism the tick may be carrying.
I can hear it out there now: “So Doc, what is the proper way to remove a tick? My favorite way is to part the pet’s hair away as best as possible, and then grasp the tick between my thumb and forefinger as close to the point of attachment of the tick as possible, and then gently pull it straight out backwards. Unless it’s a mentally-deprived tick, it will let go. A rubber or exam glove should be worn.
The Centers For Disease Control says to use tweezers, but I don’t think you can control your grip as well on these guys. There is also a new invention out there called a Tick Twister that seems to work good as well. I sell this device in my office and have created an award-winning video on how to use it: http://www.squidoo.com/RemovingTicks.
After removing the tick, be sure to look at it in a good light to see whether or not it has it’s pincer-like mouth parts (its ‘head’). If it doesn’t, or if you’re not sure, bring it, and your pet, in to you veterinarian.