Here Come the Ticks

Last week I removed another tick from Bonnie, our 6-month-old Scottie. Bonnie loves to run through the grass and burrow into bushes, where ticks like to lurk. In the Pacific Northwest, 3 species of ticks can transmit disease. A bite from a Brown Dog Tick or Rocky Mountain Wood Tick can transmit Rocky Mountain spotted fever. The Western Blacklegged Tick carries Lyme disease.

According to Rebecca Eisen, a research biologist at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (the CDC), “Tick-borne diseases are on the rise.” Powassan disease is an example of a severe, potentially fatal nerve infection caused by a virus carried in tick saliva.

Living in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains for the past 30 years, I have considered using nearly every method of tick removal. I can tell you from experience, don’t ever apply Vaseline® to a tick! It makes those guys so slippery you can’t hold on to them; fingers and tweezers just slide off.

And forget the advice to dab the tick with nail polish. The tick’s too slick to grip with tweezers or fingers, and then you’ll need nail polish remover to remove the residue.

Several years ago, my friend Denise and I read on the internet about using liquid dish detergent to remove a tick. “Well, it sounds like it might be useful someday, like knowing 48 ways to reuse fabric softener dryer sheets…maybe.”

Then one day, we found a tick on Jamie, my 6-year-old Scottie. Jamie was nicknamed “Spook” because he hated loud noises and lurked under kitchen chairs. Denise first tried brushing off the dreaded tick. No luck; it was firmly attached to Jamie.

Trying to grab the tick with tweezers to pull it out was a disaster; Jamie refused to stand still long enough for her to grasp that tiny tick. Desperate, we turned to the Dawn® dish soap method.

When she put a small dab of liquid Dawn® on Jamie’s neck at the place the tick was attached, it immediately began a frantic backstroke and, within moments, was entirely out. All we had to do was wipe off the tick. Amazing! I still keep a small bottle of liquid Dawn® next to my tweezers for tick removal.

Unfortunately, liquid dish soap only works if the tick is alive. The last few times I needed to remove a tick, they wouldn’t move at all. If a tick doesn’t back out after applying liquid dish soap, I wipe it off and use tweezers. Unfortunately, little Bonnie wiggles so much that it takes two people to remove a tick. One person holds her steady while the other one carefully grasps the tick with tweezers, pulling slowly to avoid leaving any body parts behind.

This year, I have chosen a different approach: a specialized tick removal tool. There are several tick removers available. Most of them work like the claw part of a hammer removes a nail. You hook them under the head of the tick, then slowly pull it out.

I chose the Tick Tornado. Instead of pulling straight up, once you hook the tick with it, you twist to detach the tick's head first before lifting it up to remove it. The Tick Tornado has two sizes in each kit to fit either small or larger ticks. Each bright green stick has a hole for attaching to a carabiner, rope, or ring. I like how it doesn’t require the animal to stay still.

Here are 5 Tips to Reduce Your Risk of Tick-Borne Illness:

1. Avoid places where ticks congregate.

Don’t walk through brushy, woodsy areas or tall grass. Walk in the center of trails to avoid contact with branches or leaves where ticks get brushed off by deer.

2. Check frequently.

We do “tick checks" on each dog after every long walk and a complete nose-to-tail check every night, looking for “freckles” and feeling for bumps.

Showering within 2 hours of returning from hiking in tick habitat gives the best chance of rinsing off ticks or finding them before they dig in.

3. Consider using repellent.

It’s wise to treat your clothing and your dog(s) with tick repellent. Make sure to keep checking daily for ticks.

4. Dress to discourage ticks.

Light-colored clothing helps you see ticks more easily. Wearing long-sleeved shirts and tucking your pants into your boots limits a tick’s access to your skin.

5. Remove ticks promptly.

A tick must ingest blood before it can infect you or your pet. Ticks will feed about 36 hours after attaching themselves.

Dr. Louise Achey, Doctor of Pharmacy, is a 40-year veteran of pharmacology and author of Why Dogs Can’t Eat Chocolate: How Medicines Work and How YOU Can Take Them Safely. Get clear answers to your medication questions at her website and blog TheMedicationInsider.com.®2021 Louise Achey

 

User menu

NCW Media Newspapers