Ticks are most active in the late spring and early summer, but they are a year-round problem in New Jersey and can transmit harmful diseases to your pet. Our Companion Care Animal Clinic team understands your concerns about finding a tick on your pet, and we explain what you should do if a creepy crawly parasite attaches to your four-legged friend.

Why should I check my pet for ticks?

Ticks can transmit harmful diseases that cause your pet serious health complications. In New Jersey, ticks transmit Lyme disease, anaplasmosis, ehrlichiosis, and Rocky Mountain spotted fever, which typically cause nonspecific signs such as lethargy, enlarged lymph nodes, decreased appetite, mild fever, and shifting limb lameness. In some cases, more severe issues, such as liver and kidney damage, and blood clotting disorders, can occur. Tick-borne illnesses typically respond to a particular class of antibiotics, but treatment can be prolonged, and signs may return when antibiotics are stopped. While your pet can’t transmit tick-borne diseases to you, a tick that has been attached to your furry pal may fall off and transmit disease to you.

How should I check my pet for ticks?

You should check your pet daily for ticks, especially after outings. These parasites can attach anywhere on your pet but ticks prefer these areas:

  • Under the tail
  • Around the eyes 
  • In the ears
  • Under the collar
  • Between the toes
  • Armpits
  • Groin

To check your pet, run your fingers over their body, feeling for bumps, which may indicate that a tick has attached. Part your pet’s fur to get a closer look at suspicious areas, and check lesions to see whether you can spot a tick’s legs. Look deep in your pet’s ears, and ensure you check between their toes. You may have to remove their collar to thoroughly check your pet’s neck.

How do I remove a tick from my pet?

If you find a tick on your pet, don’t panic, but remove the parasite as soon as possible. A tick must remain attached to your pet for at least 24 hours to transmit most diseases. To help prevent disease transmission, remove all ticks from your pet’s body by following these steps:

  • Grasp the tick — Using fine-tipped tweezers, firmly grasp the tick as close as possible to your pet’s skin.
  • Use steady pressure — Using steady pressure, pull upward until the tick comes loose. Don’t twist or crush the tick, because doing so can cause them to release pathogens or leave the head embedded in your pet’s skin.
  • Check the bite wound — Check the bite wound to ensure you have completely removed the tick. If the tick’s head is still embedded in your pet’s skin, use the tweezers to remove it. 
  • Place the tick in alcohol — Place the tick in alcohol so you can identify the species.
  • Clean the bite — Disinfect the bite wound using soap and water.
  • Monitor your pet — Monitor the bite wound for infection signs, and monitor your pet for signs that may indicate that they have contracted a tick-borne disease. Signs can take months to manifest.

How do I identify a tick on my pet?

Female and nymphal ticks feed and can transmit disease to your pet. New Jersey has numerous tick species, but only three commonly transmit diseases to pets. These include:

  • Blacklegged tick — The blacklegged (i.e., deer) tick can transmit Lyme disease, anaplasmosis, and babesiosis. Female blacklegged ticks have a teardrop shape with a reddish-orange abdomen and a solid black dorsal shield. The nymph also has a teardrop shape but is a dark brown to black color. 
  • Lone star tick — The lone star tick (i.e., Amblyomma americanum) can transmit ehrlichiosis. The female lone star tick has a round shape and a single white spot on their back. The nymph is a uniform light brown color and also has a round shape.
  • American dog tick — The American dog tick (i.e., Dermacentor variabilis) can transmit Rocky Mountain spotted fever. The female American dog tick is oblong with white markings on the dorsal shield and a dark brown abdomen. The nymph is oblong and solid dark brown.

Websites that allow you to upload a tick’s photo are available. Parasite experts review the photo, and send you information about the tick’s species and the diseases they transmit.

How can I protect my pet from ticks?

Ticks are pervasive, but you can reduce your pet’s risk. Follow these tips:

  • Provide year-round tick prevention — All pets should receive year-round tick prevention. These products prevent the tick from completing their blood meal and transmitting disease.
  • Check your pet — Check your pet daily for ticks.
  • Reduce ticks in your yard — Take steps to reduce ticks in your yard. Follow these tips:
    • Keep your grass cut short.
    • Clear tall grasses and brush near your home.
    • Stack wood neatly in a dry area.
    • Place a three-foot wide barrier of wood chips or gravel between your lawn and wooded areas.
    • Install a fence to keep out wildlife that may carry ticks.
  • Vaccinate your pet — Vaccinate your dog for Lyme disease. 

Ticks are problematic, but by following these tips, you can help protect your pet from the diseases these parasites transmit. To have your dog vaccinated for Lyme disease, contact our Companion Care Animal Clinic team.