Ticks are parasitic arachnids that are part of the superorder Parasitiformes. They are typically 3 to 5 mm in length and are external parasites that live by feeding on the blood of mammals, birds, and sometimes reptiles and amphibians.
Ticks, along with mites, constitute the order Acarina. As vectors of human diseases, both infectious and toxic, ticks are second only to mosquitos.
Ticks are often found in tall grass, where they will rest at the tip of the blade to attach themselves to a passing animal. Physical contact is the only method of transportation for ticks. They cannot jump from the plant to the host – this is a common misconception.
Known as the hypostome, ticks have a harpoon-like structure in their mouth area that allows them to anchor themselves in place firmly while sucking blood. They will generally drop off of a host when full, but this may take several days.
Types of Ticks
There are two families of ticks that live in the United States: Ixodidae (hard ticks) and Argasidae (soft ticks). While there are over 700 species of hard ticks and 200 soft ticks worldwide, very few are known to transmit disease to humans. These two tick families have different life cycles, growing larger and changing their appearance at different stages.
Hard ticks (Ixodidae) begin as an egg that is laid by a female tick. Once the egg hatches, a larva emerges and must find and feed off a host, usually a small mammal or bird. After feeding, the tick drops to the ground and begins molting to become a nymph.
Nymphal hard ticks search for bigger mammals, repeating the cycle of feeding and molting to become an adult tick. Their life cycle is one to two years, depending on the species. A hard tick bite is usually painless, and their feeding process can last up to a few weeks.
Soft ticks (Argasidae) begin in a similar way to hard ticks. Unlike hard ticks, soft ticks can go through up to seven phases as a nymphal before becoming an adult. A soft ticks’ life span can last from one month to multiple years, depending on the species. Their bite is usually painless, and their feeding only lasts between 15-30 minutes. This makes s0ft ticks much harder t0 detect.
Here, it is important to note that nymphal ticks are equally capable of transmitting disease as adult ticks are.
Diseases carried by ticks
While there are only a few known ticks that carry disease, some of those are common ticks found in the yard or on your family pet. For example, the American dog tick (Dermacentor Variabilis) carries bacteria that causes Rocky Mountain spotted fever (Rickettsia rickettsii). It has also been known to carry Tularaemia (Francisella tularensis) and tick paralysis.
The Brown dog tick (Rhipicephalus Sanguineus) carries Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Q fever, and other diseases specific to dogs. Dogs are the primary host to this tick, and it is found all around the world.
The Blacklegged deer tick (Ixodes Scapularis) is a tick that spreads various diseases, most commonly Lyme disease. These ticks are known to bite and transmit diseases to humans.
Additionally, the species Groundhog Tick (Ixodes Cookei), Lone Star Tick (Amblyomma Americanum), Pacific Coast Tick (Dermacentor Occidentalis), Rocky Mountain Wood Tick (Dermacentor Andersoni), Soft Ticks (Ornithodoros), and Western Blacklegged Tick (Ixodes Pacificus) all inhabit the US. These species all carry diseases that are harmful to humans and pets alike, and these ticks will search for hosts no matter the weather.
How to remove a tick
There are a few options to remove a tick safely. Ticks are nasty survivors that can live for months without a meal. They are hard to remove and even harder to kill. It is imperative to know how to remove a tick properly.
It’s always important to check your dog for ticks after a walk. Be sure to look for lumps and bumps on your dog – those might be ticks. The key areas to look for a tick are the head, neck, ears, and feet.
Ticks pass on disease within 24 hours, so you must find and rid your dog of ticks straight away. Removing a tick can be difficult because you have to be careful to remove the entire mouthpart from the dog, leading to infection.
It is important to know how to remove ticks from a dog without touching the tick. Luckily, there are various ways to remove a tick from your dog. Tweezers are a frequent choice – however, they are not always effective. So, you must know how to remove ticks from a dog without them.
These are the utensils you will need to remove a tick from a dog:
- A tick removal tool. These may be purchased from a pet store, your vet, or online
- A jar
- A second person to keep your dog steady
- Animal-friendly disinfectant
If you are unable to purchase a tick removal tool, tweezers will work. However, using tweezers creates a higher risk of the head and mouth remaining attached.
The best types of gloves are disposable because they can be thrown away directly afterward to prevent potential diseases from spreading.
Ideally, the second person holding your dog would be someone that your dog trusts so that they remain calm throughout the whole process. If the dog is still distressed and won’t stay still, consult your vet for aid. If the dog does sit still, then you can take your removal tool and place it around the part of the tick closest to the dog’s skin.
The removal tool should ensure that you get the whole tick. The best way to remove the tick is by gently pulling and twisting. Keep a steady pressure, trying not to squeeze or crush the tick. The tick may not come out the first time. If it doesn’t, repeat this process until the entire tick comes away from the dog’s skin.
Once you have removed the tick, place it in the jar and close the lid. You will need to disinfect the area on your dog’s skin where the tick was. If the area is red or swollen, it might be an infection. Also, keep an eye on your dog for a few weeks afterward to ensure they have no signs of disease forming.
Although this is the best way to remove a tick safely, there are other ways to remove ticks from dogs even without tweezers or a tick tool.
How to remove a tick with alcohol
Removing a tick with alcohol will not be powerful enough to take the tick from the skin. You will need a tool to get the tick removed from the skin. While it is true, isopropyl alcohol will play a big role in killing the tick once it is removed, it will not be enough to remove the tick once it is lodged in the skin.
Once you’ve removed the tick, though, you can drop it into a jar of alcohol, which will kill the parasite.
How to remove a tick from a dogs ear canal
Removing a tick from a dog’s ear canal can be dangerous, particularly the further in that it is. It is recommended that you go to the vet to remove the tick without damaging the ear. If the tick is not too far in, use the tick removal tool to remove the tick from the dog’s ear canal.
How to identify and remove seed ticks
Seed ticks are tiny ticks, often difficult to identify until they are present in a huge number. They are often found in the spring, so it is important to keep an eye on your dog during that time. Predominantly found in lawn grass, your dog will find it quite easy to acquire many of these ticks.
The best way to remove seed ticks is to use a tick shampoo on your dog to get rid of the ticks, larva, and eggs from your dog’s skin and fur. Ensure that you also clean the bedding because some seed ticks may be left there after you clean your dog.
If you do not want your dog to become infected, the best course of action is to treat your yard for ticks.
How to remove a tick with antibiotics
To get rid of deer ticks, a good product to use is NexGard. NexGard is an antibiotic given to dogs to kill fleas and ticks within eight hours. There is an active substance in NexGard, afoxolaner, which acts as an “ectoparasiticide.” This means that afoxolaner kills parasites that live on animals’ skin, including fleas, mites, and ticks.
NexGard is ideal for getting rid of deer ticks without needing to touch them directly. Make sure to wash your dog two to three days after using NexGard to ensure the dead ticks are not still in their fur.
How to treat yard from ticks
There are a few ways to treat your yard from ticks. You can put a few things, including pesticides, on your lawn to kill ticks. Pesticides can reduce the number of ticks in your yard, but you should not rely on them to reduce your risk of infection. If you are looking to get rid of deer ticks and kill other ticks in your yard, some landscaping techniques you can use that will help include:
- Removing leaf litter
- Clear all tall grass from your yard
- Use gravel or wood chips to restrict tick migration
- Mow the lawn frequently
- Use fencing or a wall to discourage unwelcome animals from entering your yard
- Avoid clutter build up in your yard as it gives ticks places to hide
How to remove an embedded tick
Contrary to popular belief, a tick will not become fully embedded in the skin; this is impossible. Always, only be the mouth will be embedded under the skin.
How you remove a broken tick head from the skin
One of the easiest ways to remove a broken tick head from the skin is using a credit card. Any hard plastic card will work. All you need to do is press the card on the surrounding skin, applying steady pressure until the tick head pops out. Do not apply too much pressure. Instead, keep applying slow and steady pressure to remove the tick head from the skin. This method might not always work on a deeply embedded tick.
How to remove a deeply embedded tick
If a tick is deeply embedded, you will have to use a needle to remove it. Be very careful with this. There is no guarantee that this will remove the tick head from the skin.
You first need to sterilize a needle by boiling it in hot water or rubbing it with alcohol. Locate the entry point of the tick head. Gently use the needle to prick the skin and create an opening for the tick head to pass through. You can then use tweezers to pull out the part of the tick you have exposed.
How to remove a tick from a person
Removing a tick from a person is sometimes easier than removing a tick from an animal. To remove a tick from a child or adult, use a fine-tipped tweezer. Never twist or jerk the tick, as it could lead to the mouth breaking off and remaining in the skin.
After removing the tick from the child or adult, clean the area with rubbing alcohol or soap and water.
How to treat a tick bite
You can treat a tick bite on a person or animal in the same way, by cleaning and disinfecting the area. Once you remove the tick from a person or animal, make sure it is contained before cleaning the area. If you have to remove an embedded mouth, you will have to give the area a second cleaning after it is all removed.
If you cannot fully remove the tick from your dog, cat, or child, contact your doctor or vet. The longer the tick is embedded in the skin, the higher at-risk you are of contracting a disease from it. You will need to contact your doctor if you develop any flu-like symptoms or a rash.
If you think a deer tick has bitten you, contact your doctor. You may need antibiotics.
How to kill a tick
Frequently, people wonder, “What do you do after you remove a tick?” Once you know how to remove a tick safely, you need to know how to kill a tick. There are a few ways of killing a tick, but they can be hard to kill. People always want to know how to kill a tick fast. Here are some ways to kill ticks easily.
Squishing a tick is not recommended. If you crush or squish an actively feeding tick, the applied pressure could cause the tick to regurgitate its stomach contents into the open wound. This will increase the risk of blood-borne illness, something we are trying to avoid.
Once the tick has been removed, you can go ahead with squishing it. Two things to keep in mind if you are using this method are:
1) Don’t get the tick’s insides on you. By squishing an engorged tick, there is a chance that its insides will spray all over you.
2) Don’t use your bare hands. You should never handle a tick with your bare hands. It is full of bacteria and unsafe to handle. Instead, use a shoe or a rock to kill it, instead of touching the tick yourself.
As there are two types of ticks, some may be more difficult to squish. This is completely normal. If squishing doesn’t work, there are alternatives.
Permethrin, Fipronil, and Bifenthrin are three pesticides that are harmless to humans. They are safe to use in the home and garden to kill ticks. If you have any animals around your home, be careful, as some of these pesticides can be damaging to cats, fish, and honeybees.
3. Chemically-treated water
Fully submerging a tick in water will not kill it. If you flush a tick down the toilet, it will just be transported to another location unharmed. To effectively drown a tick, you need to add some chemicals to the water. Rubbing alcohol, or mouthwash containing alcohol, will do the job. Make sure you never apply alcohol to a tick still attached to your body – it might agitate the tick and cause it to release more toxic saliva into the bite wound.
Suffocation is the safest way to kill a tick. Putting a tick into a sandwich bag or an airtight jar for a few days will lead to its suffocation and will keep it preserved if you need to send it off to a lab for testing. Using Vaseline and nail polish will not suffocate the tick. The only way to do it is by using a jar or a sealed bag.
We hope this guide to the treatment of ticks helps you remove and kill them safely with the least possible risk to you, your pet, or your yard.