What Should I Apply to Tick Bites on My Puppy?

Most tick bites clear up uneventfully without any topical treatment.
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Finding an engorged tick on your beloved pet is plenty disgusting. Not only is the notion of this parasite sucking blood from your furry friend stomach-turning, these nasty arthropods are capable of transmitting diseases including Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, babesiosis, ehrlichiosis and anaplasmosis. Knowing how to deal with ticks and ticks bites empowers you to reduce your puppy or dog’s risk for these illnesses.

Check Your Puppy Frequently

If your puppy has not been taking a tick preventative product, be on heightened alert for ticks that decide to camp on his body. Give your puppy a thorough visual inspection and petting session at least once daily. This will give the two of you some quality bonding time and provide the opportunity to feel him over. As you run your hands all over his body, feel for any tiny bumps that should not be there. If you find a tick crawling on your puppy’s fur, simply remove it and place it in a jar of alcohol to kill it. You will not need to do anything further about it. If, on the other hand, the tick is firmly attached to your puppy’s skin, you will need to remove it with the help of some rubbing alcohol and a pair of tweezers.

The Do Not Apply List

Rumors abound concerning methods for facilitating tick removal from pets. One of these tales recommends smothering the tick with petroleum jelly, dousing the tick with turpentine or nail polish, or touching a burning match or cigarette directly to the tick’s body. Do not employ any of these tactics. They are not effective at removing ticks. Instead, they cause the attached tick to respond by salivating, releasing more disease-causing agents into your puppy. The burning match or cigarette technique adds the second danger of accidentally burning your puppy's skin if he moves suddenly.

Removing an Attached Tick

If your puppy is squirmy, you may need to enlist the help of a family member to keep him still. Wear a pair of latex or rubber gloves, since ticks can transmit diseases. Dab a drop of alcohol directly on the tick, then place the tweezers around the tick as close to your dog’s skin as possible. Without squeezing the body of the tick, grasp it firmly with the tweezers and pull the tick straight out, without twisting or jarring the tick. Squeezing the tick until it explodes will release its body fluids, which may contain disease agents. Extracting the tick in one, straight motion will increase the likelihood of removing the entire tick. Finally, place the tick in a jar of alcohol to ensure its demise. Keep the jar on hand so your veterinarian can identify the tick if a subsequent examination is needed.

When Parts Are Left Behind

After you deposit the tick into the jar, inspect your puppy's skin where the tick was attached. You may notice that tiny bits of the tick remain in the skin. Some ticks hold on tight, and their heads or mouthparts sometimes break apart from the bodies when you pull them off your pet. These mouthparts are no longer alive and will not increase the chances of your puppy contracting a tick-borne disease. But if you do not manage to extricate a tick entirely, a superficial infection can result. If this area feels bothersome to your puppy, he may scratch at it, which can exacerbate the chance for infection. Applying a warm compress of an Epsom salt solution to the area will help to reduce inflammatory swelling and coax the embedded tick parts to the surface.

Treating the Tick Bite

Once you've removed the tick, the skin on your puppy where the tick was attached will appear red and irritated as a normal inflammatory response to the invasion. You may scrub the area gently with an antiseptic liquid soap, pat it dry and apply an over-the-counter triple antibiotic ointment. If you removed the tick entirely, these actions are usually unnecessary; the inflammation should resolve within a week. If parts of the tick were left behind, then the scrub and application of the ointment may help to prevent a skin infection. Inspect the area daily, and if the skin does not return to its normal appearance or worsens within the week, bring your puppy to his veterinarian, toting along the jarred tick.

Further Observation and Prevention

Observe your dog in the following weeks for any signs or symptoms of tick-borne disease, including fever, lethargy, decreased appetite, lameness, swollen joints or neurological deficits. If you notice any of these symptoms, schedule an appointment with your veterinarian right away. The best way to avoid the scenario of ticks feasting on your canine companion is to prevent them. A number of veterinarian-prescribed tick preventatives are available, but you must consult with your veterinarian to ensure that a product is safe for use on the puppy at his current age and weight.