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Veterinary Teaching Hospital

Ticks

Image of tick on computer screen in lab.

What are ticks?

Ticks are small, blood-sucking arachnids – yes, they are related to spiders – that can transmit diseases to animals and people. Fortunately, the Pacific Northwest has fewer reported cases of tick-borne disease than other regions of the United States, but ticks can still spread or cause Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, tick paralysis, and other illnesses. Prompt removal of ticks can lessen the chance of disease transmission.

Ticks are commonly found in grassy, wooded, and brushy areas. In the Pacific Northwest, they are most prevalent during the spring and summer.

How does my pet get ticks?

To survive, ticks must eat blood. Many species of ticks patiently wait on the edge of low-lying vegetation to snag an unsuspecting host, like a cat, dog, or human. Once on its host, the tick will hunt for a good spot to feed and then burrow its mouthparts into a good spot for a meal. A tick will feed anywhere from several minutes to multiple days.

Where will I most often find ticks on my pet?

In dogs, ticks are most often found around the animal’s neck, ears, in folds between the legs and body, and between toes, but they can be found anywhere. Cats often get ticks on their face and neck.

How do I remove a tick from my animal?

How do I remove a tick from my animalYou have likely heard about many methods for tick removal that include nail polish, petroleum jelly, or matches, however, these approaches can often do more harm than good. The best way to remove a tick is with fine-tipped tweezers.

  • Using the tweezers, grasp the tick as close to the skin’s surface as possible.
  • Pull upward with steady, even pressure. If the tick does not release, continue to provide pressure. Do not twist or yank the tick out, as mouthparts can break off and remain in the skin. If this happens, remove the mouthparts with tweezers.
  • After removing the tick, thoroughly clean the bite area with rubbing alcohol or soap and water.

After removing the tick, you can preserve it in rubbing alcohol in case your pet should become sick later. Label the container with details about the time and place where the tick bite occurred. This information will be helpful to a veterinarian diagnosing an illness.

How do I prevent my pet from getting a tick?

After being in areas where ticks may be present, thoroughly examine yourself and pets for ticks.

There are also many preventatives available. Consult with your veterinarian about which tick preventative is appropriate and safe for your pet.

What should I do if I am concerned my pet has a tick-borne disease?

If you are concerned your animal has a tick-borne disease, consult with your veterinarian or schedule an appointment with one of our veterinarians by calling 509-335-0711


This information is not meant to be a substitute for veterinary care. Always follow the instructions provided by your veterinarian. Washington State University assumes no liability for injury to you or your pet incurred by following these descriptions or procedures.