Saturday, March 23, 2013

Tick Removal: A Harrowing Experience

Yesterday afternoon, I had to deal with one of the most traumatic experiences for me as a dog-owner: the removal of a tick.  After doing some research, I determined that it was most likely a brown dog tick.  I am no scientist, so this is a best guess given where we live and my own observations.

This nasty little creature had attached itself pretty firmly to poor Oliver's scalp, right on the top of his head.  Now, anyone who has ever met Oliver knows that he is a friendly guy, but he has certain limitations as far as his personal bubble is concerned.  Although he doesn't bite, he has been known to put forth some pretty significant growling if his feet are touched by anyone other than me (unless he has decided to shake, in which case a brief grasp of his proffered paw is considered acceptable).

He also gets very nervous of anything coming at him that he does not recognize, which is really an understandable emotion.  For example, he had an ear infection a few years ago.  In order to get him to hold still enough to have his drops put into his ear, I had to muzzle him, leash him, secure him to the front door, corner him, put him in a head lock, and squeeze the drops in from a height of about 6 inches, all while talking to him in my best soothing voice.

But I love my pup, so I do what I have to in order to protect him and keep him healthy.  In that case, it was a matter of finding the right process to get Oliver to be docile long enough to get the drops into his ear.  In the case of the tick, it was fairly similar.

Now, when it comes to removing a tick from a dog, there are a ton of really great resources out there, but because Oliver is so sensitive, I had to put together a personalized plan just for him.  For reasons unknown to me, as much as he fights certain things, Oliver becomes completely docile in the bathtub.  I have never understood this, especially since he can thrash around so violently in the face of anything else and even spraying a little flea and tick repellent onto his back makes him crazy.

When it comes to the bathtub, however, he just gives in.  When I bathe him, all I have to do is attach his leash and lead him to the tub.  He will walk into the bathroom, hesitate for a moment, then resignedly climb into the tub under his own power.  I put down a rubber bath mat to help him with his footing, and he now stands quite comfortably, though rather sadly, throughout his bath.

When I found the tick yesterday, it had already attached itself pretty firmly to poor Oliver's head.  I knew that because of his fear of foreign objects, I could not use tweezers, and I would just have to yank the thing out by hand.  (I have an irrational but deep-seated fear of insects of any kind, so this should give you some idea of just how much I love my pooch.)  I put Oliver in the tub and since he was overdue for a bath anyway, started out by shampooing him.  I put some water on top of the tick and the surrounding area, being very careful to avoid getting any in his ears since water in the ears can cause ear infections in dogs.

While I shampooed and rinsed the rest of him, I kept adding water to the tick area to soften the skin.  When I finished bathing him, which took about ten minutes, I then took a washcloth and got it wet enough to be dripping slightly, then started massaging the tick area with it.  This helped to keep the scalp wet and continue to soften it, as well as to (theoretically) loosen the tick's grip before giving it a yank.  I did this for about another five minutes, then got a good grip on the tick's body and pulled.  Out the little nasty thing came, with all eight of its legs waving!  (Poor tick, he's just doing what he's programmed to do, but he is gross!)

Oliver's scalp was a little red, so I kept an eye on it for the next few hours.  Within about 20 minutes, it had returned to its normal color.  I did flush the tick, which I later realized I should not have done.  You are supposed to keep it in case your dog develops any kind of infection.  Then the tick can be tested to see if it is a carrier for the disease.  Everything still looks good, but I am going to keep an eye on my pooch for the next few days, just to make sure.

*Note: I am not a veterinarian, scientist, or anything other than a dog owner.  This post is for informational purposes only and should not be relied upon as any form of medical or scientific advice.  I posted it in order to relate a story, not to provide any kind of advice, especially that for which I am not qualified.


  1. My cat had a tick early this year. It so grossed me out! I wish I would have been able to give her a bath and use your method, but she would never have anything to do with a bath! If she gets one again, I will try to soften the area with a wet warm wash cloth and do what I can without actually having to bathe her. Thanks for the post!

    1. I know what you mean! My other dog never would have dealt with the bathtub so well. If I want to bathe her, I have to put on my swim suit and get in with her, haha! Otherwise, she will panic so badly I am afraid she will hurt herself.

  2. I hate, hate, HATE ticks. These little buggers really freak me out, especially since I have known people who have developed Lyme's Disease. I have used Biospot on my dogs for years and am lucky to have never had to remove a tick or flea from any of them. One time, my husband and I rescued a basset hound from the side of the road. On the way to our local animal shelter, we noticed the poor thing was covered in ticks. Our area has ticks year round, so I have all my dogs vaccinated each year against Lyme's Disease. Thanks for the post.