How to Looks for Ticks by Lisa Michalik, Veterinary Technician

Ughhhh! It’s almost that time of year again. TICK SEASON!

Ticks are most active during April-May and September-November. This does, however, vary according to weather conditions. Ticks can be found anywhere; most commonly in trees, bushes and grass. Different species of ticks populate different areas. For example, deer ticks (common carriers of Lyme disease) are found in wooded areas along trails or other locations that are frequented by deer.

That being said, we should not allow this to prevent us from living a normal, active and fun lifestyle with our pets. A little extra pre-caution and vigilance is all that’s really needed. Cats, being fastidious groomers, rarely pick up ticks and if/when they do they are usually quickly groomed away. This does NOT let you off the hook though! You should still examine your cat for ticks on a regular basis if they are outdoors or at risk.

Your dog should be physically examined daily especially after visiting high risk locations. Ticks tend to take their time to find the perfect spot on your pet to attach themselves and start feeding. They can sometimes roam over your pet for a couple of days before settling in for a feast. Prime locations are often the head, neck, ears (inside AND out), base of tail and feet, however, they can be found anywhere. When a tick attaches their head it is embedded under the skin but the body remains on the surface.

All that’s required is a meticulous rub down of your pet. Starting at the head and slowly feeling right down to the skin with your fingers. Think of it as giving your pet a full body massage. Go over your pets’ entire body. Feel for any lumps/bumps. Then gently using a comb or your fingers rub the hair backwards to get a good visual look at the skin paying close attention to those prime areas mentioned above. Ticks vary in size. Some are incredibly small (especially young ticks) and can be difficult to see or feel. These ones are often missed until they’ve attached and become engorged with blood, therefore daily examination is important. If you tend to frequent high risk locations you might want to consider having your pet’s hair clipped a bit shorter during the warmer months to help make this process easier.

If you have a dog that doesn’t particularly enjoy a hands-on examination or perhaps a super active or wiggly puppy it might be easier to wait until after s/he’s been exercised or is napping to perform the examination. Low calorie treats can also be useful for helping with the examination process. If you make this a positive experience for your dog he will soon learn to accept and enjoy it. As time goes on you’ll get better and faster at it as well. The best thing about this physical examination is that you’ll get to know your pets’ body very well. You’ll be able to monitor lumps and bumps for changes. You’ll quickly learn what is normal and what is not. Keeping a log of these changes would be incredibly helpful in case you ever needed to consult our Moncton veterinary team about anything suspicious or concerning to you. We recommend talking to your veterinarian about tick & Lyme disease prevention options.

Should you find a tick on your pet, please refer to Dr. Chantal Rittwage’s post: I Found a Tick on my Dog! What Do I Do Now?!

Stay safe and have fun!