We frequently receive phone calls from concerned clients who have pulled a tick off their pet and there is a red bump remaining. Clients are often concerned and not sure what to do. Here is a guideline to help answer common questions.
In humans we have been taught that the red, bullseye rash likely means Lyme disease. This is not necessarily the case in dogs or cats. A red, raised bump at the site of the tick bite is common due to the skin’s localized reaction to the tick saliva. A circular rash, especially on the abdomen, can also be from a fly or gnat bite.
How to remove a tick
It is recommended to wear gloves while removing ticks. Use a tweezers and grab the tick as close to the pet’s body as you can. Pull straight out in a slow, firm motion. Clean the area with an antiseptic. In some cases, the mouth parts of the tick may remain in the pet. It is important to try to remove them, if possible, to avoid a secondary infection. Otherwise, they will eventually fester and fall out.
Are antibiotics needed?
In human medicine, your doctor may prescribe medication to be taken the first few days after a tick bite. This is not the protocol in veterinary medicine. Overuse of antibiotics can decrease their effectiveness and create antibiotic resistance. Instead, it is recommended to watch for signs and symptoms of disease, which may take weeks to months to appear. Symptoms may include:
- Loss of appetite
- Swollen joints
- Swollen lymph nodes
Should the patient be tested?
The 4Dx test we use for tick diseases and heartworm is an antibody test. This means it detects antibodies that the immune system creates towards the disease. The antibodies may not be present immediately; therefore, the test may be negative even though the patient is developing the disease. For Lyme disease, it can take up to 6 months to have the antibodies to test positive.
There are 13 known species of ticks in Minnesota. The most common are the Deer tick and Wood tick. The Deer tick is the one most likely to transmit diseases and the only tick that transmits Lyme disease. Here are pictures of ones to look for:
Deer Tick/Black Legged Tick- (Ixodes sp.)
Wood Tick/American Dog Tick (Dermacenter variablis)
Lonestar Tick (Amblyomma americana)- rare in Minnesota, please consider sending the tick in to report it.
Photo Credit: Tick ID | Tick-borne Diseases | Ticks | CDC
Where to look
Even if your pet is on a preventive, you should check them regularly for ticks. Especially after being in thick grass or wooded areas. Below is a diagram of places ticks are likely to be found on your pet.
Photo Credit: Preventing ticks on your pets | Ticks | CDC
To submit ticks to the University of MN for identification:
To submit ticks found on pets to be tested for diseases: