There are many types of ticks and they all feed on the blood of mammals, including people and their pets. To feed, they bite their hosts, which isn’t painful, but can be dangerous if the tick is a carrier of disease.
The deer tick in the eastern and north-central U.S. is the main transmitter of Lyme disease and can also spread other diseases, such as ehrlichiosis. Brown dog ticks can transmit Rocky Mountain spotted fever, and the Lone Star tick spreads many diseases, including tularemia.
Protect yourself, your family, and your pets by learning what a tick bite looks like and how to treat it once you spot one.
Ticks are very small, usually the size of an apple seed, but sometimes as small as a poppy seed. That means you and your pets won’t feel a tick latching onto your skin as it bites and begins to draw in blood.
Once a tick has finished feeding, it falls off the skin after about 3-10 days.
What do tick bites look like?
Identifying whether you have a tick bite can be tricky. If the tick has already fallen off, the resulting injury can look like a very small dot on your skin. It won’t be red or swollen.
There’s no pain, no itchiness, and if the tick isn’t still attached, a tick bite is difficult to spot at first. After a few days, a tick bite may become red and raised.
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What is a bullseye tick bite?
If a tick was a carrier of Lyme disease, a rash may develop around its bite mark that looks like a reddish circle and resembles a bullseye. This bullseye rash can have one or more expanding outer red rings and is a classic symptom of Lyme disease. The bullseye rash is caused by a bacteria (Borrelia burgdorferi) that’s transmitted through the tick’s saliva.
Where to look for tick bites
Ticks can bite you just about anywhere, but they prefer skin spots that are warm and moist. Check your armpits, scalp, near your ears, backs of the knees, and groin.
When searching your dog for a tick bite, check under the legs, beneath the collar, under the tail, and even between the toes.
Tick bite symptoms
If you’ve been bitten, be aware of certain tick bite symptoms that can be signs of disease. Some symptoms of tick-borne illness may show up as long as a few weeks after being bitten, including:
- Muscle aches
- Joint pain
- Distinctive rash
Whether you know you’ve experienced a tick bite or not, you should seek guidance from your healthcare provider if you show signs of these symptoms.
Signs of tick bites on pets
A tick bite on a dog looks similar to a mosquito bite. A rash with a red ring around it can also develop. Dogs who have been bitten by a tick may begin showing disturbing symptoms. If your pet begins limping, acting fatigued, vomiting, or has lost its appetite, have your veterinarian check for Lyme disease or other tick-borne illnesses.
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How to remove a tick
You can lessen risk of contracting a tick-borne disease if you perform regular checks for ticks. This is especially true after walking up against bushes, through tall grass, or in the woods—all places where ticks thrive.
If you find a tick on yourself or your pet, use tweezers to grab onto the tick, getting as close to the surface of the skin as you can. It’s important that you don’t twist the tick, but rather pull straight up, using steady pressure, so you don’t leave its mouthparts behind in the skin.
Clean your hands and the bite area with soap and water or alcohol. Then, put the tick in alcohol, place it in a sealed baggie, and wrap it up in tape to dispose of it. If it was found on a pet, it may be a good idea to save the tick to show the vet in the event your pet shows symptoms of disease.
How to prevent a tick bite
Here are a few tips to prevent future tick bites for you and your pets:
- Use a tick control prevention medication for your pets
- Keep your yard areas well-trimmed
- Use bug spray when hiking or walking through grassy or wooded areas
- Since deer and other wild animals often carry ticks, it’s best to take away any feeders or other attractors off your property
To help address ticks on your property, it’s best to utilize the help of monthly outdoor pest control services that will target areas where ticks are most likely to latch onto people or pets.
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