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Bad head. Doggy style.
February 9, 2007 11:38 AM   Subscribe

A tick dug its foul way into my dog's belly yesterday. We found it dug in but not yet engorged in the middle of an irritated red patch of skin. I tugged 2/3 of of it out of my dog's skin, but despite my best efforts, the head's still in there. What now?

I'll preface this by saying that I grew up with the same old wives' tales that many of you did about how I should have used a match, acetone, petroleum jelly, etc. It's pretty clear from even the briefest google search that the appropriate course of action is to pull the tick out, taking care not to leave the head in. What's less clear, however, is what to do if that care is taken, but the head and body still separate. This article states that :

"If the mouthparts break off in the skin - should I dig them out?

We have heard two competing opinions about this.

One viewpoint states that the mouthparts can cause a secondary infection, and should be removed as if it was a splinter.

Another viewpoint was shared with us by a pediatrician in a hyperendemic area. He states that parents can do more harm by trying to hold down a child and dig out the mouthparts with a needle. He instructs his families to leave the mouthparts, and that they will come out on their own as the skin sloughs off."

Can anyone do better than that?
posted by Sinner to Pets & Animals (15 answers total)
 
Its probably better to get it out, if you can without too much invasive digging. Don't forget to clean it w/ rubbing alcohol when you're done.
posted by allkindsoftime at 11:58 AM on February 9, 2007


Our cat got outside only once and was immediately found by 2 ticks, both of which latched on tightly. The heads broke off in her, and our vet advised us that they would work themselves out, but that we should keep an eye on the "tick sites" to make sure there were no complications. She also suggested that we could use a small amount of triple antibiotic cream on the sites, if we wanted to.
posted by MsElaineous at 12:01 PM on February 9, 2007


The head is probably still alive. Try putting it to sleep by applying ether. If your local pharmacy carries it, apply Dakin's solution to the wound once the head falls off, or if it is torn off.
posted by stereo at 12:06 PM on February 9, 2007


Our dog gets ticks a lot (me too, sometimes.) If you can get the head out, do; if you can't it will drop out in a week or two. They itch a lot, so some kind of dog-suitable cortisone cream will help. This tick remover is a great, inexpensive tool.
posted by anadem at 12:22 PM on February 9, 2007


Ask your vet about Lyme disease in your area.
posted by jamjam at 12:44 PM on February 9, 2007


next time, hold an alcohol swab swab over the tick and it will back itself out. Then you don't have to dig anything out.
posted by cosmicbandito at 3:20 PM on February 9, 2007


Leave it alone. The most current advice about ticks is to grasp them with tweezers as close to the skin as possible, pull straight out and then drop them in alcohol. You will cause a far worse infection by trying to dig any bits left in there out than you will by just putting some Polysporin on and leaving well enough alone. In a few weeks, the bits left in will have been moved to the surface and will fall off like a scab (this has happened to my dog more than once). It's also often the case that what you're actually seeing is just blood in the wound, not tick bits.

Doing any of the previous "tick SOP" like applying a hot match, alcohol or trying to suffocate it with petroleum jelly will often make the tick regurgitate into the wound, which will vastly increase the likelihood of the dog contracting a tick-borne illness.

Please get a tick panel done by your vet, some tick-borne diseases can be very debilitating or even fatal.
posted by biscotti at 4:15 PM on February 9, 2007


I don't know that I've ever gotten a tick out cleanly with tweezers -- I swear the head always breaks off if I try. It also seems to be more difficult to get them out if they're messed with excessively, as if they hang on tighter.

I've gotten the best results by grabbing the beasties with thumb and index finger, thumbnail right on top of the head, and pulling just about parallel to the skin instead of straight away from it. And I've found it best to sneak up on them if possible, and do the whole operation in one quick, smooth motion.

I've never seen any ill results from left-over heads, but biscotti offers very sound advice.
posted by sgass at 5:34 PM on February 9, 2007


Very interesting, sgass-- I'm sure they do hang on tighter. It makes me wonder if you could blast them out with a sudden water jet from a little tiny water cannon, say (a water-pic would come up to pressure too slowly, I'm afraid); or perhaps with a little spring loaded piston you could aim at them from the side, or even by flexing a thin-bladed, springy table knife and letting it snap across the tick parallel to and as close as possible to the skin.
posted by jamjam at 6:01 PM on February 9, 2007


Plastic tweezers work better because they don't cut them in half. Expensive eyebrow tweezers are the worst.
posted by fshgrl at 6:34 PM on February 9, 2007


Don’t worry overmuch about it. I didn’t like it... in fact I hated it... but its happened to me more than once, and I’m still alive and well. Your average dog is probably tougher than me.
posted by Huplescat at 6:42 PM on February 9, 2007


It makes me wonder if you could blast them out with a sudden water jet from a little tiny water cannon, say (a water-pic would come up to pressure too slowly, I'm afraid); or perhaps with a little spring loaded piston you could aim at them from the side, or even by flexing a thin-bladed, springy table knife and letting it snap across the tick parallel to and as close as possible to the skin.

Hey, that sounds like a job for asavage.

fshgrl, it's never occurred to me that there even was such a thing. That would certainly obviate the "ewww, get it off me" side-effect of my method.

But it's suddenly occurred to me that I haven't had much tick-pulling practice in recent years, thanks to Frontline. Not a plug or anything, just something I think should be mentioned in a thread about ticks.
posted by sgass at 6:51 PM on February 9, 2007


Thanks for all the advice. Yeah, while my folks were visiting I asked them to pick up some Frontline, as I'd heard very good things, but they got an old-school (and ineffectual, obviously and to no surprise) flea and tick color instead. I've been meaning to pick some up ever since, but just haven't found the time. Got what I deserve, I guess. Or, well, the dog did.
posted by Sinner at 7:23 PM on February 9, 2007


Frontline can be had, cheap as dirt, on Ebay.
posted by Huplescat at 7:52 PM on February 9, 2007 [1 favorite]


I do hate to resort to pesticides, but after pulling three ticks out of my little Cairn Terrier and then finding a fourth and a fifth, we were tired of putting him through the removal ordeal (I'm still in the hot match brigade) and instead dropped Frontline between his shoulder blades. The ticks fell off within hours.

Nunca mas, my little friend. We're using Frontline monthly during hiking season (winter here in California).

If anyone's concerned about the health effects of this stuff, I had an extremely flea-sensitive dog for 17 years who got monthly Frontline treatments for the last seven of those years. He went blind and deaf, but he never got cancer. I think the stuff has a high safety profile for canines.
posted by judlew at 8:58 AM on January 8, 2008


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