By Dr. Nancy Kay
February 4, 2011
I recently learned a fabulous new trick from Jessica, a nurse at my hospital. I was in our treatment room preparing to remove a tick from the base of my dogâ€™s ear. Lucky dogs, Nellie and Quinn got to tag along with my husband and me on a recent horse camping trip. Quinnie, the more adventurous of the two, returned home with a tick. When Jessica observed me in the treatment room with thumb forceps in hand (my tick removal instrument of choice), she asked, â€œWould you like me to show you how to spin a tick?â€ Iâ€™d never heard of such a thing, but I offered forth the mighty Quinn and invited her to demonstrate.
Jessica placed her index finger on the tick and then rotated her finger counter clockwise in small steady circles. I liken it to using your index finger to perform light pressure circles on the end of your nose. Lo and behold, within approximately 20 seconds the tick, completely intact, detached itself from Quinn (my boy thought he was receiving a massage). After performing this magic, Jessica assured me with utter confidence that it â€œworks every time.â€
I was thrilled by what I saw. Not only had this â€œold dogâ€ learned a new trick, I was delighted by the prospect of employing a tick removal technique that is both comfortable for the patient and avoids leaving tick mouthparts behind (a source of chronic irritation for the patient). The next time you discover a tick on your dog or cat, I encourage you to don a plastic glove (prevents tick-borne infectious diseases from entering your body via a skin crack or abrasion) and try this â€œspin the tickâ€ method. Please let me know if it works for you. By the way, spinning either clockwise or counter clockwise should do the trick!
Update: A few more comments regarding tick removal:
- I cannot overemphasize the following- by all means please wear an exam glove (can be purchased at any human pharmacy) when removing ticks, via whichever method you choose. This is to help prevent potential disease transmission to you.
- Consider saving the tick(s) in a jar of alcohol. If your pet becomes sick, you might want to have the tick species professionally identified to help determine it is the type that can transmit tick-borne disease.
- Jen asked a fabulous question (in the comments). There are no known studies (at least that I could find) that document that this method of tick removal causes the tick to regurgitate or vomit its gut contents (where the infectious organisms reside) into the animal. What is known is that when ticks are â€œpulledâ€ their mouthparts are often left behind, embedded in the skin. The mouthparts alone cannot transmit tick-borne diseases, however they commonly cause localized inflammation and sometimes even infection. In most cases, the inflammation is self-resolving with a little bit of â€œbenign neglectâ€ or â€œwatchful waiting.â€
We also heard today from occasional reader Dr. Michael Dryden, the Kansas State professor known as “Dr. Flea (and Tick).” He adds in an e-mail: “TheÂ hypostome of a tick does not screw in or out soÂ twisting a tick really adds nothing to removal.Â A tick with short mouth parts likeÂ Deramacentor orÂ Rhipicephalus this is likely not a problem, but could be aÂ major problem withÂ Amblyomma or Ixodes.Â Mouth parts of those ticks would likely beÂ ripped off by twisting.”
Interesting! I’m grateful to Dr. Dryden for dropping in with some help. But as I noted above, mouthparts are often left behind no matter how you remove ticks, so keep an eye on the spot afterward.
Photo credit: Nellie, Susannah Kay