It’s that time of year again.

The return of warm weather brings out the return of the ticks.

When our dog picked up his first tick of the year some years back, we learned from our vet how to remove them. You want to get the entire tick out, in one piece. “Most people just try to squeeze it out,” our vet told us. “That’s never good. They more often than not break it off on the head. They get the tick’s body out but it’s head – where the toxins are – remain in the dog.”

She showed me how to do it, using tweezers to dig way down, under the head, and then pulling it up.

“Be sure to wear disposable gloves,” she added. “It protects you from disease. Never try this with your bare hands.”

Jennifer just looked at me and shook her head. Usually, I just reach down with my thumb and index fingers for the extraction. No more.

The Tick Key

The Tick Key

That night at home, I went on Amazon and ordered this tick removal tool – The Tick Key, $15.95 for a set of three on Amazon. It makes tick removal quick and easy. I keep one on my key chain.

And its time for everyone to put their dogs on tick meds. In fact, with ticks so prevalent these days, the vet recommends that we keep Bo on the medication all year around.

The tick problem is huge and seemingly getting worse each year. Linked to lots of illnesses – in pets and humans – including Lyme disease, my vet recommended that we check Bo every day. That’s also the official recommendation of the Humane Society of America.

First, run your fingers slowly over your dog’s entire body. If you feel a bump or swollen area, check to see if a tick has burrowed there. Don’t limit your search to your dog’s torso: check between his toes, under his armpits, the insides of his ears, and around his face and chin.

The tick problem is a big one, notes the society.

“Don’t limit tick checks to your canine family members,” it warns in a recent publication. “Dogs can’t directly transmit tick-borne illnesses to people, but ticks can move from host to host. A tick may enter your home on your dog’s back and move on to another pet or human, or a tick could hitch a ride on you and then move on to one of your pets. A good tick prevention strategy includes checking all family members for these parasites, especially after outdoor activities in wooded, leafy, or grassy areas.”

This is especially appropriate for RVers, who spend a lot of time in such places.

Here’s how the Humane Society of America says to remove a tick from your pet:

Step 1: Get your gear

  • Pair of gloves
  • Clean pair of tweezers or a commercial tick remover
  • Antiseptic
  • Isopropyl alcohol

Step 2: Remove the tick

Wear gloves while removing the tick to avoid contact with your skin (ticks can transmit diseases to people, too).

If you’re using tweezers:

  • Grasp the tick as close to your dog’s skin as possible, but be gentle! Try not to pinch your dog’s skin.
  • Pull outward in a straight, steady motion, making sure that you’ve removed the entire tick, since anything left behind could lead to an infection.

If you’re using a tick remover (like the Tick Key tool I just mentioned:

  • Gently press the remover against your dog’s skin near the tick.
  • Slide the notch of the remover under the tick.
  • Continue sliding the remover until the tick is caught in the small end of the notch and is pulled free. (The tick will remain in the bowl of the remover.

There’s one more step you need to take, something my vet did with the tick she removed from our dog: Drop the tick into a small container that contains isopropyl alcohol (the alcohol will quickly kill the tick), and mark the date on the container. If your dog begins displaying symptoms of a tick-borne illness, your veterinarian may want to identify or test the tick.