My husband uttered those horrible words no dog owner ever wants to hear (especially HOURS after a hike) - Is that a TICK?
I was out of my chair and kneeling in front of Lily as soon as he finished the sentence. Yes, it was. I had flicked one off her back on the trail. With her short coat, they are easy to spot. I have been in the habit of checking her over after EVERY traipse off the trail. The minute she comes back to me, she gets a good once over.
How did I miss this one? No matter, the damage was done and the little sucker (I used a different word than that, but let's keep the blog PG) was already burrowing. No problem. My husband backpacks into the woods off trail with his buddies frequently. I'm used to plucking those little suckers (again, keepin' it PG) out of their backs, off their stomachs, off their legs. (Side note for backpackers: One guy starts consuming mass amounts of garlic before their trips and I have never plucked a tick off him.)
I wielded my tweezers with confidence. My husband pinched her skin, holding it up so I could get a good grasp on the tick. I grabbed it right against the skin and slowly pulled. Nothing. I pulled harder. The tweezers slipped and cut the thing in half.
I fought down panic. We repeated the process and I got everything...but the head.
Now, the panic came over me in waves. The head. The worst part. And it was still in my dog.
When this happens, Google is NOT your friend. A quick search reassured me that my dog was headed for death with several nasty diseases. This statement came up repeatedly: If you are not careful, you can leave the head behind and your dog exposed to numerous diseases.
I was upset that the part of the tick that carried disease would be in her overnight. I set my alarm and called the vet first thing in the morning after tossing and turning all night. They fit me in, but reassured me that she would be fine.
My vet said this (paraphrasing): The head of the tick = myth. Disease is not carried in the head. It's carried in the stomach. Leaving the head behind is not your biggest worry. Your dog's body will eventually rid itself of the head. The worst thing to do is squeeze the middle of the tick, sending the stomach contents (which do contain the diseases) into your dog. This is when we should worry about infection and tick borne illnesses.
We are watching Lily for signs of infection and will treat her accordingly if that happens. Tick borne illness is rare in this area. I have a list of symptoms to watch for, but the vet didn't expect we would be seeing any.
I came home and ordered a tick hook. We're not planning on having to pull any ticks in the future, but I want to be prepared just in case. We don't need a repeat. Lily was so patient with us. She let us work on her for half an hour without a single complaint. It would be nice if we could get it out in under five minutes next time - and get all of it!