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The best way we've found to — eww! — pluck ticks off a pets

The best way we've found to — eww! — pluck ticks off a pets
The Tick Key in action -- with a fake tick. (Steve LaBuzetta)

If you have a pet that ventures outside even occasionally, you should be prepared for ticks, and how to safely remove them.

Gross, we know, but it's a reality of pet ownership in Southern California, especially if you let your cat outdoors or take your dog hiking.

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But before we share our secret for getting rid of ticks, let's talk about what not to do.

There are many myths and home remedies, such as smothering the tick with petroleum jelly, or trying to use a smoldering match head to burn it off, or alcohol to kill it.

Please don't do any of that, according to veterinary website VetStreet.com, whose experts note that such methods could make matters worse, and injure your pet.

Bottom line: You need to remove the tick by pulling it away from your pet's body. Now, most of us will probably reach for a tweezer to perform this squeamish job. But good luck trying to hold a dog or cat down while trying to maneuver in with a tweezer…

We recently found something better:

It's called the Tick Key.

It's shaped something like a tear drop meets the eye of a needle, and small enough that you can keep it on a key chain or in a backpack. When you locate the tick, you slip the narrowest part of the key opening around the embedded tick, and steadily and firmly pull away from your pet's body.

Prepare to be shocked at how easy it is, then prepare to be grossed out by getting a good look at an engorged tick. Toss that sucker into some rubbing alcohol to kill it.

We found the Tick Key at Big 5 and REI, and at Amazon.com, for about $7.

Final piece of advice: Talk to your vet about the best tick and flea treatment for your pet.

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