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How to Remove a Tick From Your Dog: Do’s, Don’ts, and Prevention Tips

Removing a tick from a dog using a tick removal tool

With the warmer weather comes ticks, and it leaves dog parents wondering, “How to remove a tick from a dog?” Ticks carry diseases, and this means that you want to do everything you can to get all of the tick out every time you start to remove them from your dog, and this takes skill.

Prevention is another huge issue, and we’re going to outline the do’s and don’ts of tick removal along with tips and techniques you can use to prevent ticks in the first place. This way, your dog has a better chance of staying healthy all year round.

Anatomy of a Tick

Since ticks can carry a range of infectious diseases, and they infect thousands of people and animals each year with diseases like ehrlichiosis, Lyme disease, and babesiosis. Transmitting these diseases to the host can take as short as three hours up to six hours after the original bite.

Knowing this, it makes sense that the sooner you remove the tick, the less chance your dog has of getting sick. Ticks have a one-piece body with a rounded back end and harpoon-shaped barbs on the mouth that attach into the host and anchors them in place to feed.

They have short, crablike legs that give off a sticky secretion to help hold them in place once they burrow in. Ticks also have a broad range of sizes starting with ones that are so small that they’re almost impossible to see with the naked eye up to slightly larger than your fingertip.

There are around 200 different species of ticks in the United States. Ticks do very well in beach grass, woods, urban areas, lawns, and forests. They’re also not picky with their hosts either, and ticks feed on birds, mammals, and other insects if they get the chance.

How to Remove a Tick From Your Dog – Step by Step

Found a tick on dog's skin
There are six easy steps you can walk through to safely and effectively remove a tick from your dog. It may take a few tries the first time you do it, but it gets easier with practice.

Step One – Protect Yourself

Before you touch the tick and remove it from your dog, you want to take steps to protect yourself. Start by putting on a pair of gloves, so you don’t actually have to come in contact with the tick itself.

Step Two – Calm Your Dog

When it comes time to locate and remove the tick, you want to reassure your dog and talk to them through the process. Dogs tend to get very nervous when you prod or poke them, and you may have to enlist another person to help you with this part of the process.

You may try and distract your dog by giving them a lickable treat, and you can use treats throughout the tick removal process if your dog stays calm. However, you may want to go to the vet for help if your dog gets aggressive with you.

Step Three – Position Your Removal Tool

Tweezers work very well to remove ticks from your dog, and you can also buy specialized tools to remove them. Part your dog’s coat to expose the tick, position the tweezers as close to the head as you can possibly get without pinching your dog’s skin and grasp the tick firmly.

Step Four – Pull the Tick Off

The best way to pull a tick out of your dog is to use steady, even pressure and pull the tick straight out in one even motion. You don’t want to twist or jerk away when you do this because it can cause the tick to come apart and leave pieces inside of the bite.

Also, make a point not to squeeze or crush the tick when you pull it out because this can cause a fluid secretion that can carry disease to go straight into the open wound. Once you remove it, make sure that you got all of the parts and pieces out.

Step Five – Kill the Tick

The easiest way to kill a tick is to drop it into a container of rubbing alcohol, and most veterinarians recommend holding onto this jar so you can bring it in if your dog starts getting sick. This can help your veterinarian come to a quick diagnosis if they can see which tick bit your dog because different species carry different diseases.

Step Six – Disinfect the Area

You can clean the bite area with triple antibiotic sprays or wipes, or any solution that contains chlorhexidine will work. Keep an eye on the area for any signs of infection like redness or inflammation, and make a vet appointment if you see it.

The Do’s and Don’ts of Tick Removal

Now that you have a guide on how to remove them, we’ll go over a few do’s and don’ts of tick removal to keep your dog healthy and happy year-round.

Tick Removal Do’s

DO remove ticks as soon as you find them.

  • If your dog goes out in areas where there are ticks, you want to either check them every day or keep them out of that area. If your dog has been to an area with a lot of ticks, they can bite or scratch at an area and “show” you where the tick is.

DO check your dog all over at least once a day.

  • At the very least, give your dog a quick check at the end of every day, and pay close attention to your dog’s groin, in and around his ears, between their toes, on his eyelids, and around his anal area and tail. You can use a hairdryer on cool if you have a double-coated dog to see between the layers to the skin.

DO use a device to pull out a tick instead of your fingers.

  • If you pull out a tick with your fingers, it’s very easy to crush or squeeze it accidentally and cause diseased fluids to run into your dog’s cut. Use tweezers or a removal device to pull the tick out of your dog.

DO grab the tick as close to the head as possible.

  • You want to position your tweezers as close to your dog’s skin as possible to pull the head out along with the body. If you have a very small tick, your tweezers will end up covering the whole body along with the head.

Tick Removal Don’ts

DON’T try to burn the tick off.

  • One dangerous myth tells you to burn a tick with a match while it’s still attached to your dog or to bury it with a layer of petroleum jelly. However, you don’t want to do this because you can burn your dog or let the tick stay on longer.

DON’T dig around in your dog’s wound if the head doesn’t come all of the ways out.

  • Not only can this hurt your dog and cause further trauma to the area, but it can make your dog afraid of having any more tick removal. Instead, let the pieces work themselves out on their own time, but keep an eye on it for infection.

DON’T get rid of the tick once you remove it.

  • It can take time for your dog to start showing symptoms of tick-borne disease, and you want to be able to identify which tick caused the disease. Toss the tick into a jar of rubbing alcohol with a lid instead of throwing it out or flushing it down the toilet.

Tick Prevention Tips

Tick prevention for dogs
When it comes to ticks, prevention is much easier, cost-effective, and less time-consuming than treatment. There are several things you can do to prevent ticks, and they include:

Treat for Ticks and Fleas all Year Long

Ticks and fleas can be a problem year-round, and it’s easier to treat them each month with a product (ex. Seresto Flea and Tick Collar) that your vet can recommend. Make sure you pay close attention to your vet’s instructions and advice to keep your dog covered and safe.

Use a Species-Specific Products

Cat flea and tick products are usually less expensive than dog flea and tick products, and this can lead you to treat them with the wrong one. Some cat products can contain things that can cause a reaction in your dog, and you can avoid this by giving them dog-specific products.

Groom Your Pet

Get in a grooming routine at least every other day because this helps you find those smaller ticks before they get really embedded in your dog. It’s also a great time for you to relax and bond with your dog.

Fleas and ticks are a problem all year long, and we’ve given you several ways how to remove a tick from a dog that you can use on your own pet. Keep them happy and healthy all year round and enjoy time outdoors!