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How to Safely Remove a Tick From Your Dog

If you’re a dog owner, you know how much fun it can be to take your furry friend on outdoor adventures. However, it’s important to be aware of the risks that come with these excursions, including the possibility of your dog picking up ticks. Ticks are tiny parasites that can transmit deadly diseases to your dog, so it’s crucial to know how to safely remove them. In this guide, we’ll go step-by-step through the process of identifying and removing ticks from your dog in a safe and effective manner.

Identifying ticks on your dog

Ticks on a dog can be hard to find, especially if the dog has thick, long fur. However, since ticks can transmit deadly diseases within hours of contact, it’s important to do a thorough check after each outdoor excursion in places where ticks frequent, such as wooded or grassy areas.

To check for ticks, run your fingers over your dog’s body, stopping at any point you feel a bump or swollen area. If you find one, stop and check the area for a tick.

Ticks can be of various colors, depending on the type and the area you live in, including brown, reddish, and black. They can appear gray or bluish when engorged. The body is typically flat, broad, and oval-shaped, although it becomes rounder as it feeds.

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Common areas ticks hide on a dog

Ticks often hide in the same places, burrowing into a dog’s fur and going unnoticed for days. So, after each outing, remember to check for ticks, especially in these key places:

  • In and around the ears
  • Between the toes
  • Under the legs
  • Around the face
  • On and around the neck

How to remove a tick from a dog: a step-by-step guide

Here’s how to address ticks on your dog, from how to get a tick off to what to do after removing it.

How to remove a tick

Choose your tick removal method

There are multiple effective ways to remove a tick from your dog. You can use tweezers, a tick removal card, a tick removal hook, or fine-pointed forceps. Tick removal hooks and cards are designed specifically to remove these pesky creatures, so if you live in an area with lots of ticks, it’s not a bad idea to keep these on hand.

However, if you don’t have either, you can use tweezers or fine-pointed forceps to grab the tiny bloodsucker and detach it from your dog. Choose whatever works best for you based on your comfort level and the tools you have on hand.

Remove the tick

To remove the tick, start by moving the hair around it out of the way to give yourself clear access. If you’re removing the tick with tweezers, a tick removal hook, fine-pointed forceps, or a similar tool, grasp the tick as close to your dog’s skin as possible without pinching.

Once you have a good grasp on it, slowly and steadily pull it straight up and away from your dog’s body. Avoid sudden jerks, twists, or wriggling movements, as this could cause the mouth parts to remain attached.

If you’re using a tick removal card, press the card against your pet’s skin near the tick, aligning the notch with the tick. Slide the remover under the tick, ensuring the notch fits around the attachment point to pull it free.

After removing the tick, drop it into a container of isopropyl alcohol and add the date to the bottle. Your veterinarian may want to test the tick if your pet begins showing signs of a tick-borne illness. However, it's likely your vet will run blood tests on your pet first, so it's not the end of the world if you don't have the tick on hand.

Check for proper removal

Verify you’ve removed the tick, mouth parts, and all. If you’re wondering how to tell if the tick's head is still in the skin, look for small black dots in and around the skin. This is typically a sign that part of the tick remains in the skin.

While the remnants of the tick don’t transmit diseases, they can cause bacterial infections. Here’s how to remove a tick head:

  • Grasp the protruding piece with tweezers or a similar tool.
  • Gently pull upward steadily to remove the remaining piece.
  • Repeat as necessary to remove residual pieces.

If you’re wondering what to do if the tick’s head is stuck in the dog’s skin and you can’t get it out without hurting your dog, it’s best to contact your veterinarian. Attempting to dig the remaining pieces out could cause further issues, so it’s best to leave this step to your veterinarian.

Cleanse the area

Once you’ve removed the tick, clean the area thoroughly with an antiseptic, like rubbing alcohol. Wipe the area clean and let it dry, noting where the tick was attached so you can monitor for signs of infection.

Disinfect the tool you used with isopropyl alcohol. Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water, even if you wore gloves.

Dos and don’ts of removing a tick from a dog

As you prepare to remove a tick from your dog, there are a few dos and don’ts to remember, including the following:

Do remove the tick as soon as possible

Ticks can transmit diseases to your dog within hours of attaching, so it’s crucial that you remove the tick as soon as you find it. However, the time it takes for ticks to transmit a disease depends on various factors, including the type of disease.

For example, ticks can transmit the bacteria that cause ehrlichiosis and Rocky Mountain spotted fever within just three to six hours of attachment. However, the bacteria that cause Lyme disease often take longer to transmit, often requiring 36 to 48 hours.

Don’t use your fingers to remove the tick

While your first thought might be to grab the tick with your fingers and remove it, this isn’t a good idea. Squeezing the tick for removal can cause it to regurgitate some of its stomach contents into the wound, increasing the risk of infection. Plus, it's tricky to grasp the tick as close to the dog's skin as is necessary to remove it entirely with your fingertips, so it's best to use another method.

Do monitor your pet for signs of infection

After removing the tick, watch for signs of infection in the following days and weeks. The symptoms can vary based on the type of tick-borne disease or infection but may include:

  • Stiffness
  • Lameness or limping
  • Swollen joints
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Deppresion
  • Weight loss
  • Vomiting and diarrhea
  • Bruising
  • Abnormal bleeding

If you notice any of these symptoms or abnormal behavior in your dog, take them to the vet immediately.

Additionally, there may be signs that the bite site is infected, such as:

  • Redness
  • Swelling
  • Discharge (pus)
  • The dog biting or licking at the area

Don’t try to burn or smother the tick

While you may have heard of alternative ways to remove ticks, such as burning them with a match or smothering them with nail polish remover or vaseline, it’s best to avoid these methods. Using these methods may cause the tick to regurgitate some of its stomach contents into the wound, raising the risk of infection.

Furthermore, attempting to burn the tick could harm your dog, so these methods aren’t ideal.

Do wear gloves or thoroughly wash your hands

Ticks can transmit all sorts of unpleasant bacteria, viruses, and diseases to people, such as Lyme disease, ehrlichiosis, and anaplasmosis. People with pets, specifically dogs and cats, have a higher risk of being bitten by a tick and contracting tickborne diseases, so it’s important to handle the situation carefully.

If you have gloves on hand, wear them while removing the tick. If not, avoid touching the tick or the area it was feeding on directly. Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water afterward.

Preventative measures for your dog

After removing the unwanted rider from your dog, consider investing in preventative measures to avoid this situation in the future. After each outdoor outing in wooded, leafy, or grassy areas, check your dog for ticks. Remember, ticks transfer between hosts (including you), so check you and your pets for these critters.

Preventing tick infestations in dogs with proper grooming is a great preventative measure to add to your dog's routine. Using a flea comb can help find the ticks, especially on dogs with thicker or longer fur. Every week, give your pet a bath with pesticide-free pet shampoo and wash their bedding. Additionally, vacuum regularly to clean up any stragglers that might’ve fallen off the host and dispose of the vacuum bag immediately after use.

Flea- and tick-preventative medications are also available and can help combat these pests. They’re usually available in topical and chewable forms, with topical options available over the counter and oral forms available via prescription. Talk to your vet to determine what option is best for your pet.

Does pet insurance cover tick prevention?

Most standard pet insurance policies, such as your accident-only or accident and illness plan, don't cover tick prevention. However, many providers offer coverage for tick prevention in their wellness or preventative care packages, which are usually available as an add-on for an extra fee. It's important to note that this coverage and its availability may vary from one provider to the next, as some providers may exclude tick prevention from wellness plans, too.

Many pet insurance providers also cover tick-borne diseases in their comprehensive policies, too, as long as the condition isn't pre-existing and doesn't arise during the waiting period. Again, coverage can vary from one provider to the next.

All in all, safely removing a tick from your dog doesn’t have to be difficult. Gentle but steady pressure with tweezers or a similar tool usually does the trick, but if it doesn’t, your veterinarian can help remove them. In the following days and weeks, monitor your pet for signs of infection and consult your vet with any questions or concerns.

There are multiple effective ways to remove a tick from your dog. You can use tweezers, a tick removal card, a tick removal hook, or fine-pointed forceps. Tick removal hooks and cards are designed specifically to remove these pesky creatures, so if you live in an area with lots of ticks, it’s not a bad idea to keep these on hand.


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