How to Remove a Tick From a Dog
Kaili has been around dogs all her life and currently shares her furniture with two spoiled Petit Basset Griffon Vendeens.
Your Dog Has a Tick—Now What?
Poor Rover. Your dog was outside playing, and now he has a tick or even several of them attached to him. What should you do? Let the tick continue to feed and hope it falls off on its own? Or, should you try to remove it? You aren’t sure you want to touch it, but you sure don’t want to leave it, and you don’t want to hurt your dog.
Don’t worry. There is a safe and easy way to remove these nasty parasites.
How to Remove Ticks From Dogs
Tweezers are still used by many folks for removing ticks. The problem with tweezers is that people often end up crushing the insect or pulling them apart because the tweezers aren’t in the correct spot. This can mean that the head and mouth remain attached to your dog.
Squeezing them can also inject more bacteria into the dog, which is not what you want, of course. A proper tick remover is a much more effective tool and is far easier to use. There are a few different types on the market, and they are typically sold in packages of two or three.
The most common ticks in Canada and the northern part of the United States don't push their mouthparts in to the point their heads are buried. Some species of these pests that are more common to the southern United States attach quite deeply, burying their heads so they are quite hard to remove.
How to Use a Tick Remover
The tool I have used a few times that works like a charm is Tick Twister. It's so easy to use; with just a few twirls, the tick moves right onto the twister and off your dog:
- Slide the claw of the tool under the tick. This is just like using the claw of a hammer to remove a nail. The trick is to make sure the claw is right underneath the tick, so that it is right at the end of the slot in the tool, as far as it will go.
- Slowly twirl the tool around and around—you don’t need to pull it; just spin it around. The tick will usually come right off after a few spins.
- Put the tick in a plastic bag along with a cotton ball that is slightly damp. If it is still alive and is waving its legs around, you likely got the whole thing off without leaving any mouthparts or the head embedded in the dog’s flesh. If it is dead and not waving its legs, you likely missed a part or two, but don’t worry. The dog will be OK. The site is just more likely to become infected, so keep an eye on things and make a trip to the vet if necessary. If you are concerned about the possibility of Lyme, you should take the live tick to your vet to be tested.
- Disinfect the site of the bite with a little soap and warm water. You can also apply a little Polysporin. Bites will leave a welt that can take several weeks to shrink; often a dog will be left with a scar, especially if the bite gets infected or scabs up. If the dog seems itchy at the site, you can also put a little Caladryl ointment on it as long as you can be sure the dog won’t lick at it.
Using a Tick Remover
What About My Cat?
Follow the same instructions as for a dog to safely remove a tick from a cat.
What Are Ticks?
Ticks are members of the spider family. These external parasites feed on the blood of birds and mammals, which would be bad enough on its own. The real problem is that they can carry and transmit a host of “vector-borne” diseases including Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Ehrlichiosis and Anaplasmosis. Birds actually help to disperse ticks, thus spreading these diseases even further.
Ticks are quite small when they have not been feeding on a host’s blood, and are usually only about 1 to 5 mm in length. They begin their life as an egg and then hatch into larva. From there, they turn into what is called a nymph before finally reaching adulthood. All stages except the egg stage—larva, nymph and adult—feed on blood. Ticks do not fly, but they are capable of crawling onto tall grass and weeds to await their victims. A dog or a human being wandering through tall grass represents an opportunity for a meal (see photo above).
Checking for Ticks
Ticks will crawl onto a person’s shoe or sock, or onto a dog’s face, and begin searching for a place to attach. A dog’s head and face are common sites for them to attach because a dog's head is the first part of the dog to go plowing through tall grass. Even the hairiest of dogs usually have smoother, shorter fur on their faces, making it easier for the tick to attach. Eye lids and ears are also common targets.
It can take up to a few hours for the tick to find the perfect spot on its host to attach and begin to feed. Once they attach, they will stay in place for a long time, often days. For this reason, it is important to inspect your pet after every trip outdoors, especially if you have been walking in long grass or bushy areas. Don't forget to check yourself too.
What Is Lyme Disease?
As noted above, ticks can carry and then transmit several very serious parasitic diseases. In fact, they are second only to mosquitoes as vectors of human diseases (Companion Animal Parasite Council).
Lyme disease, once thought to occur only in areas where deer were present, is now widespread and is found in all 50 U.S. states and every province in Canada. A warmer climate may be at least partly responsible for the population explosion in the “black-legged tick” or “deer tick”. In some areas of Canada, 10 to 50 per cent of black-legged ticks now carry Lyme bacteria. Cases of Lyme occur every year in humans—even in urban areas.
In humans, Lyme disease often presents as a “bulls eye” rash, and sometimes people don’t even know they have been bitten until they see the rash. In dogs, Lyme may present as swollen joints, fever and lameness. Often your pet may just not seem to be quite themselves.
How to Protect Against Lyme Disease
There are steps you can take to protect both yourself and your dog from ticks and the diseases they carry. When you are outside, especially in long grass, wear long pants and tuck your pant legs into your socks or boots. Examine yourself and others you are with for any signs of these insects crawling on your clothing. For your dog:
- Use a preventative tick and flea treatment.
- Check your dog after every trip outdoors.
- There is a vaccine available for Lyme disease, so you might want to consider that for your pet if you live in an area known to have a large infestation.
- Have your dog tested annually for all parasites.
- Watch for signs of infection or bumps that indicate that your dog has been bitten.
- Companion Animal Parasite Council
© 2012 Kaili Bisson
Kaili Bisson (author) from Canada on September 11, 2012:
Hello aa and thank you. You are so right...they are just disgusting!
aa lite from London on September 11, 2012:
Very useful, I remember a long time ago, on holiday in a nature spot, suddenly realising that our PON sheepdog had about 10 ticks on her. This was the time before Amazon or tick removers, so I pulled them all out by hand, still shiver when I remember the experience. They are one of the most disgusting creatures on earth!
Kaili Bisson (author) from Canada on July 30, 2012:
Hi HollyP3, ticks are really scary and gross when you see your first one. I hope you gave yourself the human equivalent of a Healthy Bones treat after it was all done :-)
HollyP3 on July 30, 2012:
Great info. My dog had a tick last summer – it was scary because I felt this bump on his belly and didn’t know what it was at first. Luckily my neighbor helped me remove it. My dog was scared too! I gave him a Healthy Bones treat after to make him feel better and it took his mind off it.
Kaili Bisson (author) from Canada on July 04, 2012:
Hi Bob and thank you for your feedback and votes! Good to know Chapstick works in the event you don't have a twister or tweezers handy :-)
Civil War Bob from Glenside, Pennsylvania on July 04, 2012:
Good hub, Kaili...voted up, useful, interesting. My beagle had a tick attached right by her eye, so I took out my Chapstick, covered the tick entirely, and the little varmint unattached to come up for air! THEN, I lifted 'im off and cut him in half with my pocket knife.
Kaili Bisson (author) from Canada on July 03, 2012:
Hi Bill and thank you. Ticks are dreadful, that's for sure. I'm glad you were able to get that tick off your poor dog.
Bill from Greensburg Pennsylvania on July 03, 2012:
I had to take one off my dog last year. I used a pair of tweezers and then put Neosporin on it after words. It was behind her ear. great advise.
Kaili Bisson (author) from Canada on June 28, 2012:
Hi vespawoolf...poor doggie! The little tool is really so simple and the tick comes right off. Keep the instructions handy for the next time you are dog sitting!
Vespa Woolf from Peru, South America on June 28, 2012:
I wish I'd seen this last month! We were doggie sitting and found 7 ticks on the poor little fellow. Your step-by-step instructions are so helpful...I just hope I don't need them anytime too soon. I had no idea there was a tick remover tool!
Kaili Bisson (author) from Canada on June 23, 2012:
Hi Max, oh ticks are disgusting things, that's for sure. So glad you found this article useful :-)
BeyondMax from Sydney, Australia on June 23, 2012:
My mother has a dog, and once the poor guy encountered this beast... She had to go to the vet to get rid of it because she was scared of the tick than the guy himself. =) Thank you so much for the wonderful tips, I'll pass this important article to her! =)
Deb Hirt from Stillwater, OK on June 22, 2012:
It happens occasionally, mostly to larger birds. Many birds get lice.
Kaili Bisson (author) from Canada on June 22, 2012:
Hi aviannovice and thank you. You are so right. Ticks are a real menace these days. Please feel free to share this Hub.
Have you seen many birds with ticks?
Deb Hirt from Stillwater, OK on June 22, 2012:
Voted up, useful and awesome. Nowadays, this is info that we all need to know and take action on immediately.
How to Remove a Tick from a Dog with Vaseline
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Babesiosis, Lyme disease, anaplasmosis, hepatozoonosis, rocky mountain fever… these are some of the unpleasant illnesses transmitted by ticks. If left untreated, tick-borne diseases can become fatal. So, how can you protect your canine friend from these ugly and dangerous creatures?
Well, for starters, use safe tick-prevention strategies to repel ticks from your dog’s body. These include the use of apple cider vinegar and garlic, which can be included in his diet to make his blood less appealing to ticks. You can also buy a good tick repellent and spray his body with it. Unfortunately, some of the remedies don’t offer 100% protection for your dog. In this case, you will need to learn how to safely remove ticks from your dog as soon as you see them. There are a number of ways to do this but let’s focus on removing ticks using Vaseline.
What You’ll Need
CDC recommends using fine-tipped tweezers or tick removal tools that can allow you to grasp the ticks as close to your dog’s skin as possible.
Check this post for the best tools: 12 Best Tick Removal Tools for Dogs
Steps to Follow
- Put on your latex gloves. Although rare, some tick infestations can be transmitted to humans. For instance, in case of a scratch, you could become infected.
- Look for all the ticks embedded in your dog’s skin. This is a bit straightforward because the bite area will appear swollen. Check everywhere including the ears. Ticks are very small and can hide practically everywhere. This is especially true if you have a thick-haired mutt such as a Yorkie, Lhasa Apso, Afghan Hound, or Shih Tzu.
- Apply a generous amount of Vaseline on the tick. The idea here is to make the tick back out or remove its grip from your dog’s skin. This way, the removal becomes easy.
- Once the tick is suffocated, use the tick removal tool or tweezers to pull it off. This step is quite tricky because if you are not careful, you can rip the tick and pour its fluids right into your dog’s bloodstream. For the best results, grasp the tick at the specific point where it meets the dog’s skin (see the image below). Don’t go for the body as it could squish and pour toxins to the dog. If you grip too high, you will likely leave the tick’s mouthparts in the skin. These can develop into a tick granuloma that will need antibiotics or surgery to get rid of. After grasping the tick, pull it backward slowly. Don’t attempt to twist it in a clockwise or anti-clockwise motion as this might squash the tick as well.
- Once the entire tick is out, apply some Vaseline to suffocate it some more.
- Clean the affected area with soap and water then wash your hands as thoroughly as possible. If possible, disinfect the area with an antibiotic ointment like Polysporin, povidine iodine solution or chlorhexidine. Although no prescription is required to get the ointments, remember to dilute them to lower their concentration. You will always find dilution instructions on their labels. Alternatively, consult your vet for more professional input.
Generally, suffocating tick with Vaseline is not highly recommended because it is not very effective. It can actually induce the tick to regurgitate or drool into your dog’s skin or bloodstream, causing infections/diseases. Covering the tick with Vaseline may also cause the tick to be more slippery and difficult to grasp. A good ‘home remedy’ alternative is to use alcohol.
Check this post for more insights: How to Remove Tick from a Dog with Alcohol
- If you don’t have a tick removal tool, go ahead and use a credit card, butter knife, or guitar pick to push the tick around until it backs out. This needs to be done carefully and gently to avoid upsetting the tick in the first place. The goal is to keep the tick happy for as long as possible so that it doesn’t spit its toxins on your furry friend.
- If you care to know if the tick carries disease, don’t kill it right away. Keep it in a sealed container alongside a piece of grass and send it to your vet for testing.
- What you many people perceive to be tick’s “head” is actually not the head but mouthparts or tick jaws (to be precise). The mouthparts carry harpoon-like barbs that attach to its host, allowing it to feed. If you have a botched job (i.e if the tick’s mouthparts are left behind), attempt to remove them with clean tweezers, but if they can’t come out easily, don’t fret just leave it and allow your dog’s skin to heal. According to the CDC, they are not as infectious as an actual tick. Over time, your pooch’s body will reject and eliminate them. Nevertheless, keep a close eye on the bite area for a week or so. Watch out for things like a rash, redness, and swelling as these could indicate an infection.
- Finally, don’t resort to removing the tick by using dangerous means such as burning it with a cigarette, attaching cotton on it and pulling, and using your fingernails to pick it. All these only distress the tick and can cause serious consequences.
Ticks may be small and seemingly innocent but they carry deadly diseases that can be fatal to dogs. It, therefore, makes sense to do all you can to safely remove a tick from your dog before it does harm to its host. The more you wait to remove it from your dog, the higher the chance of disease transmission. Don’t take any chances. Use prevention strategies to keep them off your dog’s skin. In addition, check your pet as often as you can and store the necessary tools to deal with these critters right away.
Other Tick Control Guides
Curious about other tick control measures and tools? Feel free to check other our comprehensive guides to help you deal with these pesky critters:
How to prevent tick bites on dogs?
Luckily, dog owners have plenty of weapons in their arsenal to fight tick bites. Different products can help us keep our dogs safe and their health intact. There are topical products that can be put on the dog’s coat, and they will effectively repel ticks for 30 or more days. There are flea and tick repelling collars, shampoos, and pills that can make your dog safe from these disease-carrying pests. Make sure your dog’s vaccinations are up to date and that their health remains as good as possible.
Check out this article for more info - Best flea and tick treatments .
Removing Ticks from Pets
Ticks are more than just a pest that irritates a cat or a dog. They can cause terrible illness, transfer blood borne disease and in some cases, cause paralysis and even death. Once identified, it’s important to get these blood-suckers off quickly but calmly to prevent further infection.
Brown dog ticks, bush ticks and kangaroo ticks can be found in rural areas, bushlands and in parks where dogs enjoy playing. Although kangaroo ticks are found throughout rural WA but they are also prevalent in bushland and parks in the outer areas of the metropolitan area where kangaroos inhabit. The most dangerous species, the paralysis tick, is predominantly found along the east coast of Australia and does not appear to have reached WA yet.
LIFECYCLE OF A TICK
Throughout their life cycle, ticks have three blood meals. Once hatched, they climb vegetation and wait for their first host to come along so that they can feed. After being successful, they drop off the animal, moult into the nymph stage and once again climb vegetation to await another host. Again, after feeding, they drop to the ground, moult and develop into an adult. For a third time they climb high to wait for a host. The male tick stays on the host searching for a female to mate with but it doesn’t suck blood from the animal. The female does feed from the host then will drop to the ground and lay 2500 to 3000 eggs in the leaf litter.
Each time a tick sucks blood from its host, it spits toxic saliva into the bite area and then sucks it back up with a little blood. It repeats this several times over the course of its feed leaving some of the toxin behind potentially spreading disease and possibly, depending on the species, causing paralysis or even death.
Since ticks have three different blood meals from three different animals during their life cycle, they can easily transfer diseases from one host to the other. The hosts can be native animals, domestic animals and even humans. In WA there are two serious dog diseases that affect red blood cells but fortunately studies have not yet shown that Lyme disease, a very serious illness which can be transferred from animals to humans by ticks, exists in Australia.
Ticks are usually visible on an animal (or human) once they have embedded themselves into the body whilst feeding. They can be dark red, brown and dark grey in colour and swell to around 25mm once engorged. They are more commonly found on dogs than on cats, especially if the dog spends time exercising in bushland where kangaroos inhabit.
It is important to regularly check pets for ticks, especially after spending time in bushland or at parks. Spend extra time searching around the head, neck and ears but attention should also be given to the rest of the body. Sometimes skin inflammation is noticed before the tick is seen.
If the pet shows any signs of sickness, lethargy or even a slight paralysis it may have been exposed to a tick bite and veterinary assistance should be sought immediately. If the tick can’t be found, the vet may resort to clipping the fur to make them more visible.
Tick infestations are never going to be eliminated from natural bushland but on private properties their prevalence can be reduced by keeping grass short, pruning shrubs along walk paths and building high fences to prevent access by kangaroos. Clean kennels and bedding frequently, treat the environment with an approved pesticide and limit the pet’s contact with stray animals, wildlife and rodents.
Spot-on treatments and sprays which are available combined with flea treatments are the most effective and easiest of all available tick controls since one application will remain effective for up to four weeks. For animals that live in areas where ticks are prevalent, these should be applied fortnightly.
Better Pets and Gardens can offer advice on the best tick treatment to suit the size and activity of your pet and also stock safe but effective products to be used to protect the pet’s environment.
Moving too fast when removing a tick could potentially cause more problems so it is best to stay calm and have a plan.
STEP 1 – Prepare a container for the tick.
After removing a tick from the skin, it will still be alive so throwing it in the rubbish bin will not kill it. Storing it in a screw-top jar, preferably in some rubbing alcohol, will ensure that it doesn’t escape and will be useful for veterinary testing if your pet does fall ill.
STEP 2 – Prepare yourself.
Wear latex gloves to that you don’t have direct contact with the tick or the bite area which can carry infective agents. Find someone to help hold the pet so that it stays quiet whilst you remove the tick and fetch a pair of fine-pointed tweezers and some surgical spirit or disinfectant.
STEP 3 – Remove the tick
Use the tweezers to take hold of the tick as close to the animal’s skin as possible and slowly lever the tick out, pulling straight upwards with steady, even pressure. Avoid squeezing the tick’s body as it will be engorged with fluids and may cause further contamination. Do not twist the tick as this may cause the mouth-parts to remain in the skin. If this does occur it shouldn’t be too much of a problem if it can’t be removed but so long as too much digging isn’t required, it would be worth taking out. A warm compress over the area might help the body to expel the remaining mouth-piece.
STEP 4 – Disinfection
After storing the tick in the jar, disinfect the area and wash your hands with soap and water. Sterilise the tweezers before storage.
STEP 5 – Monitoring
Always monitor a pet for several weeks after it has been bitten by a tick for signs of infection, inflammation or change of demeanour and if at all concerned, seek veterinary advice.
A FINAL NOTE OF CAUTION
Some will suggest aggravating a tick by applying a volatile liquid such as methylated or surgical spirit to it or suffocating it with Vaseline to cause it to back out itself but these methods are problematic when dealing with animals and can take several hours to have success, if they do at all. In fact, these methods may result in more problems as they can make the tick spit out more poison and also, do not capture the tick which can then remain in the environment as a further risk for the pet and the family.
What to Do if a Tick Head Gets Stuck in Your Dog's Skin
Even with the careful removal of a tick, it is very common for a mouth part (or even entire head) to remain when a tick is extracted.
While we want to avoid having the tick’s mouth left in the skin, it is sometimes unavoidable. When the mouth is left in, it’s hardly the end of the world. The potential for disease transmission at this point is minimal. The body will wall off the foreign material and, in a few days, it will dissolve. The only other problem that might occur is the foreign body reaction that could also occur from a thorn or splinter. Although the embedded head does not always increase risk of infections, one must treat it in the same way, as one would a splinter.
What not to do if a tick’s head gets stuck in your dog
Perhaps just as important as what to do if a tick’s head gets stuck in your dog is what not to do. This advice is very similar to what may be recommended for people, according to tickbites.net. Never dig around in the skin to remove the remainder of the tick, as this can actually increase the risk of skin infections. Instead, it’s best to let nature take its course. Your dog’s body will expel the tick out naturally by itself.
How to prevent infection
To avoid the possibility of infection, apply an antibiotic ointment, as directed.
How will I know if there’s a problem?
Remember to watch the area for the development of a rash or irritation and be sure to see your veterinarian right away if a rash develops at the site.
If you’re concerned about the possibility of tick-borne disease, follow these links to learn more about the symptoms of:
Preventing future ticks
If you’ve just pulled a tick off of your dog, you might be wondering how you can avoid it in the future. While nothing can be 100% effective, The Companion Animal Parasite Council says, the most important thing to do to prevent ticks is to use a combination flea and tick control agent, according to your veterinarian’s instructions, all year round.
If you have any questions or concerns, you should always visit or call your veterinarian -- they are your best resource to ensure the health and well-being of your pets.