Ticks can nest in your dog’s skin and cause irritation and tick-borne illnesses with serious health consequences.
You may notice signs of a tick bite, such as scratching or paw licking, or find ticks as part of a regular checkup. If you discover a tick on your dog, it is important to remove it quickly and safely.
Read on to learn how to identify ticks on your dog and the best way to remove them. Plus signs and symptoms of common tick-borne diseases to watch out for.
Check your dog for ticks
Dr. Laura Goodman, an assistant professor in Cornell University’s Department of Public & Ecosystem Health, recommends checking your dog for ticks “after a walk or a trip to the dog park, especially in the woods or near tall grass.”
Make it a habit to check on your dog whenever you groom him. If your dog needs help staying calm during this process, take him for a walk beforehand or use dog treat puzzles to tire him out.
Part your dog’s fur with a comb and check:
- Around her head and her ears
- Between her toes
- Under the tail and near the groin
- In her armpits
- Under her collar
Ticks prefer dark, damp places, so you’ll want to have a bright light on hand to spot them.
Ticks come in four stages: eggs, larvae, nymphs and adult ticks. Larval and nymphal ticks are small and difficult to detect on your dog. They can look like grains of sand in your dog’s fur.
Adult ticks are large and easy to spot. You may even feel them as large bumps on your dog’s skin.
Tick removal accessories
You can safely remove ticks at home with these tools:
- Tweezers or tick removal tool
- Small lockable container
- Isopropyl alcohol
- Antibiotic ointment
- Magnifying glass
How to remove a tick from a dog
Tweezers and tick removal tools are the best ways to safely remove a tick at home. “Never try to use a flame or chemicals,” says Goodman.
Remove the tick with a tick removal device
Goodman says tick removal tools are great for adult ticks.
There are many tick removal tools available, but most resemble a plastic hook with a notch. Always follow the instructions included with your tick removal device. However, if you have a hook tool:
- Slide the tool over your dog’s skin until the tick’s head sits firmly in the notch of the hook.
- Gently rotate the tool until the tick comes loose. Do not pull in any direction to remove the tick unless your tool’s instructions direct you to do so.
- Lift the tick from your dog’s skin and set it aside. Be careful not to destroy or throw away the tick, as your veterinarian may want to examine the tick.
Remove the tick with tweezers
Goodman recommends tweezers for all ticks. Fine-tipped tweezers are particularly suitable for tick larvae or nymphs that are too small for other tools.
- Grasp the tick’s head with tweezers and get as close to your dog’s skin as possible. Don’t press too hard – you don’t want to crush the tick.
- Pull outward in a straight, firm motion. Do not twist or shake the tweezers. This could break the tick while its head is still under your dog’s skin.
- Set the tick aside so you can show it to your vet later.
What to do after removing a tick on a dog
Once you’ve removed the tick, there are a few more things you need to do to maintain your dog’s health.
1. Place the tick in a sealed container
Place the tick in a small container filled with isopropyl alcohol. This will kill and preserve the tick in case your vet needs to examine it later.
Your veterinarian may want to examine the tick to see if it transmits disease.
2. Make sure there are no tick parts left in your dog
Check the area with bright light. Any leftover head parts should look like dark spots or splinters under your dog’s skin.
If part of the tick’s head has broken off on your dog, do not attempt to remove it yourself. Instead, ask your vet for help.
3. Clean the tick bite
Clean the tick site with soap and water or a non-stinging antiseptic. Then apply antibiotic ointment.
Ticks carry bacteria on their heads. This helps prevent secondary infection of the wound
4. Monitor your dog for symptoms of tick-borne illness
Monitor your dog’s condition closely for three weeks after the bite.
“Dogs are susceptible to many of the same tick-borne diseases as humans,” says Goodman. This includes Lyme disease, a common disease in dogs and humans caused by tick bites.
“Dogs do not develop the bullseye rash that people sometimes get when exposed to the Lyme disease pathogen,” warns Goodman. She recommends paying attention to the following:
- joint swelling
- Decreased appetite
If your dog starts behaving differently – like changing his sleeping habits – it could be another sign that something is wrong.
Illnesses can be dangerous. “If you are concerned that your dog is unwell, your veterinarian should be the first point of contact,” says Goodman.
How to prevent tick bites
The best way to prevent tick-borne diseases is to prevent tick bites. The CDC recommends take several steps:
- Check your dog regularly for ticks. If you’re lucky, you can catch the tick before it can bite your dog.
- Remove ticks quickly. The sooner you remove a tick, the less likely it is to transmit disease.
- Reduce the presence of ticks in places where your dog hangs out, such as your yard. Using pesticides, mowing your lawn regularly, and keeping tick-carrying wildlife out of your yard can help.
Some collars such as Seresto and topical solutions such as K9 Advantix II and Vectra 3D have a tick-repellent effect. Goodman recommends speaking to your veterinarian about appropriate preventative treatments for your dog.
Frequently asked questions about tick removal
If you have a question about ticks that are not covered here, contact a veterinarian for more information.
Can you remove a tick from a dog with petroleum jelly?
Do not try to remove a tick with petroleum jelly or other folk remedies. The best way to remove a tick from your dog is to use tweezers or a tick removal device.
What attracts a tick to a dog?
The CDC recommends removing ticks as quickly as possible. Attempting to lure the tick out using chemicals or other methods will only delay removal. Tweezers and tick removal tools remain the best options for removing ticks from your dog.
Can you give a dog Benadryl for tick bites?
Benadryl can help relieve itching and swelling from tick bites in dogs. You can use it after removing the tick if your dog’s skin is irritated. However, note that it does not treat tick-borne diseases.
How do you kill a tick?
After removing a tick with a tick remover or tweezers, place it in a container with isopropyl alcohol. This kills the tick.
Do not crush the tick to kill it. This makes later analysis by your veterinarian more difficult.
Tick bites can lead to serious illnesses. Watch for signs that your dog is carrying a tick, such as: B. Excessive scratching or licking of paws. If you spot a tick, quickly remove it with tweezers or a tick removal device.