How To Remove Ticks from Your Dog
As the weather warms up and plants start springing back to life, dogs and humans alike love to get outdoors and explore the world. Whether you’re spending your time hiking in the woods, frolicking in meadows, or even just strolling in the park, ticks are a big risk, and knowing how to remove ticks from your dog is an essential skill for pet owners.
Ticks are small, single-bodied insects that feed on blood. They are not picky about what they eat—most will attach with ease to any mammal (human or otherwise), bird, or insect. Ticks often carry diseases, so it’s important to remove them from your body or your dog’s body as soon as possible.
Tick Diseases To Avoid
There are two types of anaplasmosis, both spread by the deer tick (which also spreads Lyme Disease). Common symptoms of this disease include:
- Joint pain
- Lack of appetite
- In rare cases, vomiting, diarrhea, coughing, breathing trouble, and seizures
A less common form of anaplasmosis causes a reduction in platelets and can lead to bruising, nosebleeds, and other extra bleeding.
Babesiosis invades your dog’s red blood cells and can be fatal if left untreated. Symptoms of this disease include:
- Pale gums
- Dark urine
- Yellow skin
Babesiosis causes severe anemia, so you should seek treatment from your vet as soon as possible if you suspect that your dog has picked up the disease.
Ehrlichiosis is a disease that attacks dogs’ white blood cells. It is more common in the eastern and southeastern United States and causes symptoms such as:
- Weight loss
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Eye and nose discharge
If your dog shows these symptoms, you will need to speak to a vet about treatment as soon as possible.
Lyme Disease is a bacterial infection that causes:
- Loss of appetite
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Painful joints
When Lyme Disease is untreated, it can cause paralysis and other serious health problems. Humans are also susceptible to Lyme Disease, although we cannot get it from dogs—only ticks carry and spread the disease.
Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever
Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever is also a bacterial infection. It causes symptoms such as:
- Muscle and joint pain
- Lack of appetite
- Face or leg swelling
Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever can quickly become severe and even fatal, so if you notice that your dog is exhibiting these symptoms, take them to the vet right away for antibiotics.
How To Check for Ticks on Your Dog
After a romp in the great outdoors, you should always check your dog for ticks. Ticks most commonly like dark and enclosed spaces, so check your dog’s head, neck, paws, and ears first. However, especially in dogs with lots of fur, ticks will likely be comfortable anywhere, so don’t neglect to check the rest of your dog’s body as well.
Ticks are tiny, some barely noticeable to the human eye, some about the size of a fingertip. In addition to using your eyes, be sure to run your hands over your dog to feel for any unnatural bumps. You may want to wear rubber kitchen gloves to prevent exposure to infected blood.
How To Remove a Tick from Your Dog
Once you’ve found a tick on your dog, it’s time to begin the removal process. If you have them, wear gloves to prevent the spread of infected blood. Then, grab either a tick-removal tool or a pair of tweezers with a sharp, pointed head. You will also want a bag or other closed container in which to place the tick and rubbing alcohol or another pet-friendly antiseptic.
Step 1: Calm Your Dog
If your dog is jumping around or trying to play, pulling off a tick will be incredibly difficult. Try to calm your dog by giving them a favorite toy or bone to chew on. If you can’t calm them down, get someone to hold them still while you remove the tick.
Step 2: Uncover the Tick
Push your dog’s fur back from the tick and hold it in place. You can use water or rubbing alcohol to help keep the hair slicked back and prevent it from getting in your way.
Step 3: Pull the Tick Off
Using the tick-removal tool or fine-point tweezers, grasp the tick by sliding the tool underneath the body as near your dog’s skin as possible. Pull slowly straight upward—don’t twist or pull to the side.
As you may know, ticks are single-bodied, but they embed their mouth deeply into the skin of whatever creature they choose to bite. If you pull quickly or off to the side, you risk pulling the tick’s body off but leaving the mouth embedded, which will make complete removal much more difficult.
Step 4: Disinfect the Area
Once you’ve removed the tick, drop it into an enclosed container of some kind. Then, rinse the bite area with rubbing alcohol or another disinfectant. Rinse the tool you used as well, toss your gloves, and be sure to thoroughly wash your hands.
Step 5: Dispose of the Tick
Ticks are difficult to kill, but it’s important that you do so to prevent the spread of infection. Before disposing of the tick, though, don’t forget to snap a photo! That way, if your dog gets sick, you can show your vet what the tick looked like so they know what kind of tick bit your dog and can more effectively diagnose your pup.
According to the CDC, the best ways to remove a tick include:
- Placing in a sealed bag/container and throwing out
- Drowning in alcohol
- Wrapping it tightly in tape and throwing out
- Flushing down the toilet
What If You Miss the Tick’s Mouth?
If you don’t manage to get the tick’s mouth out of the skin, you can either call your vet or leave it there to fall out on its own. Avoid poking and prodding the mouth parts as that could push it deeper into the skin and cause irritation or infection. Instead, wash with warm soapy water and leave it, keeping an eye out for redness or inflammation that may indicate an infection.
How To Avoid Ticks
If you don’t want to deal with removing a tick in the first place, your best bet is to take some preventative measures to avoid ticks. One major measure is to get your dog the vaccine for Lyme Disease if you know that that is common in your area. Other steps include:
- Buy a collar, topical medication, or oral medication made to repel ticks
- Know when tick season is in your area and be extra vigilant during that time
- Understand what areas of your locale ticks prefer to inhabit
- Check your dog for ticks every day
- Know and watch for signs of illness
If you can follow these steps, keeping your dog safe from ticks should be a fairly straightforward task. Just be sure you’re aware of these symptoms so you can reach out to your vet if necessary.