Searches for ‘How to Remove a Tick from a Dog’ peak each Spring. This is the time when tick infestations increase. High humidity and lots of rainfall make tall vegetation a perfect place for ticks to thrive. Dogs can pick up ticks from vegetation during walks or even from the garden. Ticks can spread disease such as Lyme Disease or babesiosis. Quick and proper removal is important to reduce infection risk.
Ticks are a parasite that feed on the blood of their host. They can feed for a couple of days to two weeks before dropping off. In this time, they can transfer diseases to the host.
There are many species of tick, but they commonly fall in to two families. Hard ticks (Ixodidae) and soft ticks (Argasidae) are typically responsible for infesting dogs and cats.
Ticks can attach anywhere on the body. However, they are more common on bare and thin skinned areas such as the face, ears and abdomen. See our 5-step guide on how to remove a tick from a dog.
How to Remove a Tick from a Dog
- Prepare – Ticks can carry diseases that can affect humans as well as dogs. Wear gloves to reduce the risk of infection. Ensure you can restrain your dog long enough to remove the tick. An extra pair of hands will help!
- Remove – The recommended method of removing a tick is with tweezers or a tick removal tool. With tweezers, grasp the tick as close to the dog’s skin as possible without nipping the skin. With a tick removal tool, slide the tick between the two prongs. When ready, pull in a swift, linear motion away from the dog to remove the tick. Do not twist as you pull*. This can leave the mouthparts of the tick embedded in the skin.
- Preserve – Place the tick in a sealed jar filled with isopropyl alcohol to kill and preserve the tick. Although this step is not necessary, having a sample allows a vet to identify the species of tick. This can be useful if your dog later develops an infection or disease from the tick bite.
- Cleanse – Clean the area where the tick was attached with antibacterial wipes or spray. These are a useful addition to any pet first aid kit!
- Monitor – Watch for infection or inflammation at the tick bite area. Monitor your pet for any signs of tick-related disease and do not hesitate to contact your vet if you notice signs of them becoming unwell in the days following removal of the tick.
*Some commercial tools are designed to allow the user to twist. See individual packaging for details.
There are a few methods suggested for removing a tick. Most of these are ineffective, see some common tick removal myths below.
The preferred method of tick removal is to manually remove the tick with tweezers or a tick-removal tool 1.
The longer a tick is attached, the more difficult it can be to remove. This is due to the secretion of ‘cement’ around the bite area that attaches attached the tick to the host.
Which Tick Remover Should You Use?
- O’Tom Tick Twister Silicone Grip – Touted as the original, this tick remover is easy to use and allows you to twist when removing the tick.
- Tick Remover Card – Handy credit card shaped tick remover that will fit in your wallet.
- Lifesystems Tick Remover – Tweezer-like tick remover with hooked points that are durable and effective.
- Budget Remover Hook Tool – Cheap hook shaped tick removal tool.
- TickKey Tick Remover – Similar to the tick remover card, this tool will fit on your keyring.
- Tweezers – You’ll probably already have a pair of these lying around the home!
A 2006 study looked at the removal of 236 ticks by veterinarians and pet owners with different tick removal tools. The slit and rotate tool (image above e.g. O’Tom Tick Twister) was found to be easier to use and more efficient than tweezers 2.
Common Tick Removal Myths
Myth 1 – Petroleum Jelly
Smothering a tick in petroleum jelly is thought to stop the tick being able to breathe. The tick is then supposed to drop off. Unfortunately, this isn’t true. Ticks have such a slow respiration rate, they only need to breathe a few times per hour.
Myth 2 – Fingernail Polish
Similar to petroleum jelly, covering a tick in fingernail polish is thought to prevent respiration. The volatile compounds in the polish are supposed to contribute to faster detachment of the tick. Again, as ticks breathe so infrequently, this method is not effective.
Myth 3 – Rubbing Alcohol
Once again thought to stop respiration, alcohol is supposed to cause ticks to drop off. Unfortunately this doesn’t work. However, isopropyl alcohol will disinfect the area, which is beneficial once the tick has been removed with tweezers or a tick removal tool.
Myth 4 – Match / Lighter / Flame
This is the most dangerous myth. Hot objects or flames can cause burns to the dog and do not cause the tick to drop off. Even worse, they can cause a tick to burst causing exposure to infected fluids! Heat can also cause a tick to regurgitate infected fluids back in to the wound leading to infection.
Tips for Avoiding Tick Infestation
Avoid Tick Hotspots
Any area with plenty of wildlife and lush vegetation can be a perfect habitat for ticks. Some places are more prone to ticks than others however.
Places in the UK known to be hotspots include; New Forest, Exmoor, the South Downs, Thetford Forest, the Lake District, the North Yorkshire Moors, and the Highlands and Islands of Scotland. See the map below for UK tick hotspots 3.
Inspect Animals Regularly
Prompt removal of ticks is key to preventing transmission of disease. After walking your dog in areas where ticks could be present, do a visual check to make sure there are no unwanted guests. It is also a good idea to do these checks regularly, as ticks can also be found in the garden.
Use Tick Repellents
If you think your pet could be at risk of a tick infestation, there are many tick repellents available as well as home-made solutions. Use these repellents when heading in to areas where ticks could be a problem.
- Guisto, J. (1986). Evaluation of five popular methods of tick removal. Annals of Emergency Medicine, 15(4), pp.499-500. ↩
- Zenner, L., Drevon-Gaillot, E. and Callait-Cardinal, M. (2006). Evaluation of four manual tick-removal devices for dogs and cats. Veterinary Record, 159(16), pp.526-529. ↩
- Tick (Ixodes ricinus) distribution map for England, Scotland, Wales Ref: PHE publications gateway number: 2015612 ↩