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How to Remove a Tick from a Dog

How to Remove a Tick from a Dog | BetterVet

Tick bites can cause serious health issues in dogs. As a dog parent, it's essential to know how to safely remove a tick from a dog and protect your dog from ticks. In this article, we'll provide easy-to-follow instructions on safe dog tick removal.

What Exactly Are Ticks?

Ticks are arachnid parasites that live in long grasses and brush and wait for a host to come nearby. Ticks can smell the host and sense heat and movement when the opportunity arises. 

How Do Ticks Attach Themselves to Dogs?

Ticks attach to the skin of your dog by burying their head and mouthparts. A tick on a dog can often stay attached for hours up to 1–2 days. During that time, they suck blood from their host, putting your dog at risk for various diseases transmitted through the tick's saliva.

How to Get Ticks off Dogs

If you find a tick, it’s best to remove it immediately to prevent disease transmission. Consider the following steps to help you learn how to remove a tick from a dog.
  1. Ensure your dog is calm or distracted. Treats and petting by another family member work well.
  2. Dampen the fur around the tick to get the fur to lay flat. Some evidence shows that rubbing alcohol or peroxide can cause the tick to loosen its grip.
  3. Use tweezers or, in a pinch, small needle-nosed pliers. There are also commercial tick remover tools that work very well.
  4. Holding your instrument parallel to the skin, grasp the tick as close to your dog’s skin as possible and pull upward in one smooth, straight motion. Do not twist or yank. It should take 2–3 seconds to remove the tick.
  5. Do not panic if the head remains embedded in your dog, as this is common. If you can see it, you may be able to grasp it and remove it, but do not poke or dig at it, as this could cause it to embed further. If you cannot remove it, simply monitor the area. Most of the time, the dog’s body will attack the foreign object and work it out of the skin within a few days, similar to a splinter. If you notice excessive swelling or irritation, have your pet evaluated, as some tick bites can become infected.

What Do Ticks Look Like on Dogs?

Pet parents often mistake moles and small growths for ticks. Ticks will have eight noticeable legs attached to their abdomens; these are visible because only the head is embedded in the skin. Ticks are often small, black or brown, and oval in shape. It may be helpful to search for pictures of ticks on dogs to get a better idea of what you should be looking for.

What Does an Engorged Tick Look Like on a Dog?

Engorged ticks have been attached to your dog for over a day, gorging themselves on your pet's blood. An engorged tick on a dog will be larger than an un-engorged tick.

What Does an Embedded Tick Look Like on a Dog?

Embedded ticks on dogs sometimes appear as a scar or a scab, so it is common that these are missed by pet owners. Before a tick has eaten and become engorged, it may look like a tiny mole, wart, or dark skin tag.

Health Problems in Dogs From Tick Bites

Ticks carry many diseases, such as Lyme disease and other diseases that can attack dogs’ red blood cells, leading to anemia. Many pet owners falsely believe that Lyme disease shows up as a bullseye tick bite on a dog. However, this is often not the cause, and most dogs with Lyme disease do not have that "tell-tale" bullseye bite mark.

Tick diseases can be transmitted within a few hours of tick attachment. For this reason, the removal of ticks from dogs should be done as soon as possible.

If you find a tick, check every part of your dog’s body to make sure no others are hiding. Don’t forget to check between the toes! Typically, no signs of disease will be seen for 6–8 weeks, so make a note of when your dog was bitten.

Symptoms of tick-borne illnesses in dogs may include:

  1. Lethargy
  2. Limping
  3. Muscle pain
  4. Fever

If you see any of these symptoms in your dog, schedule a BetterVet appointment right away. Blood work is often done if tick-borne illnesses are suspected; however, it takes 6–12 weeks after attachment to see a positive result on most tests. After removing the tick, it may be helpful to save it for your BetterVet to perform Lyme disease testing. If your dog exhibits symptoms of Lyme disease, we recommend saving the tick whenever possible.

Preventing Your Dog From Getting Bit by Ticks

The best way to prevent tick bites on dogs is by ensuring your dog is on a high-quality tick preventative year-round. There are many excellent tick prevention options that your BetterVet veterinary doctor can discuss with you during your visit. Some examples include the Seresto collar, Simparica monthly pill, and monthly topical treatments.

In addition to tick prevention, it's important to make sure your dog is protected against other common illnesses. Speak with your veterinary doctor about dog vaccinations at home to help ensure your dog stays happy, healthy, and protected!

Frequently Asked Questions

How big are ticks?

Adult ticks are about the size of an apple seed, while nymphs are about the size of a poppy seed.

Where do ticks commonly attach to dogs?

Common locations to spot a tick on a dog are between the toes, in the ears, or under the tail. However, ticks can attach anywhere on your dog. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), pet owners should also check for ticks around the eyelids, under the collar, and under the front legs of their dogs.

Take an Active Role in Tick Prevention

Take an active role in tick prevention for your dog by staying on top of your pet's health care.

BetterVet offers mobile pet care, giving your pet exceptional care right in the comfort of your own home. Book an appointment today with a BetterVet veterinary doctor to get started!

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