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How to remove a dog tick the right way (and what to avoid)

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Ticks are notoriously keen to hang on once they’ve had a taste of your dog.
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But these bloodsucking creatures aren’t just a nuisance – they can pass on serious tick-borne diseases. If you spot a tick on your four-legged friend, you should act immediately. Find out how to remove a tick from your dog safely and easily.

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A happy dog on a bench with his owners, protected against fleas and ticks with a Seresto flea and tick control collar

Ticks are stubborn, bloodsucking parasites that hang out in long grass and woodlands, ready to latch onto your dog when they’re passing by.

Once attached, ticks can be tricky to remove because they grip onto your pet’s skin, burying their strong mouthparts into your pet, and then holding on tight while they are feeding on your pet’s blood. 

Ticks do drop off of their own accord after they’ve finished feeding, but that can take days so don’t be tempted to wait. The longer they stay attached, the greater the risk of infection.

1. Put your gloves on

You should always wear gloves when dealing with ticks. The ticks found on your dog are very effective disease carriers and some of these diseases can also infect you and your family.

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Dog getting tick removed by person with gloves
2. Keep your pet calm

Only try to remove ticks from your dog when they are calm and happily sitting or lying down. You need your dog to stay still to get a decent grasp of the tick with a tick hook.

If you try to grab at the tick when your pet is moving around, you risk leaving part of the tick behind in your dog’s skin, which can lead to an infection. When your pet stays still you have much more chance of removing the tick in one piece.

3. Expose the tick

Once your pet is in the right position, gently part your dog’s fur around the tick and keep it flat with one hand so you have the other hand free to twist the tick out, using a tick hook.  Don’t worry, the tick isn’t going anywhere fast!

If you've found a tick in or around your dog’s ear, you’ll need to be gentle in this sensitive area, and may need to ask your vet’s advice; especially if the tick is in the ear canal itself. Find out more about how to remove ticks from around your dog's ears, and when to seek advice from your vet.

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Person parting dog’s fur to spot and remove tick
4. Twist and gently pull the tick

A tick twister, or tick hook, is shaped so it can get under the parasite’s body and twist it out in one go, without squeezing.

These hooks can be purchased from high street chemists, local vets and some supermarkets.

It’s not recommended that you use regular tweezers as it’s difficult to grasp the tick properly, so they’re likely to squash the tick or leave part of it inside your dog.

Follow the instructions on your tick hook and slowly slide it underneath the tick, twisting gently and moving steadily straight upwards to remove it.

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How to remove a tick from a dog with a tick hook
5. Dispose of the tick

You need to capture and kill the tick to ensure it can’t just crawl away or out of the bin and then bite your dog once again, or one of the family!

The best way to do this is to drop the tick into a jar or sealable container, pour some alcohol over it, close the lid and put it in the bin outside your home.  

6. Clean-up

Wipe the bite area on your pet with pet-friendly antiseptic, bin the gloves and wash your hands thoroughly. Clean your tick hook with disinfectant and store it somewhere safely for future use.

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Person cleaning hands after removing tick from dog
7. Reward your pet after tick removal

Once it’s all over, reward your dog with lots of attention, and praise them for their good behaviour.

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Dog receiving a treat after tick removal
8. Monitor your dog

Once a tick has attached, removing it safely as soon as you can is the best way to minimise the chance of it passing disease on to your dog.  However, sometimes you don’t know how long the tick was attached for before you found it, so there is always a chance that your dog could have been exposed to diseases that ticks can carry.  In the weeks to months after removing the tick, it’s important to pay close attention to your dog in case they show any signs of illness.

Contact your vet if your dog displays any of the following, or any other unusual symptoms

  • reluctance to move
  • fatigue
  • loss of appetite
  • generally seeming under the weather
9. Use a regular tick preventative on your dog

To reduce the chance that you’ll have to remove ticks from your dog, keep them protected with a regular tick treatment.

Some tick products (e.g. tablets) are active in the bloodstream, which means that ticks have to bite and feed on your pet in order to be killed.  Other products, including some spot-ons and some collars, are able to repel ticks, meaning that the tick does not have to bite the pet to be affected. 

Seresto flea and tick control collar kills fleas and repels and kills ticks for up to eight months. The collar provides long-lasting protection from these nasty critters, to help keep your pooch healthy and happy.

Common mistakes to avoid when removing a dog tick

Mistake #1 – Removing a tick with your fingers

Ticks can pass disease on to people as well as to your dog. They can carry Lyme disease, a serious infection which can be transmitted to both dogs and humans via an infected tick bite. Always wear gloves when handling ticks, and use a tick hook to remove the tick from your dog, to avoid leaving a part of the tick behind in your dog’s skin.

Mistake #2 – Crushing a tick

It might be tempting to crush a tick you see on your dog, but there’s a risk that this could squeeze some of the contents of the tick into your dog’s bloodstream, and it is possible that this could increase the risk of disease transmission.

Mistake #3 – Smothering a tick with nail polish or petroleum jelly

Do not attempt to remove a tick by trying to suffocate or kill it with nail polish or petroleum jelly. These methods are not effective and can actually make matters worse; the tick may not necessarily die, and the longer the tick is attached for, the higher the risk of infection. They may also cause a skin reaction in your dog.

Mistake #4 ­– Burning a tick to remove it

Burning a tick is very dangerous for your dog and for you. The best way to remove a tick is using a tick hook.

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Check your dog for ticks after walks, especially if you are in an area of the country where ticks are common
Checking for ticks on your dog

If you live in or are traveling to areas of the country that are known to have high numbers of ticks, your dog may be at risk. Your dog may not even know it has become a blood meal for a hungry tick, so you need to be vigilant.

  • Check your dog thoroughly after ‘walkies’ – Regular tick checks are a must for dogs walking in long grass and wooded areas. When you return after your walk, run your hands across your dog’s body to feel for the ‘small bump’ of an attached tick. Pay particular attention to your dog’s head and ears, the area under the collar and between the toes, armpits and groin, as ticks often attach to these areas, but they can attach anywhere.
  • Use a hairdryer to find ticks on long-haired pooches – Ticks are easily hidden in long-haired animals or those with thick fur. You might find it effective to use a hairdryer on the ‘cool’ setting to help you part the fur and find the tick more easily.
  • Watch out for scratching and biting – Some dogs may show signs of skin irritation, scratching and biting at their skin if a tick has attached, although more commonly dogs don’t even notice a tick is there, which is why you need to regularly check your dog’s coat if you live in an area where ticks are common. If a tick has managed to attach itself to your dog’s ear, they may also shake their head more often to try to rid themselves of the tick tickle. Use a torch to examine your dog’s ears for anything that might be hiding there, but if you spot a tick within the ear canal itself, speak to your vet for advice. 

Read on for more advice about how to tell if your dog has been bitten by a tick.

 

Did you know…?

Ex-England rugby captain Matt Dawson had to have heart surgery after being bitten by an infected tick in a park in London.

References:

  1. This information is regarding mode of action and is not intended to imply ticks can be completely stopped from biting. An attachment of single ticks after treatment cannot be excluded; for this reason, a transmission of infectious diseases cannot be completely excluded if conditions are unfavourable.
  2. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-40973709
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