How to find and remove ticks in dogs

Ticks encephalitis on the dog's nose.  A dangerous insect, a carrier of the disease

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May is Lyme Disease Awareness Month, which means ticks are on our minds — but hopefully not on our dogs!

Lyme disease is spread by ticks that carry bacteria and pass them on through their bites. It’s one of many reasons pet parents need to know how to find and remove ticks from our puppies.

Since tick season is already underway in most of the United States, we need to monitor our dogs whenever they spend time outdoors. Lyme disease isn’t the only nasty thing ticks can spread. Rocky Mountain spotted fever, tularemia, and anaplasmosis are just some of the other conditions dogs can get from tick bites.

So how should you check your dog for ticks? And what should you do if you find one? Here’s a guide to catching these leeches in the act and what to do if they bite your dog.

How to check your dog for ticks

Close-up of human using hands to remove dog tick from fur

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During tick season — which is spring and summer in some places, but can be year-round in milder climates — you should have your dog checked for ticks after every walk outside in undergrowth or woods. It is a good idea to put on latex gloves earlier, as you can contract illness if you come into contact with the tick’s fluids.

Run your hands over your dog’s body and feel for pea-sized lumps. If you feel anything, spread their fur so you can get a closer look at the skin.

Ticks can attach themselves anywhere, but common areas are the ears, head, neck, shoulders, groin, and between the toes.

What you are looking for: Tear-shaped bodies with eight legs. For a meal, they can be as small as a sesame seed or, if full of blood, about the size of a pea. They can be brown, black, tan or reddish.

Here’s a comprehensive guide to tick season and what types of ticks you should expect to see where you live.

How to remove ticks from your dog?

Close-up of a full tick in a dog's fur with human hands holding green pliers to remove it

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To remove the tick, you’ll need tweezers — fine-tipped tweezers work best — or a drawing tool. There are some highly regarded tick removal tools on Chewy if you don’t want to use your everyday tweezers on dirty ticks.

  • Grab the tick with the tweezers or tool by the head or mouthparts, as close to your dog’s skin as possible. Do not grasp or squeeze the tick’s body; this allows the tick to expel disease-carrying fluids.
  • Once you have the tick, pull it straight back, steady and firm. Do not squeeze or twist while pulling.
  • Drop the tick in rubbing alcohol to kill it. These hardy insects can survive if flushed down the toilet or drain. Squeezing the tick with your fingers is not recommended, as the liquid that comes out can cause illness.
  • Clean the bite area with a cotton ball dipped in rubbing alcohol. You may want to follow it up with a little antibiotic ointment.

Don’t worry if the tick’s head is still attached to your dog; it will probably come out on its own. Keep an eye on the area and see your vet if you see any signs of infection.

DO NOT try pinching the tick off with your fingers or apply burnt matches, petroleum jelly, and the like. These tricks can make matters worse by irritating the tick, causing it to expel disease-causing fluids — not to mention the danger of burning your dog with a match.

Have you ever found a tick on your dog? What is your best technique for removing them? Let us know in the comments below!

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