How to remove a tick from a dog

Ah, the tick... Those grey, round, blood-sucking balls of grossness that are a pain to find on your dog and even worse to remove. *shivers*

It's time to take your squeamish hat off as we're about to dive into all things tick related; how to find them, how to remove them safely and what it means for you and your dog. Ready?

What are the signs and symptoms of a tick on a dog?

Ticks are funny little creatures. It can be easy to miss them at first as they're so small before they sink their teeth in.

What do ticks look like?

  • Ticks start off as a browny shade and look a lot like a spider making them harder to see and feel on your dog. You could easily stroke your dog and not notice one at this size or you may just assume it's a small scab, piece of debris or dirt.
  • After a day or two the tick begins to feed, swells in size and turns a shade of grey – a result of its big appetite. Once they get to this stage they're easier to spot and feel on your dog.
  • A tick has a small head with a beak-like structure for its mouth that burrows into the skin. It has a large body – especially once it has started feeding – and eight legs. If you look really closely you will probably even see these moving around. Yikes!

How to identify a tick on a dog

Unlike fleas, ticks don’t tend to bother dogs too much. Under normal circumstances, there aren’t many warning signs you can look out for.

However, if your dog has a large tick infestation or a tick that has gone unnoticed for a while you may see skin irritation, allergy type symptoms, lethargy or hair loss. In these cases, your dog may be having a severe reaction to this parasite and you will need to seek veterinary advice.

The best way to know if your dog has a tick is to regularly stroke, groom and inspect the fur of your pet. Basically give them allllll the cuddles. 

Should I be worried if I find a tick on my dog?

Ticks are very common for dogs to pick up, especially during the warmer weather and if you're walking them through long grass or wooded areas. Like fleas, they are something we have to deal with from time to time as pet owners but they shouldn’t be a huge cause for concern unless your dog has a lot of them or is showing signs of being unwell.

Ticks can carry Lyme disease and symptoms of this include:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Seeming low/depressed
  • A fever
  • Lameness
  • Swollen and painful joints
  • Swollen lymph nodes

Which is why it is really important to get rid of a tick on your dog as soon as you come across them. Leaving them on can increase the risk of the transfer of infections or diseases.

How do I safely remove a tick?

The best way to get rid of a tick is to purchase a tick removal tool from your local pet shop. In the past, people may have been advised to use tweezers but if used incorrectly, you could risk leaving the mouth or legs behind which can lead to further complications. 

Step-by-step guide to removing a tick:

  1. Slide your tick removal tool under the tick, as close to your dog’s skin as you possibly can.
  2. Make sure the tick feels as though it is held firmly inside the hook.
  3. Twist the tool two to three times in one direction until you feel the tick loosen from its grasp. It is important to never pull a tick off. 
  4. Slowly lift the tick removal tool away, if the tick easily starts to come with it you can fully remove it.
  5. Get rid of the tick to ensure it can’t become a further problem. Many people flush them down the toilet.
  6. Carefully assess the skin where the tick was attached and check there are no obvious signs of infection. Clean the area with warm soapy water and monitor your dog for any signs of illness.

How to remove a tick from your dog

What not to do when removing a tick

Never squeeze a tick, pull it off with your fingers, squash it or use any harmful chemicals on it. It is imperative that you remove the whole tick.

Can humans get ticks?

Yes, humans can get ticks but this usually occurs when you're out walking your dog rather than from your dog. They don’t jump like fleas so don’t tend to leave their host for another host if they are happily feeding.

If you brush against long grass or rushes or even if you walk through freshly cut grass, young ticks can take full advantage of this and clamber on. Luckily for us, we don’t have fur they can hide away in so they are usually easier to spot.

Like with dogs, you should remove any ticks asap. If you see any irritation or start to feel unwell contact your doctor immediately.

How to prevent ticks in the future

Many flea treatments will also come with the guarantee of being a tick repellent too so ensuring that you regularly de-flea your dog will help to prevent ticks.

As hard as it can be, avoid areas you know can be rife with ticks at certain times of the year.

We can’t stop our dogs from getting ticks completely but we can try our best to help.