5 Nifty Tips for Dog Tick Removal

Angela Vuckovic
by Angela Vuckovic

Check out the most important do’s and dont’s of getting a tick off your dog’s body.

In the spring and summer months, repelling ticks is on top of any pet parent’s list. As the weather gets warmer, the bloodsucking arachnids crawl out of the hiding and look for a host- and more often than not, they manage to bite an unsuspecting furball. Here’s what to do if you see a tick attached to your dog’s skin:

Prepare the area beforehand

When you locate the devious little freeloader, dab the surrounding area with rubbing alcohol. You’ll need to disinfect your pet’s skin once again when the tick is pulled out.

Use the right tools

To properly extract a tick that’s embedded in your pet’s skin, you’ll need to use adequate tools. A pair of tweezers, previously sterilized with rubbing alcohol, or a tick remover tool such as tick key or tick twister would be the best choice.

However, if you’re outdoors and don’t have anything on hand, use a paper tissue- but be very careful. Never handle the tick with your bare hands as this can increase your risk of contracting a tick-borne illness. If possible, wear a pair of latex gloves from your first aid kit during the removal.

Mind your technique

Just using the right tools for tick removal is not enough: proper technique is what ensures the tick is safely out of the skin. Grab the tick by the head or the mouth and slowly pull it out. If using a pair of tweezers, you want to pull straight out, not on an angle. This is the best way to make sure that you’ll be able to remove the entire tick including the mouth portion that has been embedded in your dog’s skin.

On the other hand, tick keys have been designed differently. After placing the hole of the tick key over the tick, you don’t want to lift the key off your dog’s skin at any point during the removal. Instead, slide the key flush along the skin and it will lift and remove the tick carefully for you. 

Don’t twist it to dislodge and be careful not to crush it, as it might result in the tick releasing harmful substances into your pet’s bloodstream.

Also, try and make your furball comfortable (or distract them with a toy) during the process, as jerking and wiggling will make it harder for you to safely take out the tick.

One effective way to keep cats and dogs still is to use a LickiMat. This is a small silicone mat with an uneven texture that is used by spreading a soft food or treat across the mat. Some ideas for foods include canned food, peanut butter, plain yogurt, mashed sweet potato, mashed berries, or baby food. Not only will your pet be focused on licking the mat to remove all traces of their favorite treat, but studies show that the process of licking food off the mat is calming for pets and helps to relieve stress.

After removal, make sure to clean the area thoroughly either with rubbing alcohol or with soap and water. This will help to remove any toxins that may have been released by the tick during the removal process as well as to lessen the chances of infection.

Don’t use dubious tick removal tricks

There are many myths circling the internet about “hacks” for quick and easy tick removal, but they can often do more harm than good.

Never use any methods that promise to “drown” or “smother” the tick, such as petroleum jelly, gasoline, or nail polish, as it won’t dislodge the head from the skin.

Not only do these “tricks” not work, but they can also make the process of removing the tick when the original approach doesn’t work more challenging. A tick that’s covered in petroleum jelly is going to be much harder to get a grip on than it would have been without.

Of course, it should go without saying that freezing and burning methods should never be attempted as well – not only that they’re extremely dangerous for your pet, but they’re also ineffective.

Instead, the ticks will often respond to the added stress either by burrowing deeper into the skin or by salivating or regurgitating under the skin which increases the chances of infection as many tick-borne diseases are transferred through the saliva of the tick.

Properly dispose of the tick

Successfully removing the tick is the main part of the job, but don’t forget to eliminate the bloodsucker for good. If not properly disposed of, a tick can reattach itself to your pet or you.

The best method is to take the tick and put it in a jar filled with rubbing alcohol: this will kill it after a few hours, and preserve them in case your vet needs to identify it later on.

If you know that you are bringing the tick in for identification, you can carefully seal it in a Ziploc-style bag until you bring it in. Take the time to make sure that the bag is fully sealed and secured so that the tick can’t escape during the time between removal and handing it over to your veterinarian or public health official.

Testing is important for those that live in an area where diseases are known to exist, such as Lyme disease. By determining if a tick is carrying a disease, you will have a better idea of the risk that you or your pet may have contracted it. If it is suspected that your dog may be showing signs of disease but there is no definitive diagnosis, your veterinarian may recommend testing the tick after the fact.

For pet owners that don’t have rubbing alcohol on hand, another option is to flush the tick down the toilet, but this does leave you without the tick for testing at a later time.

When the pesky parasite is removed, make sure to monitor your pet for any sign of tick-related diseases. It usually takes for the tick to be attached for 24 to 48 hours before they get a chance to infect your pet, but in any case, it’s better to eliminate the possibility of tick-borne diseases than to ignore what could be the signs of an often fatal illness.

Angela Vuckovic
Angela Vuckovic

A proud mama to seven dogs and ten cats, Angela spends her days writing for her fellow pet parents and pampering her furballs, all of whom are rescues. When she's not gushing over her adorable cats or playing with her dogs, she can be found curled up with a good fantasy book.

More by Angela Vuckovic