How to Remove a Tick from Your Pet
So, you’ve found a tick on your pet—how do you deal with it? While it’s important to get these little suckers off quickly, ASPCA veterinarians advise that you stay calm and don’t rush it. Moving too fast when removing a tick could potentially create more problems, both for your pet and for you.
While the following instructions employ tweezers, be aware that there are some very good products on the market designed specifically for safe tick removal. If you live in a tick-heavy area or are taking your pets to a place where they are likely to get ticks, it’s a good idea to buy one of these tools and have it on hand. They generally work better than tweezers at getting out the whole tick, and are relatively inexpensive.
Step-by-Step Tick Removal Instructions
Step 1—Prepare its Final Resting Place
Throwing a tick in the trash or flushing it down the toilet will not kill it, and it’s actually best to hold on to it for awhile for veterinary testing in case your pet falls ill from the bite. Be ready with somewhere to put the tick after you’ve removed it—the best option is a screw-top jar containing some rubbing alcohol.
Step 2—Don’t Bare-Hand It
Put on latex or rubber gloves so you’ll never have direct contact with the tick or your pet’s bite area. Ticks can carry infective agents that may enter your bloodstream through breaks in your skin or through mucous membranes (if you touch your eyes, nostrils or mouth).
Step 3—Grab a Partner
You don’t want your pet squirming away before you’re finished, so if possible, have a helper on hand to distract, soothe or hold her still.
Step 4—The Removal
Treat the bite area with rubbing alcohol and, using a pair of tweezers, grasp the tick as close to the animal’s skin as possible. Pull straight upwards with steady, even pressure. Place the tick in your jar.
Do not twist or jerk the tick! This may leave the mouth-parts embedded in your pet, or cause the tick to regurgitate infective fluids.
Do not squeeze or crush the body of the tick, because its fluids (saliva and gut contents) may contain infective organisms.
Step 5—All that Remains
Sometimes, in spite of doing everything right, a tick’s mouth-parts will get left behind in your pet’s skin. If the area doesn't appear red or inflamed, the best thing to do is to disinfect it and not to try to take the mouth-parts out. A warm compress to the area might help the body expel them, but do not go at it with tweezers.
Step 6—Clean Up
Thoroughly disinfect the bite site and wash your hands with soap and water (even though you were wearing gloves). Sterilize your tweezers with alcohol or by carefully running them over a flame.
Step 7—Keep Watch
Over the next few weeks, closely monitor the bite area for any signs of localized infection. If the area is already red and inflamed, or becomes so later, please bring your pet—and your jarred tick—to your veterinarian for evaluation.
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LEARN A LESSON FROM YOUR DOG, NO MATTER WHAT LIFE BRINGS YOU, KICK SOME GRASS OVER THAT AND MOVE ON.
For an overview of why we want to get these pests out, go to the Tick talk page.
We are somewhat lucky in that none of the ticks we tend to see locally are big biters. Oh, they attach well and will stay attached to a host for a long time, but they don't shove their mouthparts in to the point that their heads are buried. Some of the ticks commonly seen in the southern USA attach deep and are pretty hard to get out.
Here (left) is a picture of a small tick right after we removed it from a dog. It is a little fat because it had fed for a while, probably a day or two. It's a good picture of the basic tick body parts - there are 8 legs, a small plate of dark grey armor where the thorax is, and the mouthparts in the front. The grey body is where the stomach is and where the blood collects, engorging the tick's body.
On the front of this tick (grey tick on a grey dog, right) you can't really see the mouthparts - they are buried in the skin. The legs are still right at the front by the head but are very hard to see, and the body has expanded enormously behind like a big balloon. This guy had probably been attached for several days, plenty of time to start transmitting Lyme disease if he carried it.
And here's a another tick at the trough. See how far forward the legs are? He has his face buried in the dog's skin with the mouthparts sunk in, sucking up blood. Notice that there is some guck collecting around where he is feeding. This is some dead tissue and some inflammatory exudate caused by his feeding.
So ... we need to get him outta there! Here's how.
Note: This method is not very masculine. It involves no power tools or flames. No Vaseline, gasoline, or other combustible materials. No animals or people should be harmed in the performance of this segment.
1. Make sure the thing you are trying to remove really is a tick.
Get the dog to hold still and part the hair. Move the thing to one side with your finger and see if you can see legs where it attaches. Make sure it's the right color. Ticks tend to look like the one of the two different ticks on this page - usually a grey color or tan/brown.
If you have any doubts as to what it is, see a vet. If you can't get it off, see a vet. If it starts to bleed, see a vet. If your dog bites you, see a doctor, and send someone else with the dog to a vet. I have had clients try to remove warts, skin tags, cysts, nipples (!) and small skin tumors thinking they were ticks. Needless to say, their dogs were not happy.
2. Congratulations, it's a tick! You will need:
a) a pair of pointy tweezers, OR b) a cool tick removal hook (right), OR c) really long fingernails and a non-squeamish personality
moistened cotton or piece of paper towel
Polysporin or other over the counter general purpose antibiotic cream
3. Part the hair and get a good look at the tick. Figure out where it is attached to the animal.
Important note before we go any further: Do not hang onto the tick by the body; you will make it regurgitate into your dog. You could also burst the tick, which is just gross and not particularly helpful to the situation, though somewhat dramatic and cool if there are teenagers around. Don't squeeze the tick at all if you can help it.
4. Slide the claw of the tick remover under the tick. The concept is just like using the claw of a hammer to remove a nail from a piece of wood. Get the remover claw snugged right up under the tick, so the tick is up in the slot as far as possible. If you are using tweezers, squeeze them almost closed and put the tips under the tick between the head and the skin (see photo to right). If you want to use your fingernails, be my guest. Same concept.
5. Using steady, firm pressure pull the tick straight up and away from the animal. You may want to hold the skin down on either side, as it will tend to tent up and rise with the tick. These little guys are really stuck in there, so you can't be too wimpy. You don't want to break the tick by pulling too hard, but you don't want to have to take 52 tries to get it out, either; your dog will not love you anymore. There may be a tearing sensation as it lets go; this is fine and won't hurt the dog.
6. Do not fling the tick across the room in disgust. It is still alive and could theoretically reattach to the dog, the cat, or your visiting mother-in-law. Instead, calmly take the tick and place it in your pre-prepared ziplock bag. Make sure there is some air in the bag with the tick. Put the moistened cotton in the bag as well. Make sure the cotton isn't soaking wet; squeeze it out so no water drips off. It will provide something for the tick to drink while you have it in captivity.
7. Place the tick-in-a-bag in the refrigerator. Keep it there until you can get it to your veterinarian and have it sent off for Borrelia testing. The tick will live quite happily in the fridge for a few weeks if need be. I am not sure why you might want to do this, though. Just bring it in to us.
8. You may disinfect the site with a little soap and warm water. Rinse well. If you want to apply alcohol to the site: don't! It will really hurt! Peroxide won't sting as much but isn't particularly effective. Soap and water will do the trick.
9. Find the spot on the dog where the tick was attached and apply a little Polysporin. Ticks set up a pretty big inflammatory response. It is normal to see a ring of pink or red where it was attached, and a scab. The dog will usually lose hair around the area as well. This is normal as long as there is no discomfort and you are not seeing a lot of pus in the area.
We sometimes refer to this as a "tick granuloma". This localized swelling and thickening can take several weeks to resolve. The eye over to the left belongs to Griffin. He had a tick removed near the corner of his eye two weeks before this photo was taken. As you can see, these lesions take some time to heal and disappear. As long as there is not pus and things seem to be getting gradually better rather than worse, things are fine.
If your dog seems itchy at the site, go ahead and apply a little Caladryl ointment or whatever non-stinging stuff you usually use for mosquito bites on yourself. Be a little cautious that he doesn't lick it off.
10. If you can stand it, check out the tick. If it is alive and waving its legs, you removed the whole thing and didn't leave mouthparts or head behind. If it is dead and not waving, your dog is still going to be OK. The remaining mouthparts will not:
burrow into the brain
increase the risk of Borrelia transmission
They will fester a little and might form a localized infection. Watch for this; it might be worth a visit to the vet.
LEARN A LESSON FROM YOUR DOG, NO MATTER WHAT LIFE BRINGS YOU, KICK SOME GRASS OVER THAT AND MOVE ON.
I never thought of vaccinating Blue as the cases of tick bites here in the city are low. Now I wish I did.
I have a parasite site bookmarked that give monthly updates about lyme and west nile disease and any other parasite reported by vets. I have all five vaccinated for lyme yearly , this state is so high risk for lyme, we hear about cases everyday. 17 cases in the county last month. Middle creek wildlife preserve is close to us and the migrating goose population carries a lot. for some reason the ticks in that corner of the county are bad carriers, not to mention it's loaded with all kinds of hiking trails open to the public.
the thing about lyme vaccines its only good for preventing full blown lyme, if bitten by an infected tick the dog will still get sick, just not near as bad
Life is like a box of chocolate covered
Yesterday heard dawn dish soap soak it on it for a like a min and it wil come out.. Depends how far in maybe tweezers if not too far in.
Ewwwww I so hate ticks (had 6 of them on my head when I was a kid) and I'm glad I don't have them where I live, well for the most part. You'd think one would just be able to squeeze the area like a zit and pop that sucker out. Hope it comes out.
Three Hooligans and 1 Angel - Wilson, Sally, Emma & Jack
We have the occasional tick in England .. my Mum and Dad always taught me to light a match and blow it out. Then whilst the end of the match was still hot to touch it to the tick. They let go and you can remove them without fear of the mouth being snapped off and left inside your dog/cat.
Seemed to always work .. so not sure if this is an "old wives tale" or not!!!
put some nail polish on a paper towel and hold on the tick for 30 seconds, works well for me.
- - - Updated - - -
Nail polish remover!
Holy crap! After clicking on the link that BM provided, I am getting the heebie jeebies myself.
RIP Samson el Torito and Petunia Belle
May 20, 2000 - June 06, 2008 and November 16, 2004 - April 10, 2015