December 11, 2023

Ticks can burrow into your dog’s skin, causing irritation and tick-borne diseases with serious health implications.

You may notice signs of a tick bite, like scratching or paw licking, or find ticks as part of a regular examination. When you find a tick on your dog, it’s important to remove it quickly and safely.

Read on to learn how to identify ticks on your dog and the best ways to remove them. Plus signs and symptoms of common tick-borne illnesses to watch for.

Checking Your Dog for Ticks

Tick hidden in dog fur
Ticks hide in dark moist places on your dog. Use a bright light and comb to examine your dogs.
iStock/Getty Images Plus

Dr. Laura Goodman, assistant professor at the at Cornell University Department of Public & Ecosystem Health, recommends checking your dog for ticks “after a walk or trip to the dog park, especially in the woods or around tall grass.”

Make a habit of checking your dog whenever you groom them. If your dog needs help staying calm during this process, take them on a walk beforehand or use dog treat puzzles to wear them out.

Read more about your dog’s health

Use a comb to part your dog’s fur and check:

  • Around their head and ears
  • Between their toes
  • Under the tail and near the groin
  • In their armpits
  • Underneath their collar

Ticks prefer dark moist places, so you should have a bright light handy to spot them.

Ticks come in four stages: eggs, larvae, nymphs and adults. Larval and nymph ticks are small and difficult to see on your dog. They may appear like grains of sand within your dog’s fur.

Adult ticks are large and easy to identify. You may even feel them as sizeable bumps on your dog’s skin.

Supplies for Tick Removal

Use these tools to safely remove ticks at home:

  • Gloves
  • Tweezers or a tick removal tool
  • Small sealable container
  • Isopropyl alcohol
  • Antiseptic
  • Antibiotic ointment
  • Magnifying glass

How To Remove a Tick From a Dog

Tweezers and tick removal tools are the best ways to safely remove a tick at home. “Never try to use a flame or chemicals,” Goodman says.

Remove the Tick With a Tick Removal Tool

Goodman says tick removal tools are great for adult ticks.

There are many tick removal tools, but most resemble a plastic hook with a notch. Always follow the instructions included with your tick removal tool, but if you have a hook tool:

  1. Slide the tool along your dog’s skin until the tick’s head is firmly inside the hook’s notch.
  2. Gently twist the tool until the tick detaches. Do not pull in any direction to remove the tick, unless your tool’s directions say to do so.
  3. Lift the tick away from your dog’s skin and set it aside. Make sure not to destroy or discard it, since your vet might want to examine the tick.

Remove the Tick With Tweezers

Goodman recommends tweezers for all ticks. Fine-point tweezers are especially good for larval or nymph ticks that are too small for other tools.

  1. Grab the tick’s head with tweezers, getting as close to your dog’s skin as possible. Don’t squeeze too hard—you don’t want to crush the tick.
  2. Pull outward with a straight, firm motion. Do not twist or shake the tweezers. This could break the tick while its head is still under your dog’s skin.
  3. Set the tick aside so you can show your vet later.

What To Do After You Remove a Tick From a Dog

Once you remove the tick, there are a few more things to do to keep your dog healthy.

1. Put the Tick in a Sealed Container

Place the tick in a small container filled with isopropyl alcohol. This will kill and preserve the tick in case your vet needs to look at it later.

Your vet may want to examine the tick to see if it carries diseases.

2. Make Sure There Are No Tick Parts Left In Your Dog

Check the area with a bright light. Leftover head parts should look like dark spots or splinters under your dog’s skin.

If some of the tick’s head broke off inside your dog, do not attempt to remove it yourself. Instead, contact your veterinarian for help.

3. Clean Up the Tick Bite

Clean the tick site with soap and water or a non-stinging antiseptic. Then apply antibiotic ointment.

Ticks carry bacteria on their heads. This will help prevent a secondary infection from the wound

4. Monitor Your Dog for Tick-Borne Disease Symptoms

Monitor your dog’s condition closely for three weeks after the bite.

“Dogs are susceptible to many of the same tickborne diseases as people,” Goodman says. That includes Lyme disease, a common ailment in dogs and humans bitten by ticks.

“Dogs do not develop the bullseye rash that people sometimes do when exposed to the Lyme disease agent,” Goodman warns. She recommends watching for:

  • Fever
  • Limping
  • Joint swelling
  • Lethargy
  • Decreased appetite

If your dog starts behaving differently—like changing their sleeping habits—that may be another sign that something is wrong.

Diseases can be dangerous. “If you are concerned that your dog doesn’t seem well, your vet should be the first call,” Goodman says.

How To Prevent Tick Bites

The best way to prevent tick-borne diseases is to prevent tick bites. The CDC recommends taking several steps:

  • Check your dog for ticks regularly. If you’re lucky, you may catch the tick before it has a chance to bite your dog.
  • Remove ticks quickly. The sooner you remove a tick, the less chance they have of spreading disease.
  • Reduce the tick presence in places your dog frequents, like your yard. Using pesticides, mowing your lawn regularly and keeping tick-carrying wild animals out of your yard can help.

Some collars, like Seresto, and topical solutions, like K9 Advantix II and Vectra 3D, repel ticks. Goodman recommends speaking with your vet about the appropriate preventive treatments for your dog.

Tick Removal FAQs

If you have a question about ticks not covered here, consult with a vet for more information.

Can You Remove a Tick From a Dog With Vaseline?

Do not attempt to remove a tick with Vaseline or other folklore remedies. The best ways to remove a tick from your dog are with tweezers or a tick removal tool.

What Will Draw a Tick Out of a Dog?

The CDC recommends removing ticks as quickly as possible. Attempting to draw the tick out with chemicals or other methods will only delay removal. Tweezers and tick removal tools remain the best options for getting ticks off your dog.

Can You Give a Dog Benadryl for Tick Bites?

Benadryl can help ease itching and swelling from tick bites in dogs. You can use it after removing the tick if your dog’s skin is irritated, but be aware that it will not treat tick-borne diseases.

How Do You Kill a Tick?

After you remove a tick with a tick removal tool or tweezers, place it in a jar containing isopropyl alcohol. This will kill the tick.

Do not crush the tick to kill it. This makes it harder for your vet to analyze later.

Tick bites can lead to serious illnesses. Watch for signs that your dog is carrying a tick, like excessive scratching or licking their paws. If you spot a tick, remove it quickly with tweezers or a tick removal tool.

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