Expert Blogs | Pet Health
A Vet's Tips For Removing Ticks
tweezers holding tick

If your dog spends time outside – and especially if you take them camping, hiking in the woods, or hanging at the lake with you – it’s wise to get in the habit of checking their body for ticks.

Ticks are not only gross, but they can also transmit bacterial diseases like Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, ehrlichiosis, and anaplasmosis, which can cause severe illness to both pets and people. Symptoms can include severe weakness, lethargy, and even destruction of the pet’s blood cells. Generally, ticks need to be attached to the host for 24-48 hours to infect, so doing a regular check is important. This is easily accomplished by rubbing your hands and fingers through the coat. The tick’s favorite “camping sites” (pun intended) are around the neck, ears (inside and outside), between the eyes, and even between their toes. So, be thorough with your search. 

If you find a tick, you need to remove it immediately. All you need is a good pair of fine-tipped tweeters. Please do not attempt any of the old-school recommendations like: applying the tip of a hot match (which will apparently make the tick release and run off screaming, I suppose), “drowning” with alcohol, “smothering” with petroleum jelly, applying gasoline (or nail polish, nail polish remover, or turpentine).  These don’t help and may actually be harmful to your pet.

Here's what to do if you spot a tick:

1. Use your tweezers (again, fine tipped are preferred), use them to clutch onto the attached tick as close to the mouth-to-skin attachment as possible (to avoid leaving the mouthparts and head lodged in the skin)

2. Pull straight up, forcefully, to remove the tick (no twisting, or shaking). If you feel you haven’t removed the mouthparts, grab and remove the remnants, if possible.

3. Once removed, thoroughly clean the area with warm soap and water, rubbing alcohol, or a good antiseptic wash (like chlorhexidine or betadine). 

4. And, although it is very unlikely you can be infected by the removed tick’s discharges, be sure to wash your hands thoroughly as well.

After the tick is removed, it is still important to observe your dog for any signs of tick-borne illness: such as lethargy, weakness, lack of appetite, and/or pale gums (light pink or whitish).  If you suspect anything out of the ordinary, contact your veterinarian immediately.

Tick removal is not fun. The best way to avoid it is with a solid prevention strategy. There are very effective topical and oral medications available (and generally non-toxic to humans), and the options just keep getting better – making them easier to use and more effective. There are chewable tablets that provide up to 3 months of tick AND flea prevention and control, all with one dose. More recently, a heartworm preventive has come on the market that also protects against both ticks and fleas – all with an oral, once a month dose. If you live near wooded areas – especially where deer show up for occasional visits – or visit the mountains or lake with your pooch, make sure they have an effective tick shield on board. 

WebMD Expert Blog © 2020 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.

Important: The opinions expressed in WebMD Blogs are solely those of the User, who may or may not have medical or scientific training. These opinions do not represent the opinions of WebMD. Blogs are not reviewed by a WebMD physician or any member of the WebMD editorial staff for accuracy, balance, objectivity, or any other reason except for compliance with our Terms and Conditions. Some of these opinions may contain information about treatments or uses of drug products that have not been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. WebMD does not endorse any specific product, service or treatment.

Do not consider WebMD Blogs as medical advice. Never delay or disregard seeking professional medical advice from your doctor or other qualified healthcare provider because of something you have read on WebMD. You should always speak with your doctor before you start, stop, or change any prescribed part of your care plan or treatment. WebMD understands that reading individual, real-life experiences can be a helpful resource, but it is never a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment from a qualified health care provider. If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or dial 911 immediately.

Will Draper, DVM

Will Draper, DVM

Veterinarian

Dr. Will Draper, founder and director of The Village Vets practice group in metro Atlanta, GA, has been a well-known small-animal practitioner for almost 30 years. He is presently featured on Disney Plus’s “Love & Vets” with his wife, Dr. Fran Tyler. You can follow Dr. Will on Instagram and on Twitter.

Latest Blog Posts From Will Draper, DVM

4 Tips to Keep Your Pets Safe From Holiday Hazards

4 Tips to Keep Your Pets Safe From Holiday Hazards

Our furry family members face many holiday-related dangers. Here are a few ways you can keep your pets safe.

Read more
When the Vet's Estimate Is More Than You Can Afford

When the Vet's Estimate Is More Than You Can Afford

When you get an estimate from your vet, don’t be afraid to ask if there are other options. In many cases, there are alternate plans for care.

Read more