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Answers from vets about your dog:

How to Remove a Tick from a Dog

Reviewed by Bill Saxon DVM, DACVIM, DACVECC on Tuesday, September 22, 2015
Posted September 22, 2015 in Dog Checkups & Preventive Care

There are very few things with a greater “Yuk factor” than an attached and feeding tick on your dog (or even yourself). While so called “seed ticks” are quite small, they are quick to grow after they attach and begin to feed on the blood of their new host. In a relatively short period of time they can engorge to the point where they reach the size of a raisin or small grape.

Removing a tick on a dogOnce attached, ticks almost immediately begin to drink blood and at the same time digestive fluids and anticoagulants from the tick begin to enter the host. These fluids carry a number of infectious diseases from the mouth parts into the host.
As I have discussed in the past, ticks are a potential source of infection for a number of diseases. There is a good deal of controversy about how long it takes for these organisms to cross into the new host, but the Companion Animal Parasite Council says it can happen in a very short time.

What NOT to do to remove a tick
You might already have heard about some tick removal methods that are not safe, and I’d like to dispel some dangerous methods. Years ago, some people would apply a lit cigarette or a quickly extinguished, but still hot, match head. Some used a pin that had been heated in flame. Please don’t. Nothing as dramatic or potentially painful as these methods is necessary. The CDC warns against “folklore remedies” for people, and those same warnings are true for dogs.

How to remove an attached tick safely
Attached and feeding ticks are not mobile and can be grasped rather easily using small thumb forceps. Grasp the tick as close to the host’s skin as possible and gently pull the tick away from the skin. It was once believed that the removal was easier if the direction of traction was counter clockwise (or is it clockwise), but ticks do not have threaded mouth parts and you should actually pull straight out.

If thumb forceps are not available, you can use a variety of tick extractors that slip around the mouth parts and allow removal with no contact. Remember, the longer a tick is attached, the greater the chances of disease transmission. That means if ticks do become attached they should be removed as quickly as possible.

While extracting an attached tick is technically quite simple (as outlined above), the removal of the tick should be performed with care. When removing a tick:

  • Don’t squeeze—Avoid any further transmission caused by squeezing and expressing the body of the tick
  • Get it all—Grab the tick as close to the mouth as possible to avoid leaving the tick’s head or mouth in the skin (this may lead to an infection)

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Mike has more than 35 years of experience in companion animal veterinary practice and is a valued member of IDEXX’s Pet Health Network team since 2013.