Ask Nancy: Tick Removal

Ick! Ticks! I know that is always how I’ve felt when I found one on a pet. Typically my dogs come and bother me any time there is a tick on them, insisting that I remove it. I suspect all that stuff about mutual hunting and dogs hanging around the camp dump and ending up with humans is a simple disguise for the fact our dogs know we have fingers and that we know how to use them! But fingers are not the best way to remove ticks.

The easiest way to remove ticks is to apply a drop on tick medication, such as Frontline or Revolution, or one of the collars containing Amitraz such as Preventic or Tick Detach.  An excellent set of tables showing the products that control fleas and ticks with their pluses and minuses can be found here: (it says flea products but it shows tick effective products in the second table).

The collars containing Amitraz really do work, but the risk is that, if your dog chews one, it is really toxic so it’s not always best to use these on pets in a home where dogs grab collars while wrestling or try to chew off their own collar. It’s also not safe to use them if your cat washes your dog. In general within 24 hours of the products being used the ticks are dead or dying and will detach and fall off.

But if you do not have access to a tick prevention product and you want that tick off the dog the best method of removal is to use a tick remover tool or a pair of tweezers and get right down near the skin to pull on its head. You pull gently upwards until the head comes out of the skin. Drop the tick or ticks in a previously prepared small lidded container that has rubbing alcohol in it. Plan to throw the tightly shut container away ticks and all when you are done.

You want to make sure to NOT squeeze the tick’s body as that can push fluids into your dog increasing risks of infection. You also want to keep your hands away from any fluids in the tick for the same reason. People can also catch tick carried diseases.

During removal all too often the head comes off the tick no matter how careful you are when pulling upwards on it. The dog’s skin will eventually reject the tick head and it will come off, often with the scab that forms at the site. To avoid skin infection, and to limit infections from the bite whether the head comes out or not, you can apply some Neosporin or Triple Antibiotic ointment to the area or clean the spot with Betadine (or generic Povidine) solution.

  • Check the bite spot over the next couple of days to see if it needs more antibiotic ointment or cleaning.
  • Watch for signs of tick carried illness in your dog and be sure to screen for them when you do your annual vet visit even if you see know signs.
  • Typically it takes 36 or more hours of attachment for the tick to transfer disease to your dog (if that tick has one to pass on) so keeping up with checks for ticks limits chances of infection as does use of a prevention on a regular basis during tick season.

You can read about tick carried diseases in dogs here: there is an excellent FAQ on the topic.


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