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To remove an attached tick, use a pair of fine-tipped tweezers or special tick removal instruments. These special devices allow one to remove the tick without squeezing the tick body. This is important, as you do not want to crush the tick and force harmful bacteria to leave the tick and enter the dog’s bloodstream.

1. Grab the tick by the head or mouth parts right where they enter the skin. Do not grasp the tick by the body.
Without jerking, pull firmly and steadily directly outward. Do not twist the tick as you are pulling.
2. Using methods such as applying petroleum jelly, a hot match or alcohol will NOT cause the tick to "back out". In fact these irritants may cause the tick to deposit more disease-carrying saliva in the wound.
3. After removing the tick, place it in a jar of alcohol to kill it. Ticks are NOT killed by flushing them down the toilet.
4. Clean the bite wound with a disinfectant. If you want to, apply a small amount of a triple antibiotic ointment.
5. Wash your hands thoroughly.

Please do not use your fingers to remove or dispose of the tick. We don't want you in contact with a potentially disease-carrying tick. Do NOT squash the tick with your fingers. The contents of the tick can transmit disease.

Once an embedded tick is manually removed, it is not uncommon for a welt and skin reaction to occur. A little hydrocortisone spray will help alleviate the irritation, but it may take a week or more for healing to take place. In some cases the tick bite may permanently scar leaving a hairless area. This skin irritation is due to the irritating and destructive tick saliva. It is not due to the tick losing its head, literally. Do not be worried about the tick head staying in; it rarely happens. The swelling is due to toxic saliva, not toxic heads.

Question and answer

What are ticks?

Ticks are arthropods, closely related to scorpions, spiders, and mites. They are skin parasites of dogs and cats, feeding only on the blood of their hosts. Ticks have a great potential to act as carriers of a number of diseases. Organisms that transmit agents of disease are known as "vectors." When the tick bites the host animal, it can transmit a variety of disease-causing organisms (pathogens) including protozoa, bacteria, viruses, rickettsiae, and other agents. The resulting diseases are known by the broad term of "tick-borne diseases."

How do pets get ticks?

Direct contact with ticks may result in tick parasitism. While ticks do not jump or fly, they are attracted to hosts by motion, variations in light patterns, warmth, and the presence of carbon dioxide. Disease-causing agents (pathogens) may be acquired when ticks feed on previously infected hosts (such as rodents) and then attach themselves to a dog or cat. Transmission of the disease-causing agent often requires that the tick be attached to the host for periods from hours to days. The essentially painless tick bite often allows feeding times of adequate duration to allow for transmission.

The expansion of the suburbs into forests, prairies, and coastal areas has placed domestic animals in close contact with ticks. Ticks are seen in cats, even with their grooming habits. Tick-borne diseases are diagnosed routinely in dogs and cats.

What are the signs of tick parasitism?

The signs of tick parasitism include the presence of the tick itself as well as the signs of tick-borne disease, if the animal has been infected. Some dogs may develop paralysis due to a toxin from the ticks. Ticks may be seen attached to the animal's skin or feeding cavities may be seen on the skin where the ticks have detached themselves. Tick bites generally are painless, but local irritation may occur. The local irritation may cause some dogs to bite and scratch at the area, resulting in skin inflammation or infection. Signs of tick-borne diseases (such as Rocky Mountain spotted fever) vary with the organ system affected. Tick-borne pathogens may affect virtually any organ system.

For more information on tick-borne diseases, go to Ehrlichiosis, Lyme Disease, or Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever.

How are ticks diagnosed?

Diagnosis of tick parasitism is made by examining the skin for the presence of attached ticks or for tick-feeding cavities left by detached ticks. Diagnosis of tick paralysis or tick-borne diseases is made by a history of tick parasitism, a thorough physical examination, and a complete evaluation of ill pets. Generally blood work will be performed, including complete blood counts (CBCs) and blood chemistries. Specific tests may be performed for individual tick-borne diseases.

How are animals infested with ticks treated?

Ticks should be removed as soon as possible to limit the time available for transmission of disease-causing agents. The most efficient removal is done with fine-pointed tweezers. Ticks are grasped close to the skin and gently pulled free. Some skin may adhere to the tick's mouth or a fragment of the tick may remain imbedded in the skin. In either case, the area should be washed with soap and water, which generally is sufficient to prevent local inflammation. The pet guardian should not handle the tick directly and should wash his or her hands after removing ticks. No one should apply hot matches, petroleum jelly (Vaselin), or other materials to ticks because these methods fail to remove ticks and allow for longer periods of attachment and feeding.

The best means of "treating ticks" is to prevent them from attaching to the pet. One way to keep ticks from attaching is to avoid environments that harbor ticks. Unfortunately, suburban living has brought pets into environments frequented by many tick hosts; therefore, avoidance is sometimes difficult for all but pets kept strictly indoors or for city dwellers. A variety of products are available for tick control on the pet. They include topical liquids and sprays, special tick prevention collars, and dips. The veterinarian can provide advice about the best method for preventing ticks and about the best product or products to be used for a particular pet.

If the pet has signs of a tick-borne disease, treatment will be directed at underlying disease. Preventing tick attachment is the best way to avoid potentially debilitating tick-borne diseases. Dogs also can be immunized against Lyme disease, a tick-borne disease.

What is the prognosis for animals with ticks?

The prognosis (outcome) for animals with ticks varies. If an animal only has a few ticks on it, they can be removed easily. The animal then can be started on a tick prevention program and the prognosis would be considered good. If the animal has tick paralysis, removal of the ticks leads to rapid improvement. The prognosis for tick-borne diseases depends on the length of time the animal has been sick and the particular disease. If diagnosed early, many pets will recover with appropriate treatment. However, some tick-borne diseases can be very difficult to treat.

The majority of the information in this page is has been taken from VetMedCenter.com. For further information about this useful source of informtion follow the link or look, on the internet, at www.vetmedcenter.com.