Although tick populations surge during early spring and late fall, these dangerous parasites are a year-round threat to pet and human health. If you find a tick on your pet, prompt removal can minimize risk for diseases such as Lyme disease, ehrlichiosis, and anaplasmosis.
To protect you and your pet from disease transmission, the Terra Linda Veterinary Hospital team has compiled the most important tick removal do’s and don’ts. Consider this your tick-et to success.
DO confirm your pet’s tick is a tick
Because of their brown color and round, seed-like shape and size, ticks commonly are cases of mistaken identity. Many devoted and well-meaning, but panicked, owners attempt to pull, pinch, or otherwise remove attached skin tags, small tumors, and—occasionally—nipples from their pet.
For your pet’s safety—and yours⸺ always confirm that the tick is actually a tick before you attempt removal. Hint—look for the legs!
DON’T panic, as stress and hurried movements may scare your pet
Many people panic at the mere thought of a blood-sucking tick, especially when that tick is attached to their beloved pet. But, this reaction likely will trigger equal panic, stress, and fear in your pet and make removal difficult, if not impossible.
For your pet’s sake, remain calm, and avoid poking, pinching, or pulling at the affected area.
DO use the right tools to prevent injuring your pet
Proper tick-removal tools minimize exposure and reduce the risk of tick damage and leaving mouth parts or the head lodged in the skin. Our preferred tools include standard fine-tipped tweezers or tick-specific tools such as The Tick Key or The Tick Twister.
DON’T use your fingers to remove a tick from your pet
You are not likely to be able to completely remove a tick with your fingers, but you will increase your exposure to harmful bacteria. Although using your bare fingers may seem harmless “in a pinch,” we recommend removing ticks only with the right tools.
DO grasp the tick as close to your pet’s skin as possible
Part your pet’s hair around the tick and position your tweezers or tick removal tool as close to your pet’s skin as possible. If you’re using tweezers, take extra caution to ensure you grasp the tick, and not your pet’s skin.
DON’T twist, squeeze, or jerk the tick during removal from your pet
Once the tick is secured in your chosen tool, apply steady upward pressure until the tick detaches. Straight, even pressure is important to prevent damaging the tick’s body and to not complicate complete removal.
DO check your pet to ensure the entire tick is removed
If you do damage the tick during removal, carefully extract the remaining pieces from your pet’s skin. However, should this be painful or unsuccessful, monitor the area for several days. Notify your Terra Linda Veterinary Hospital veterinarian about any unusual inflammation, swelling, rash, or drainage.
DON’T mishandle the tick after removing it from your pet
Live ticks should be carefully disposed of to prevent reattachment or—if the tick is an engorged female—from laying eggs. Safe disposal options include:
- Flushing the tick down the toilet
- Sealing the tick in a plastic bag or wrapping it in tape
- Drowning the tick in isopropyl alcohol
Dead ticks should still be handled with care to prevent your exposure to harmful bacteria. Always follow proper handwashing practices after handling live or dead ticks and tick removal tools, to significantly reduce your infection risk. The same hand washing routine is always good practice after interacting with pets.
DO check your pet for additional ticks
Check your pet for additional ticks in their most common hiding places. Ticks prefer well-concealed areas where they can collect their blood meal without discovery or disturbance, including:
- Around your pet’s eyes
- Along the ears
- Behind the front or back legs
- Inside the back legs along the thigh or groin
- Under the tail
- Between the toes
If you’re routinely finding live, engorged ticks on your pet, your tick prevention strategy may be the problem. Schedule an appointment at Terra Linda Veterinary Hospital to ensure your pet is healthy and for our recommendations for safe and effective prevention.
DON’T skip your pet’s tick prevention or annual testing
Ticks don’t take a holiday—and neither should their prevention. A comprehensive parasite prevention plan requires a year-round, multi-step approach that includes:
- Year-round tick and flea prevention — Ticks can emerge on mild winter days, making year-round preventives critical for reliable disease prevention. Veterinarian-recommended oral or topical preventives are the safest and most effective insurance for your pet’s health.
- Lyme disease vaccination for at-risk dogs — Vaccination can provide extra Lyme disease defense for dogs who work, hunt, or play in common tick areas (e.g., wooded areas, grassy fields).
- Annual tick-borne disease testing for dogs — This simple blood test can screen your pet for disease exposure.
- Environmental management — Caring for your home’s outdoor areas (e.g., cutting grass, clearing brush) can reduce or discourage tick populations.
Finding a tick on your pet can be alarming, but with year-round prevention and prompt safe removal, you and your pet have nothing to fear. If you have additional questions about tick removal or parasite prevention, contact the Terra Linda Veterinary Hospital team.