Checking your dog for ticks is an important responsibility for pet owners, especially during tick season.
The average dog spends between 30 minutes to 2 hours outside every day, which is when they’re most likely to be bitten by a tick.
If left undisturbed, ticks usually stay latched on for a couple of days. Adult ticks, which are most active in the spring and fall, can remain attached for 7–10 days. Baby ticks (nymphs and larvae), which are most active in the summer, usually wander off after 3–4 days.
The longer a tick stays attached to your fur baby, the more likely it is to transmit disease-causing bacteria or viruses. The sooner you can find and remove them, the better.
How to Check Your Dog for Ticks
According to the CDC, you should check your pets for ticks every day, especially if they’ve been outside. Luckily, it’s not a difficult task and goes by pretty fast once you get into the habit.
To check a dog for ticks, start by gently moving your hand through its fur. Use gentle pressure to feel around for any small bumps. If you notice anything unusual, part the fur to get a better look.
What you’re looking for is any feeding ticks that have attached themselves to your pooch. A tick might resemble a small, dark-colored dot or a skin tag, but upon closer inspection you should be able to make out the hard, oval-shaped body and legs.
Pay special attention to these areas where tick bites are more likely to occur:
- In and around the ears
- Under the collar
- Between the legs
- Between the toes
- Around the tail
- On the eyelids
How to Remove a Tick from Your Dog
If you find a tick on your dog, don’t panic. If you’ve been checking every day, the tick bite is probably new and hasn’t had enough time to transmit any harmful pathogens.
However, you’ll still want to remove it as soon as possible. Here’s what you need:
- Fine-tipped tweezers
- Gloves (for your safety)
- Rubbing alcohol or alcohol wipes (to disinfect the wound)
- Plastic bag or container (to put the tick in)
Step 1: Part the fur
If your dog has longer fur, it might be difficult to accurately grab onto the tick. Gently part the fur on both sides and use one hand to hold it down. You can also wet the fur with a bit of water to help keep it down.
Step 2: Grab the head of the tick
Use fine-tipped tweezers when removing the tick — do not try to pull a tick off with your bare hands. Another option if you live in heavily tick-infested areas, is to invest in a pair of tick removal hooks.
With your tweezers, aim to get a solid grip on the back of the tick’s head as close to the skin as possible, avoiding the tick’s body. If you accidentally squeeze the body of an engorged tick, there is a risk of pushing infected fluid back into your dog’s body.
Step 3: Pull the tick out
To remove the tick, pull it straight upward with steady, even pressure. Avoid yanking or twisting motions, which may cause the tick’s embedded mouthparts to break off.
If this happens, you can try to get them out with your tweezers but don’t force it. If you leave them alone, the broken-off mouthparts will come out naturally in a couple of days.
Step 4: Disinfect the wound
Gently clean the bite area with soap and water and a bit of rubbing alcohol (or use an alcohol wipe) to prevent infection.
Step 5: Dispose of the tick
After you’ve successfully plucked out the tick, don’t be in a hurry to crush it to death. This might cause blood and infectious body fluids to gush out.
Instead, we recommend keeping the tick in a plastic bag for a few days after the bite in case your dog develops any symptoms, such as vomiting, fever, swelling, diarrhea, or unusual behavior. If this happens, take the bagged tick with you to the vet to help with diagnosis.
If everything’s fine, you can safely get rid of the tick by putting into a cup of isopropyl alcohol, wrapping it tightly in tape, sealing it in a sandwich bag, or flushing it down the toilet.
How to Keep Ticks off of Your Dog
There are a variety of products that can help your dog stay tick-free, such as shampoos, sprays, tick collars, and oral medication. Talk to your vet for recommendations.
Tick shampoos contain flea and tick-repelling ingredients like pyrethrin or permethrin. After a single wash, they can usually repel fleas and ticks for up to a week.
Sprays can be used as an added layer of protection when taking your dog outside. They contain similar ingredients as the shampoos to kills or repels ticks.
Tick collars provide your dog with long-term protection from ticks—some last up to 8 months. When worn, these special collars release small amounts of insecticide which are spread throughout your dog’s body via the natural oils in their fur and skin.
Lastly, certain medications, in the form of chewable tablets or pills, can be used preventatively to kill any ticks that try to bite your dog. After being ingested, the medication is absorbed into the bloodstream. Any ticks that try to feed on your dog will die and fall off before they can transmit any diseases.
At MMPC, our experienced team of pest professionals can help keep your property safe from ticks year-round. We treat your property with eco-friendly tick control methods that are safe for you and your pets.