How to Remove Engorged Ticks on Dogs

Ticks are the scourge of many dog owners. Not only are these creatures nasty, but they can also transmit dangerous diseases to you and your pets. 

Ticks are most common in the summer months. According to experts, tick populations in the US are growing, as are areas with suitable tick habitats. This also means we’re facing an increase in the prevalence of tick-borne diseases. That is why it’s so important to regularly check your dog for ticks and to remove them promptly once found. 

To do this, though, you need to know how to safely remove engorged ticks from your pet’s skin. That’s where we come in! Read on as we let you in on the dos and the don’ts of tick removal.

About Ticks

Though smaller than spiders, ticks resemble them a bit in appearance. In fact, ticks are arachnids, not insects like flies and mosquitoes. They have four sets of legs, don’t have antennae, and can’t jump or fly.

Ticks feed on human and animal blood. Once they have found a suitable host, they burrow their little heads into the skin. Then they unfurl their feeding tube and release chemicals that numb the skin, thin the blood, and suppress the immune system.

Tick

They then get to work feasting on this precious vital fluid. They take their time about it, too! The average time needed for a tick to complete a meal is two to three days, but they can even take up to seven days. In that time, they swell to almost double their regular size, which is ideal for a female tick that’s ready to lay her eggs.

Ticks and Disease

Ticks are also carriers of some very dangerous diseases, some of which can potentially be lethal. The most notable among these is Lyme disease, which can result in severe joint pain and inflammation of the brain in those infected. Rocky Mountain spotted fever (for those living in the US) and anaplasmosis are also common tick-borne diseases. What’s even worse is that ticks can carry many different diseases at the same time.

That’s pretty scary stuff for you pet lovers out there! Luckily though, we do have some good news: Ticks don’t transmit disease instantly. 

In the case of Lyme disease, it takes at least 36 to 48 hours for the bacteria that cause this disease to infect your body. Most of the other diseases carried by ticks take hours to be transmitted as well.

The upshot is that if you remove a tick from your dog within the first 24 hours, there’s a good chance that your pet will remain disease free.

How to Remove Ticks From Your Dog

But how do you go about removing ticks that have attached themselves to your dog’s skin? Get it wrong and you could cause the tick to release all of its bodily fluids – including any disease-causing pathogens – directly into your dog’s bloodstream. Remove an engorged tick correctly, though, and you could save your pooch from suffering a life-threatening disease.

The Dos

Here are some of the major dos for removing ticks from your canine friend.

Remove ticks within the first 24 hours of the bite. 

We mentioned this before, but it bears repeating. It also means that you’ll have to thoroughly check your dog every day. In particular, you’ll need to closely examine the following areas:

  • the groin
  • the anal area, 
  • in and around the ears, 
  • the tail, and 
  • the eyelids. 

These are the places that ticks like to hang out. If your dog has long hair or a double coat, go through its coat using a hairdryer on the cool setting. It will part the hairs and expose your pet’s skin, so you’ll easily see any ticks hiding under its fur.

When removing ticks from your hound, it’s best to use tweezers. 

Although there are special tick removal devices on the market, they can be expensive and hard to find. They also vary greatly in terms of quality. When it comes to choosing tweezers, the finer tipped, the better.

Position the tweezers as close to the skin as you can get them. Position the tips around the tick’s head. Don’t jerk or twist the tick. Simply pull upwards, slowly increasing the pressure until the tick is pulled cleanly away from the skin.

Afterward, make sure you clean the bite site with soapy water.

As a final precaution, make sure that the tick is dead and is safely disposed of.

Expert Advice

Once you remove a tick, don’t just throw it in the trash or flush it down the sink. It might crawl back out and reattach itself to your dog or someone else.

The Don’ts

Now, we’ve arrived at the major don’ts of tick removal.

Never remove ticks using your fingers!

You’ll risk infecting yourself! You’ll also risk crushing the tick, which is something you definitely don’t want to do.

Don’t crush or squish ticks!

Crushing or squeezing a tick might cause it to inject infectious bodily fluids directly into your dog’s bloodstream, increasing the risk of infection.

You don’t need to worry about removing the tick’s mouthparts from your pooch’s skin.

It’s the body of the tick that contains the infectious fluids, not the mouthparts. Sometimes these will be really embedded in your dog’s skin. Don’t worry, though. If you leave them behind, they’ll drop out on their own after a few days.

Never attempt to suffocate a tick or kill it while it’s still attached.

Don’t use nail polish, insect repellent, fire, or something similar while the tick is still attached to the skin. Again, this could cause the tick to regurgitate its bodily fluids directly into your dog’s blood, increasing the risk of disease.

Conclusion

When it comes to removing engorged ticks from dogs and keeping them away for good, make sure to follow the techniques presented in this article. They’ll make all the difference in keeping your dog and yourself free from ticks and diseases.

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