Ticks are nasty little things. And depending on whereabouts in the UK you are from, they can be very prevalent in some areas. For some dog owners, every walk may result in one of these unfortunate visitors requiring removal from your furry friend. It is important that owners remove ticks properly and fully to make sure no further problems are caused. You will learn how in this blog.

So what even is a tick? A tick is a smooth brown ectoparasite (which is to say, a parasite that stays on the surface of the body) that attaches onto and sucks blood from dogs, cats, humans… pretty much anything it can use as a host! While they start off quite small (around 2-3mm), they grow in size as they feed on more and more blood. 

Why are ticks a problem?

Ticks are an issue because they not only cause discomfort to the skin from the bite itself, but also because they can transmit infectious diseases in dogs, including Lyme disease and, more rarely, babesiosis. Further to this, their small size means they often go unnoticed by owners, which can increase the severity of disease. To read more about Lyme disease read here: PDSA Lyme Disease and for babesiosis read here: Babesiosis in Dogs.

Knowing your dog has gained a tick in the first place is the initial step to removing it

Peak tick season in the UK is late summer time. The South of England and West Coast of Scotland, including the Highlands, show a particularly high tick prevalence. Although they can be found across all of the UK- see this tick distribution Ixodes Map. Ticks also tend to prefer areas with long grasses and thick vegetation. Knowing this is helpful as it means you can check your dog more thoroughly at higher risk times; for instance after a nice walk in the countryside. You can check your dog for ticks by running your hand along the coat, including the legs, and feeling for small bumps.

If you have located a tick on your dog, the next step is to remove it as quickly as you can

However, you must ensure that you don’t leave any pieces of tick behind in your dog’s skin. The mouthpiece and head tend to be more securely attached than the rest of the body. So using the correct technique to remove it all in one go will make it easier than trying to remove small bits in several stages. You also need to make sure not to squeeze the body as this can push blood back into your dog from the tick, increasing risk of infection. 

The best technique for removal

Part the fur and then use a tick remover (which you can get very cheap from vet practices, pet shops or online); holding this flat against your dog’s skin with the 2 plastic teeth either side underneath the tick; and slowly twisting the tick remover and tick clockwise until the tick becomes fully dislodged from the skin. It may take several twists to fully loosen the tick. After this, you can discard the tick in some tissue paper and flush it down the toilet. Inspect the area of skin again to double check for any remaining pieces. Clean the area up with some dog friendly soap. You can use a tissue and apply gentle pressure to the skin at this stage if there is any bleeding. I would also recommend wearing a pair of clean disposable gloves this whole time if you have them available.

If you are at all concerned after removing the tick, for instance if the tick was quite big, if there were a lot of them, if you didn’t manage to remove it all, if the area looked concerningly red or swollen, or if you think your dog is showing any abnormal symptoms compared to usual, then speak to your vet about it. It could also be very helpful to discuss methods of tick prevention with your vet too, including various collars, spot on treatments and sprays. 

So there we have it, a quick and easy guide on how to remove ticks from your dog. Checking thoroughly and frequently, and using the correct twisting method to remove, are the key to keeping your dog safe from these parasites.

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