How to remove a tick from your pet

How to remove a tick from your pet
(Image credit: Getty)

Learning how to remove a tick is very useful as they are a common parasite for pets all over the world. Not only do they bite and cause disease, but they can also fall off your pet and pose a risk to human family members. 

While the species of tick and the diseases they can carry will vary depending on your geographic region, one thing is certain: you want these creepy crawlies off your pet as fast as possible. You’ll also need to take a few important steps to prevent new ticks from hitching a ride on your pet. 

Follow the tips below to remove ticks from your pet as quickly and safely as possible.

Common diseases in pets caused by ticks

Ticks aren’t just bloodsuckers – they can also transmit diseases to your pet. When ticks bite, they attach themselves firmly and can stay attached for several days. During that time, bacteria in the tick’s saliva can be passed to your pet. Some tick-borne illnesses can be transmitted within a few hours of a bite, so it’s important to remove an embedded tick as quickly as possible. 

Common tick-borne illnesses affecting pets can include:

However, it’s important to note that not every tick will cause illness. The prevalence of ticks and the diseases they can transmit varies with geographic region. Regardless of where you’re located, it’s important to remove the tick from your pet as soon as you find one.

How to remove a tick from your pet

When you find a tick on your pet, you should get it off right away. Removing a tick as soon as possible will help reduce the risk of it transmitting diseases to your pet. If the tick is crawling on your pet, you can easily brush it away or pull it off with a tissue. But if the tick has bitten your pet, its head will be embedded under your pet’s skin, and you’ll need to remove it more carefully. 

Follow these steps to remove a tick safely:

1. Part your pet’s fur so you can see the tick clearly.
2. Using tweezers or a tick-removal tool, grasp the tick as close to your pet’s skin as possible. Do not try to grab the tick by the body or legs, because this may crush the tick and cause it to break apart.
3. Holding the tick’s head firmly, slowly pull straight back away from your pet’s skin. You may feel a slight “pop” as the tick is removed.
4. Check the area to ensure you’ve removed all of the tick.
5. Perform a ‘tick check’ to look for any other ticks on your pet. Most are found on the head, neck, chest, and legs. 

After removing a tick from your pet, you may notice some mild redness or swelling in the area of the tick bite. This is normal and should resolve within a few days. If the swelling doesn’t improve or if you notice other symptoms such as pain, lethargy, or fever, your pet should see a veterinarian right away.

How to remove a tick from your pet

(Image credit: Getty)

I pulled off a tick – Now what?

In most cases, it isn’t necessary to save the tick or bring it to your veterinarian. Testing the tick itself for illness isn’t always useful, because there’s no way to know whether the tick actually transmitted the disease it was carrying. Your veterinarian will likely recommend monitoring your pet for common symptoms of tick-borne illnesses, such as lameness, lethargy, fever, and loss of appetite. If you notice any of these signs, see your veterinarian right away for further care.

In some cases, your vet may recommend testing your pet for certain tick-borne diseases that are common in your area. This type of testing is typically performed a few weeks after the initial tick bite. If your pet tests positive for exposure to one or more of these diseases, your veterinarian will determine the best course of treatment. Most cases of tick-borne disease are treatable and have a good outcome as long as they are identified early.

How to prevent ticks on your pet

The quickest and easiest way to protect your pet from ticks is to use a prescription preventive medication recommended by your veterinarian. These medications come in both topical and oral forms, so it is easy to find a product that works well for your pet. In many regions, it is recommended that your pet continues to take these preventive medications year-round.

You can also protect your pets by avoiding areas where ticks are most common. Long grass, low brush, and forested areas are natural habitats for ticks. Keep your pet away from these areas as much as possible, especially during the warmer months. 

After spending time outdoors, be sure to check your pet thoroughly and remove any ticks you find. This is especially important in breeds with thick coats, where it’s easy for ticks to hide. Don’t forget to check cracks and crevices, such as inside the ears, between the toes, and under the tail, where ticks can easily be missed.

Keep your pets tick-free this summer

Tick-borne illnesses can be serious, but there are steps you can take to protect your pet from these common parasites. Keeping your pet up to date on preventive medications and removing ticks as soon as you find them will help keep your pet safe this summer. For further guidance on ticks and your pet, consult your veterinarian about the common ticks in your area.

Elizabeth Racine, DVM

Dr. Elizabeth Racine is a small animal general practice vet covering all things pet health and wellness.  Her special interests include veterinary behavior, nutrition, and internal medicine.  As a freelance writer, Dr. Racine has written content for major companies in the industry such as the American Kennel Club, Merck Animal Health, Bayer PetBasics, Elanco, and CareCredit.  In her free time, Dr. Racine enjoys playing trampoline dodgeball, hiking with her beagle Dasher, and spending time with her three mischievous cats.