How to Spot, Remove, and Prevent Ticks on Dogs

Veterinarian removing a tick from a dog

It’s common to find ticks on dogs, even if your dog doesn’t spend a great deal of time outdoors. With such a high probability of your dog naturally coming in contact with a tick, it’s important to know the best practices for removing a tick from a dog as well as for preventing ticks on dogs. Luckily, tick prevention and treatment is a simple task.

What are dog ticks?

Ticks are parasites that bite and attach to animals, including dogs. There are several varieties of ticks, but they can be identified by their eight legs and tiny size. Once they bite a dog by burrowing their mouthparts into the skin, they start to drink its blood and can swell to the size of a pea. Tick bites can transmit diseases to dogs and humans and have other negative effects.

Health risks of ticks on dogs

Ticks won’t usually cause lasting harm to dogs when they bite them. Some kinds of ticks can transmit diseases from other animals to dogs, however. 

Certain ticks, for example, may carry Lyme disease. A vet can treat Lyme disease with antibiotics as well as treat the bite area and prescribe preventative medication. 

If your dog has been bitten by a tick and you’re concerned about their symptoms, contact your vet for more information.

Can dog ticks bite humans?

Most types of ticks don’t discriminate between the kinds of animals that they bite. When removing ticks from your dog, make sure that they don’t attach to you instead. Ticks should be disposed of carefully to avoid bites. 

Tick bites on humans can cause irritation and sometimes pass on diseases, such as Lyme disease. You can remove the tick yourself or visit a doctor for removal and treatment. 

Spotting ticks on dogs

Although ticks on dogs are usually large enough to be visible, they're sometimes hidden by fur. If a tick has attached to your dog's skin, it may appear to be a small wart. The bite will usually appear irritated and red. 

You should check your dog’s entire body for ticks, but they are most often found around the neck and head. Carefully comb through your dog’s fur with either a tool or your hands to check for ticks.

Removing a tick from a dog

Removing a tick isn’t as simple as just pulling it out of the skin. Ticks burrow beneath the surface of the skin, so attempts to remove them without using the right tool can leave the mouthpart behind, potentially causing infection or inflammation. 

To properly remove a tick from your dog, ask your vet for a specially designed tick removal tool. These tools help you cleanly remove all parts of the tick, including the mouthparts. Your vet can demonstrate appropriate tick removal techniques when you acquire the tool.

You can also use anti-parasite products that work on ticks and other insects. Such products may require a more regular application, but some can kill ticks as soon as they try to attach to the skin. If a tick has not yet attached to the skin, sometimes brushing or grooming can help remove it. 

Tips to prevent ticks on dogs

It’s easier to prevent ticks in the first place than to remove them later. You should always try to catch ticks early by brushing and checking your dog regularly, especially after he's been outside for a prolonged period. 

Ticks are more common in certain regions than others. Your vet can tell you if your area has a higher risk for tick bites. If so, you may opt to give your dog a preventative vet-approved tick treatment.

Treatment options include spot-on treatments, collars, and oral tablets. These treatments can help to discourage ticks from landing on your dog — or kill ticks outright when they bite your dog’s skin. Collars work by dispersing active ingredients throughout your dog's body to help prevent or kill parasites. Spot-on treatments usually come in a small vial of liquid and can prevent ticks, fleas and flea eggs.

There are a variety of options for each of these treatments; discuss with your vet which might be best for your dog. Treatments such as oral medication are usually available through your vet but may also be available at online or local pet stores.

Alternatively, you may choose to try non-veterinary-approved products. These products may contain citronella or eucalyptus oils. Check with your vet before using these products. Many haven't undergone significant safety tests and may not be effective for your dog.

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