Ticks are a common summertime problem for most dog owners. Besides for being ugly and uncomfortable for your pooch, ticks can also carry a number of dangerous diseases for dogs (and humans) such as Lyme’s disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever.
Once a tick attaches to the skin, it generally takes 12-24 hours before any disease will be passed to the host. Therefore, removing it quickly and painlessly is of the utmost importance.
After spending the day running through the woods at Grandma’s house, our 9 month old Teddy Bear puppy came home a few weeks ago with four ticks under his fur. Unsure of the best way to remove them, I quickly did a Google search on how to remove a tick from a dog. Looking through the results, I saw there were a lot of different methods for tick removal. Some of these methods seemed common and simple, others crazy and unbelievable. After trying many of these methods on our own dog, I compiled this list, ranking them by safeness, simplicity, and effectiveness.
*Read this BEFORE you remove a tick*
Ticks are dirty and repulsive, they burrow their heads just under the surface of the skin and feed by sucking in blood until their body is engorged (disgusting, right?) A small tick that has just attached will be small, usually about the size of a grain of rice. A large tick that has been attached for a number of days and is full of blood can be as large as a penny. There are over 200 different types of tick species in the US and all of them have the potential to carry and transmit diseases to pets and humans. Therefore, it is VERY IMPORTANT that you ensure you protect yourself when removing a tick from your dog, especially if you have any open cuts or cracks on your hands or fingers. None of these tips are mandatory, but all of them will reduce your risk of contracting a disease:
- Wear latex gloves to avoid directly touching the tick
- Avoid tearing, breaking, or popping the tick (any disease is carried in the blood)
- Sanitize the area after removal using rubbing alcohol or Tee Tree Oil
- Wash your hands with soap immediately after finishing
1. The Spinning Method (aka Rotation Method)
The spinning method is by far the EASIEST, SAFEST, and QUICKEST way to remove ticks from dogs. If you haven’t heard of it before, that is because it’s a little known, but very effective, technique that convinces the tick to detach from the skin on it’s own. This drastically decreases the chance of an infection which can occur from breaking off the head of the tick and leaving it in the dog’s skin. Follow these 3 simple steps to remove the parasite using the spinning method:
- Locate the tick and expose the body by pulling back the hair from around the area where the head is embedded
- Move your finger gently in a circular motion counter-clockwise around the body of the tick for 30-90 seconds
- When you see or feel the tick detach from the skin, gently pluck it from your dogs body for disposal
*We recommend wearing gloves anytime you will be touching the tick!
As you can see from the video, the spinning method removed the tick from the dog quickly, safely, and effectively! For additional information on the spinning method and another video, check out this Instructables article.
2. The Essential Oils Method
Therapeutic grade essential oils are very effective at removing and deterring ticks from your dog in a safe and natural way. The following therapeutic grade essential oils have antiseptic, disinfectant, and insecticidal properties. So, not only do they help safely remove the tick with out leaving its head behind, they simultaneously clean the area where around the bite as well.
- Cinnamon Bark Essential oil
- Oregano Essential oil
- Palo Santo essential oil
- Peppermint Essential oil
- Melaleuca essential oil (aka Tea Tree oil)
- Thyme Essential oil: (also helps prevent Lyme’s disease)
Drop 1-2 drops directly on the tick. If the tick is in a hard to reach area, use a cotton swab to apply the essential oil. Wait 1-3 minutes for the tick to back its head out of the skin. You will be able to tell its working when you see the legs move and the tick begins to stand on end. If you don’t see any movement after 1 minute, apply an additional drop of essential oil. Once the tick dislodges, remove the tick from your dog and use essential oils to clean the bite and help prevent infection. This method of tick removal using peppermint oil is also very “Human friendly” as mentioned on The Well-Oiled Life.
For those of us who don’t have any essential oils on hand (most people!), you can typically find Melaleuca Oil (Tea Tree Oil) in the health food/organic section of your local grocery store.
*There are lots of reputable sites that warm against the use of petroleum, alcohol, and matches when removing ticks because they can cause the tick to regurgitate some of the blood (increasing the chance that any disease would be transmitted). I have not seen these same concerns about the use of essential oils, but since they work in a similar way, it is something to keep in mind.
3. The Tick Tool Method
Believe it or not, there are several ready made tools specifically designed for tick removal. These tools are each slightly different, but essentially are all trying to do the same thing: pull the tick out by grabbing it as close as possible to the skin of your dog. However, each tool attempts to dislodge the tick in a slightly different way, so it is important to read the individual instructions that come with each tool before using them.
Using a tick removal tool is very safe (if used properly), simple (if you have the tool!), and is effective if used properly. This video demonstrates how to use the Mercola Tick Stick:
You can buy a tick tool at most local pet stores, in the pet sections of your local big box store, or numerous places online (links below).
The Top Tick Tools Are:
- Mercola Tick Stick – $4.99 Mercola.com
- Tick Twister – $3.59 from PetCo.com
- Ticked Off! – $3.95 from Pet360.com
4. The Tweezer Method
The tweezer method is by far the most common method for removing ticks from any pet. Organizations such as: The Humane Society, The ASPCA, and Dr’s Foster and Smith all recommend using the tweezer method. But, it is also the method which most often ends unsuccessfully. When not done properly, it is easy to “squeeze” the infected parasitic blood back into the host’s blood stream, or to “tear” the tick, leaving the head still lodged in your dog’s skin. Both of these results can be dangerous for the health of your pup, which is why the tweezer method scored the lowest on our safety rating.
However, if executed properly, the tweezer method can be a simple, safe, and effective process when removing a tick from a dog. It is recommended that you use a pair of “Fine Tipped” tweezers, which will allow you to get closer to the dog’s skin than with a pair of standard bathroom tweezers.
Follow these simple steps for a successful tick removal:
- Calm your dog and have someone hold him/her during removal
- Gently pull back the hair from around the tick, exposing the skin near the bite
- Using the tweezers, grab the tick as close to the dog’s skin as possible and gently squeeze
- Pull out in a straight motion (your dog’s skin will pull) until the pressure pulls out the head of the tick
- Do NOT twist or wiggle the tick, that will likely tear his head off leaving it lodged in your dog’s skin
- Once removed, clean the area with rubbing alcohol or Tea Tree essential oil
Disposing of a tick after removal
After removing a tick from your dog it is a good idea to immediately kill the tick and store it in a container for at least two weeks. If your dog begins to show signs of Lyme disease or another tick borne illness, you will want to take the tick in to be tested. There are several ways to kill and store a tick, but the easiest I have found is to simply use a piece of clear plastic tape folded over on itself with the tick inside. This will suffocate the tick and make it easily available for testing if need be.
Another common method is to fill the bottom of a small container with rubbing alcohol and immediately place the tick into the alcohol after removal. This will kill the tick within a few minutes. After the tick as stopped moving (it’s dead) you can remove it from the alcohol and place it in a small container or plastic bag.
Don’t Do This!!!
There are several things you should ABSOLUTELY NEVER do when attempting to remove a tick. Some of these practices are still commonly held as “good ideas”, however all of them are ineffective, and some of them can even be dangerous to the health of you or your dog:
- Squeeze a tick’s body while still attached
- It WILL increase the chance of transfer disease to the host
- Use fire or burnt matches to “scare the tick out”
- Doesn’t work, and is the definition of “playing with fire”
- Freeze a tick off, unless instructed by a veterinarian
- Not a good idea, except in certain cases that pose a risk of an allergic reaction (more common in Australia) and if that is the case, it should be done at a hospital
- Ignore ticks, or think they will fall off on their own
- Try to smother ticks with petroleum jelly or another substance
If you learned something new about tick removal from this post, leave a comment below.
I want to know, how did these methods work for you and your dog?
Or do you have a method for removing ticks that I didn’t mention?
Let me know what you think by leaving a comment below.
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