How To Get Rid Of Ticks On Dogs


This article is written by Pet Circle veterinarian, Dr. Samantha Wycherley, BVSc

Every pet owner's heart sinks when they spot a tick feasting on their beloved pet. These tiny creatures are not just unsightly; they can carry infectious diseases that pose serious threats to your best friend's health.

Imagine spotting a tick on your dog after a joyful romp in the park or an adventure in the bush. If not promptly and correctly removed, this miniscule pest can transmit illnesses like Ehrlichiosis within hours. Ticks are also responsible for causing the sometimes fatal 'tick paralysis'. These conditions can lead to long-term health complications, or worse.

But fear not! We've got you covered with a step-by-step guide on how to safely and effectively remove a tick from your pet. Arm yourself with knowledge, protect your furry friend, and ensure they remain tick-free and healthy.

Understanding Ticks

Ticks are parasitic, spider-like creatures that survive by feasting on the blood of a host animal. Host animals include mammals such as dogs, cats and even humans! There are actually around 70 different species of ticks found in Australia but the most significant ticks for your pets are the paralysis tick, bush tick and the brown dog tick.

Paralysis ticks are particularly dangerous for your pets. They get their name from the toxin they can inject into your furry friend when they attach, this toxin causes 'tick paralysis'.

Brown Dog Ticks and Bush Ticks aren't able to cause tick paralysis however they are able to cause anaemia and can transmit other diseases such as Ehrlichiosis and Babesiosis. Ehrlichiosis was previously thought to not be a problem in Australia however it has now been detected in multiple states since 2020.

Ticks like to live in moist, humid areas and are typically found in bush areas. Paralysis ticks are found on the East Coast of Australia stretching from Cape York to Lakes Entrance in Victoria. Brown Ticks are found in multiple locations throughout Australia and Bush ticks can be found on both the West and East Coast. With such a wide distribution throughout Australia tick protection is more important now than ever.

Ticks will typically attach to your pet after they have walked through a bushy/grassy area. Ticks will wait for a suitable host to brush through the foliage and then use their front legs to crawl on! Once they have found a suitable spot on your pet they will burrow their mouthparts in and start drinking.

Ticks like to hide in moist, warm areas on your pet (although can be found anywhere). Typical spots for a tick to be found are the ears, groin or armpits.

Tick removal

If you think you have found a tick on your pet the first thing to do is stay calm! It might be tempting to try and flick the tick off as fast as possible but following a step by step procedure is the best way to safely remove a tick and also helps your pet to not become stressed too!

Once a tick has been located, collect the following items:

  1. Tweezers or a tick removal tool
  2. Gloves
  3. A spare pair of hands if available!
  4. Treats to distract your pup
  5. A sealable container
  6. Isopropyl alcohol

Using tweezers

  1. If you have a spare pair of hands grab a friend to help you hold your pup while you spread the fur and locate the tick.
  2. Grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible (taking care not to pinch your dog's skin)
  3. Pull steadily upwards (No twisting needed in this method)

Using a tick removal tool

Tick removal tools are a great thing to have on hand at home to make tick removal as easy and stress free as possible. Simply follow the first few steps listed above but instead of using tweezers use your tick twister.

  1. Choose the most suitable hook according to the size of the tick
  2. Engage the hook by approaching the tick from the side until it is held
  3. Lift the hook lightly and turn it. The tick will detach itself after 2 or 3 rotations

Post tick-removal care

Once the tick has been removed from your pet, check the skin to make sure the tick has been removed in its entirety. In some cases the mouthparts can stay stuck in the skin and only the tick's body is removed.

If this is the case, once again, don't panic! If you try to dig the mouthparts out you can end up doing more harm than good and it can be painful for your pup. In most cases your pets immune system will recognise the mouthparts as foreign and eventually expel it on its own, however there is a slightly increased risk of infection. It's a good idea to check in with your vet if you are concerned or notice any redness, swelling, discharge or irritation at the tick removal site.

Place the tick in some isopropyl alcohol to kill it and then store it in a sealed container, you can then show this to your vet for species identification if needed.

Use antiseptic wipes or an antiseptic ointment to clean and disinfect the site on your pet's skin after removal.

Prevention and Aftercare

Ticks can be deadly - so how can you protect your pet? There are plenty of tick prevention products on the market which can help to keep your pet protected.

Tick prevention can be given in the form of monthly chews or tablets, 3 monthly chews or a spot on applicator. These products work by killing the tick after it attaches.

In some areas it's important to try and repel ticks and reduce the risk of them attaching in the first place with the use of a tick collar such as the Seresto collar. This will help to reduce the risk of transmission of diseases such as Ehrlichiosis which can be spread before the tick is killed.

Top Tick Preventatives for Dogs:

Shop All Dog Tick Preventatives

It's a good idea to get in the habit of running your fingers over your pet's coat to check for any lumps or bumps. Check your pet thoroughly after any walks, particularly through bush areas - focusing on the mouth (even in the mouth!), ears, armpits and groin.

Contact your vet for advice tailored to your pet's lifestyle and location.

If you live in a tick paralysis region and have removed a tick from your pet it's best to contact your vet for advice. Tick paralysis symptoms can develop even after the tick has been removed so it's important to monitor your pet for any changes such as:

  1. A change in the sound of their bark
  2. Wobbliness (particularly in the back legs)
  3. Difficulty sitting or standing
  4. Coughing or gagging
  5. Laboured breathing
  6. Vomiting

If you see any of these symptoms after finding a tick, seek urgent veterinary care.

Ticks can be nasty but the good news is that with awareness, regular tick checks and parasite prevention you can greatly reduce the risk of disease. Early tick detection combined with prompt removal can be a lifesaver.

Further Reading

What is the best flea and tick treatment

Ringworm in dogs

Heartworm facts

Is a tick collar enough

How to get rid of fleas on dogs

How to identify paralysis ticks

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