How to Check Your Dog for Ticks and Remove Them
Some ticks can carry diseases that could kill your dog if they bite it, and this is the time of year when some of them are most active and looking for hosts to feed on. This summer, it’s important to check your dog for parasites on a regular basis to stop them from attaching and spread diseases. This will also make your dog more comfortable.
This is especially important to do after your dog has been outside in places where ticks are likely to be. Even if your dog wears a collar or gets a spot-on medicine to keep ticks away, it’s still a good idea to do a quick check during the summer.
Performing a Full Body Check
So, how do you make sure your dog doesn’t have ticks? Checking on some dogs is easier than checking on others. Longer hair coats make it easier for ticks to hide deep in the fur, where they can stay for a long time without being found. Shorter hair coats make it easier to see the surface of the skin and finger comb it.
Still, ticks are a little easier to find on a dog than smaller parasites like fleas. Unless your dog’s hair is very long or full, they are usually dark and big enough to see easily. Once a tick finds a place on the body and buries its head into the skin to feed, it doesn’t move around much. As their bodies fill with blood, they get bigger the longer they feed.
Starting at the head, run your hands over the dog’s body, checking under the collar. Then, using your fingers like the teeth of a comb, check all of the body carefully, making sure to look under the tail and around the anus. Ticks like dark, hidden places on the body, so check between the toes, the groin, and the front of the legs (armpits).
You are looking for something about the size of a small pea. You could also check the dog’s fur with a brush or flea comb, stopping if you hit a bump or snag. Do not pull or force the comb over the bump. Instead, stop and look to see what it is. Pulling a tick’s body out can hurt the tick. You should also look for red or irritated spots on the skin and watch your dog for signs that he or she is scratching or licking an area too much. This can be a sign that a tick has attached itself to the skin in that spot.
Ticks also like to live in the ears because they are dark, moist, and out of the way. Every time you inspect, make sure you look inside and outside the ears. If your dog is constantly shaking his head and you can’t see anything in the outer ear canal, your vet can use a special tool to look inside the ear canal more closely (otoscope).
How to Get Rid of Ticks
Ticks that are stuck should be carefully pulled out to make sure the whole tick comes out. When handling ticks, you might want to wear a pair of disposable gloves or use a paper towel. You can use tweezers or a special tool to grab the tick’s head as close to the skin as possible. Slowly and firmly pull the tick straight out without squeezing its body.
Do not twist the tweezers as you pull the tick out, do not try to burn the tick with a match, and do not put anything on the animal’s skin to try to get the tick to “back out.” These methods do not work.
Put the whole tick in a small amount of rubbing alcohol to kill it after you’ve taken it off. Don’t squash the tick with your fingers. There will be a small wound where the tick was stuck. Once the tick is off, you can clean your dog’s skin with a disinfectant or put a small amount of triple antibiotic ointment on it, if you want to.