A Super Guide on Ticks + How to Properly Remove Them

Health & Wellbeing
March 14, 2024
Diana Bocco
Reviewed By: 
5 minute read

Spring is around the corner which means that tick season is upon us. Imagine you're enjoying a sunny day in the park with your furry best friend, unaware that a tiny, uninvited guest might be making its way onto your pet's coat. Yes, we're talking about ticks - those pesky little creatures that can be a significant concern, especially when considering the risks of a tick bite on a dog.

As pet owners, it's important to understand the world of ticks — not just to keep our pets safe, but to ensure our peace of mind too. From understanding what ticks are to what their bites look like and the potential dangers they pose, this guide covers it all.  

Where are ticks found most often?

Ticks are not just your average bugs; they belong to the arachnid family, making them distant cousins to spiders and scorpions. These tiny creatures are ectoparasites, which means they live on the outside of their host, feeding on blood to survive. There are hundreds of tick species, but the ones most commonly encountered by pets are the Ixodes, Dermacentor, and Rhipicephalus species.1

Ticks are masters of survival and are found in dense vegetation, tall grasses, and wooded habitats. They're not picky about geography either — whether it's the humid tropics or cooler temperate regions, ticks can adapt to anything.

While ticks can be a year-round concern, they are particularly active during warmer months (spring through fall). During these times, ticks are always looking for hosts to feed on. Some ticks have a unique method of finding their hosts, known as "questing."2 By clinging to the tips of vegetation with their back legs, they stretch out their front legs, ready to latch onto any passing animal. Others will simply fall on dogs as they’re exploring bushes or long grass.

How Ticks Bite and Attach to Dogs

Wondering how to check a dog for ticks? Ticks are sneaky creatures. When they find a suitable spot on your dog's skin, they cut through the surface and insert their feeding tube, which can have barbs to help them stay firmly attached. Some ticks also secrete a substance that acts like cement, keeping them securely in place while they eat.

Once a tick has latched onto your pet, it begins its meal, which can last anywhere from several hours to several days. During this time, ticks can transmit a variety of pathogens through their saliva, potentially causing diseases like Lyme disease, Ehrlichiosis, and Rocky Mountain spotted fever. 

The bite itself is usually painless, so your pet might not show immediate signs of discomfort. However, the area around the bite can become red and irritated over time, and in some cases, the tick can cause an allergic reaction or secondary infection.

The Tick Check: Finding Ticks on Your Pet

Tick checks should be a regular part of your pet care routine, especially during tick season. With a simple routine, you can catch ticks early and prevent the potential spread of tick-borne diseases. 

  1. How to spot a tick on a dog: To check a dog for ticks, start with a visual check and give them a good once-over. Start by checking their fur for any unusual bumps or dark spots.
  2. Use your hands: Run your fingers through your pet's coat with gentle pressure to feel for any small bumps. 
  3. Take a closer look: If you feel something suspicious, part the fur to get a better look. Ticks can be as small as a pinhead or as large as a grape depending on their feeding stage. To identify them accurately, it's helpful to know what does a tick look like in a dog: usually a tiny, dark, oval-shaped insect embedded in the skin.

Common Hiding Spots for Ticks on Pets:

  • Inside and around the ears
  • Underneath collars
  • Between the toes
  • Under the tail
  • Around the eyelids
  • In the groin area
  • Under the front legs
  • At the base of the tail

How to Remove Ticks From Dogs

Removing a tick from your pet is a delicate process that requires precision to minimize the risk of infection or irritation to your pet's skin. Here’s how to take a tick off a dog safely: 3

  1. Use tweezers: You can get special tweezers and tick removal tools from pet stores or your veterinarian. 
  2. What to do if you find ticks on your dog: Grab the tick as close to the skin as possible. Pull upward using steady pressure. Don’t pull too fast, as this can cause the head to break off.
  3. How to get a tick off your dog: No squeezing! Be careful not to crush the tick's body, as this can release bacteria into the body. 
  4. Keep the bite area clean: After removing the tick, clean well with soap and water, rubbing alcohol, or iodine. Don’t forget to wash your hands after.
  5. Submerge the tick in rubbing alcohol to kill it: You can also flush it down the toilet. Never crush a tick with your fingers. 

The Don'ts of Tick Removal

  • Don't use your bare hands: Always use tweezers or a tick removal tool instead.
  • Forget weird home remedies: Using nail polish, petroleum jelly, or heat to “loosen up” the tick is not only ineffective but can also be dangerous.
  • Don't rush: Incorrect removal can increase the chances of infection.

After removal, remember to monitor the bite site for a few weeks and look for signs of infection, such as redness, swelling, or warmth. Also watch for symptoms of tick-borne diseases, like fever, lethargy, joint pain, or loss of appetite.

If at any point you are concerned about incomplete removal, infection, or illness, consult your veterinarian. They might recommend bringing your pet in for a check-up or sending the tick for testing.

Preventing Tick Bites: Strategies and Tips

Preventing a tick bite on a dog involves a combination of environmental management and regular grooming practices. Here are the first steps to get you started:

  • Maintain Your Yard: Keep your lawn trimmed and bushes pruned. Ticks thrive in tall grass and dense vegetation, so a well-maintained yard is less inviting to them.
  • Create a Tick-Free Zone: Consider creating barriers between your yard and wooded areas. Use wood chips or gravel as a barrier, as ticks are less likely to cross these.
  • Avoid Tick Hotspots: When walking your pet, steer clear of thick underbrush and long grass. Stick to the center of trails when hiking.
  • Groom Your Dog: Brush your pet's coat regularly. This not only keeps their fur in good condition but also allows you to catch ticks early.
  • Check Your Pet After Outdoor Activities: After spending time outdoors, especially in areas known for ticks, perform a tick check on your pet.

Incorporating certain plants into your garden can be a natural and effective way to deter ticks. Plants like lavender, garlic, and rosemary not only look good but also serve as natural tick repellents, as these plants emit scents that ticks find unappealing.

Another eco-friendly strategy is to attract natural predators of ticks into your garden. Birds and certain types of spiders are known for feeding on ticks, helping to control their population.4 Creating a garden that is welcoming to these natural tick predators can provide a biological defense against these pests.

Products such as sprays made from essential oils, like lemon eucalyptus oil, can be applied to your garden and outdoor spaces to keep ticks at bay too. However, it's crucial to ensure that any natural repellents used are safe for pets, as some essential oils can be harmful to animals. By combining these natural strategies, you can create a more tick-resistant environment that offers peace of mind while keeping your pets safe.

Tick Prevention Medicine

There are a number of options available to protect your pets from ticks, including topical treatments, oral medications, and tick collars. Each method comes with its own set of advantages and considerations, and it’s important to choose the most suitable and effective tick prevention strategy for your pet.5 

Topical Treatments: These are liquids applied to the back of your pet's neck or spine. They are effective at killing and repelling ticks and usually last about a month.

  • Pros: Easy to apply; long-lasting.
  • Cons: Can be messy; needs time to dry; can irritate skin.

Oral Medications: These come in the form of chewable tablets and are given once a month. They work by killing ticks that bite your pet.

  • Pros: No external residue; not affected by bathing.
  • Cons: Can be more expensive; some pets may refuse to take them.

Tick Collars: These collars release a chemical that repels and kills ticks. They can offer long-term protection, up to several months.

  • Pros: Continuous protection; easy to use.
  • Cons: Can lose effectiveness if frequently exposed to water; potential for skin irritation; might not be safe in multiple-dog households where dogs like to play wrestle and could chew on the collar.  

So, do dogs need flea and tick medicine every month? Can dogs get ticks in the winter?  The shortest answer is, “It depends.” Always consult with your veterinarian before starting any tick prevention regimen. They can recommend the best option based on your pet's health, lifestyle, and the prevalence of ticks in your area. Your vet can also provide advice on the proper dosages and how to safely mix different types of preventatives, if necessary.

Risks Associated with Ticks

Can ticks kill dogs? Ticks can not only transmit various serious diseases with long-term effects for your dog, but in some cases, they can also cause death. Common diseases caused by ticks include: 

  • Lyme Disease: Caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi, it's one of the most well-known tick-borne illnesses. It can lead to arthritis, neurological problems, and even heart issues in pets.
  • Ehrlichiosis: This disease is caused by the Ehrlichia bacteria and can result in fever, weight loss, and respiratory issues in dogs.
  • Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever: Despite its name, this disease is found across the US and Canada. Caused by the Rickettsia bacteria, it can lead to joint pain, fever, and even kidney failure.
  • Anaplasmosis: Similar to Lyme disease, it's caused by the Anaplasma phagocytophilum bacterium and can result in lameness, joint pain, and fever.
  • Babesiosis: Caused by parasites that infect red blood cells, leading to severe anemia, fever, and weakness.

Early Warning Signs of Tick-Borne Illnesses:

A crucial aspect of pet care involves knowing what do ticks do to dogs. Here are some of the most common issues that might appear after a bite: 

  • Fever and Lethargy: A sudden spike in temperature and unusual tiredness.
  • Joint Swelling and Pain: Difficulty moving or unexplained lameness.
  • Appetite Loss: Refusal to eat or reduced interest in food.
  • Unusual Bruising or Bleeding: Signs of potential blood clotting issues.
  • Neurological Symptoms: Seizures, disorientation, or unusual behavior.

Knowing how to treat a tick bite on a dog —which includes proper removal of the tick and cleaning the bite area — is an essential skill for all pet owners. If you notice any of these symptoms in your pet, especially after finding a tick, it's crucial to consult your veterinarian immediately. Early detection and treatment can make a significant difference in the outcome of these diseases. 


Tackling ticks is no small feat, but with the right knowledge and tools, you can ensure your pet lives a happy, healthy life, free from the dangers of these pesky parasites. Remember, prevention is always better than cure, and the steps you take today can safeguard your furry friend's tomorrow. Regular grooming, vigilant tick checks, and appropriate preventative medications are your best line of defense against tick-borne diseases.

At Cola's Kitchen, we believe in a holistic approach to pet care, which is why alongside these preventive measures, we emphasize the importance of a healthy diet. Our fresh food diets, crafted with the utmost care and quality ingredients, are designed to bolster your pet's immune system. A strong immune system is your pet's natural defense against many health issues, including complications that can arise from tick bites. By combining our nutritious diets with regular tick prevention strategies, you can provide your pet with a robust shield of health and happiness.

about cola's precision diet

Cola's Kitchen precision diet is the first truly tailored diet for a unique approach to nutrition. Our diets are individually formulated and balanced to address the most precise nutritional requirements of your pup.

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