Some species of ticks can carry potentially fatal diseases, such as Lyme disease, which is why it's important for you to learn how to periodically check your dog for ticks and to remove a dog tick if you find one. This is especially important to do after your dog has spent time outdoors in areas where ticks are likely to be present
Even if your dog wears a tick preventive collar or has a spot-on medication applied, it’s a good idea to run a quick check every time your dog comes in from outside.
How to Check Your Dog for Ticks
So, how do you go about checking your dog over for ticks? Some dogs are easier to check than others. Longer hair coats tend to give ticks a better opportunity to hide deep in the fur where they can stay for a long time undiscovered, while shorter hair coats leave the surface of the skin more visible and easy to finger comb.
Starting at the head, run your hands over the dog’s body, checking under the collar, and using your fingers like the teeth of a comb, thoroughly check all of the body, making sure to look under the tail and around the anus. Ticks are especially drawn to the dark, hidden areas of the body, like between the toes, and inside the groin and front legs.
You are feeling for something about the size of a small pea. However, because of its rather small size, you may want to use a brush or flea comb to check your dog’s fur thoroughly, stopping if you hit a bump or snag. Do not pull or force the comb over the bump, stop to see what the bump is before proceeding (pulling only part of the tick’s body out can be harmful to your dog). You will also want to check the skin for areas that appear red or irritated, and watch your dog for any signs of excessive scratching or licking in any particular areas. This can be a sign that a tick has attached itself to the skin in this spot.
The ears are another particularly attractive area for ticks to lodge, as they are dark, moist, and hidden. Check the ears thoroughly, inside and out, during every inspection. If your dog is shaking his head continuously and you can’t see anything in the outer ear canal, your veterinarian can inspect the inner canal of the ear more closely with a special instrument (otoscope).
How to Remove the Tick and Dispose of It
In order to properly remove a tick you must be careful to get the entire tick out. To do this, you may wish to wear a pair of disposable gloves or use a paper towel for handling the ticks. Then, using tweezers or a special tick removal tool, grip the tick by the head and as close to the skin as possible. Pull the tick straight out slowly and firmly without squeezing the body.
Do not twist the tweezers when pulling out the tick, do not try to burn the tick with matches, and do not apply anything to the dog’s skin to try to get the tick to “back out.” None of these methods work.
After removing the tick, place the entire tick in a small amount of rubbing alcohol to kill it. Do not squash the tick with your fingers. The site where the tick was attached will leave a small wound, so you will need to clean your dog’s skin with a disinfectant and apply a dab of triple antibiotic ointment once you are sure that you have removed all the parts of the tick from the dog.