What to do if your dog has a tick

Our top tips on what to do when your dog has a tick.

Doodles a sandy crossbreed dog, sitting on a brown leather sofa with a lady sitting with one hand on the dog.

Noticing a tick making itself at home on your beloved pet can be worrying, but we’re here to guide you through handling it.  

What is a tick?  

Ticks are small, spider-like parasites that suck blood from the skin of animals. They have eight legs and an egg-shaped body that fills with blood. Ticks are usually the size of an apple seed.  

They’re found in woodland and grassland throughout the year, but mostly between spring and autumn. Ticks can’t jump, but find their way onto dogs’ coats by climbing, dropping, or through direct contact.  

Your dog might encounter one while walking through long grass, for instance. So, it’s best to stay vigilant on walks like this during the warmer months.  

How to know if your dog has been bitten by a tick

If your dog has been bitten, you’ll usually see the tick on their skin. Regular grooming can be a good way of checking for ticks in a relaxed way.

Some dogs may change their behaviour if they’ve been bitten by a tick and the area is irritating them. They might lick or chew a specific part of their body more than usual, for example.  

Tick prevention

Tackling ticks is important, but preventing parasites in the first place is equally vital.

You won’t be able to stop your pup picking up parasites entirely, but ways to help avoid it include:

  • avoiding places where ticks are known to hang out  
  • checking your dog regularly, before and after a walk
  • speaking to your vet about parasite prevention treatments on offer
  • speaking to your vet about available tick repellents.

Lyme disease

Ticks usually feed on a dog’s skin for a few days, and then drop off. This is enough time to spread disease.  

If a tick has already moved from the skin, your dog may show signs of Lyme disease. These include:

  • depression
  • fever
  • loss of appetite
  • struggling to walk  
  • swollen and painful joints
  • lethargy
  • swollen lymph nodes.

When caught early, Lyme disease can be treated with antibiotics. If you’re worried your dog has Lyme disease, speak to your vet.

Should you be worried if your dog has a tick?

There are ticks in Europe that carry other diseases, but these don’t currently exist in the UK.  

If your dog has a tick, the best thing to do is to remove it safely. Don’t worry, we’ll guide you through the steps below.  

You should always speak to your vet if you’re concerned about a tick.  

How long will a tick stay on a dog?

If not removed, ticks will usually stay on your dog for a few days before dropping off. 

 

How to remove a tick from your dog

Tick bites can spread disease, so it’s important to remove them straight away if you find one on your pup. 

How to remove a tick:

  1. identify. Before you get to work, make sure it’s a tick you’re dealing with and not something else, like a lump or nipple. Do this by looking closely for the tick’s legs.  
     
  2. position the removal tool. Slide a tick-removal tool under the tick, as close to the skin as possible. If it doesn’t fit neatly under the tick, try a different size.  
     
  3. twist. Without pulling upwards, gently twist the tool two or three times in the same direction. Once you’ve twisted enough, the tick will let go.  
     
  4. dispose. To make sure the tick doesn’t reattach itself to someone else, dispose of it safely in your bin.  
     
  5. clean and monitor. Clean the affected area with warm, salty water and monitor your dog for any signs of illness.

Top tips for tick removal

  • never pull, crush, squeeze or burn a tick. Doing this can push blood back into your dog, increasing disease risk. And using a naked flame near your pooch could cause them physical harm.  
  • create practice scenarios beforehand. Your dog won’t know you’re trying to help them when approaching them with a removal tool. So, it can be good to get them confident and relaxed with the situation and minimise any stress.  

If your dog finds it hard to cope, or if you’re worried about removing a tick yourself, speak to your vet for more advice.  

What happens if a tick’s head is left in your dog?  

If a tick’s head is left in your dog’s skin, it can lead to infection. Speak to your vet if you face this issue when trying to remove a tick. 

The bottom line  

The bottom line is that ticks aren’t your pooch’s friend. If you spot one feasting on your best furry pal, remove it quickly using our guidance.  

If you have any issues, or still feel concerned, speak to your vet for more advice. It’s time to ‘tick’ parasite prevention off your to-do list. 

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