If your dog gets a tick on them, you should remove it as soon as possible as ticks can spread diseases, and the risk of this increases the longer the tick is in place. However, you need to go about removing ticks the right way, as otherwise you can cause more problems than you solve.
This article will tell you the most common suggestions people are likely to make for removing ticks from dogs that will do more harm than good, or the ideas you might come up with to remove ticks that you should immediately discount, and why!
Read on to learn how not to remove ticks from dogs.
No, you can’t remove ticks from dogs with your fingernails.
If you find ticks mildly fascinating and this trumps the “eew” factor for you, when you see one latched onto your dog, it can be very tempting to think you could just pinch it off with your nails.
This effect is a bit like when you spot someone else struggling to do something that looks like it should be easy in theory; the urge to take over or push to have a go can be almost overwhelming, even though you know deep down that it probably isn’t!
Removing a tick from a dog with your nails is a classical example of this effect, and if doing this ever went according to plan for anyone, they’re the rare exception rather than the rule.
Trying to pinch a tick off with your nails will almost certainly break off the tick’s head under your dog’s skin however carefully you try to do this; hands are strong, nails have narrow edges, it’s going to go wrong.
Also, you could only attempt to do this with bare hands, and touching a tick with your bare hands is to be avoided for both “ick” reasons, and because they spread nasty bacteria that can cause serious illnesses like Lyme disease to dogs and humans alike.
If you’re convinced that you can’t pinch a tick off a dog with your nails and also that you shouldn’t touch a tick with bare hands, can’t you get ticks off with your fingers? Again, no. you can’t pluck a tick off your dog like this because their heads are buried under your dog’s skin; handling the body of the tick with your fingers will result in pinching it, and to pull a tick off you’d need to apply pressure but also, this pressure is going to probably pop the tick.
This is going to firstly, be gross, and secondly, result in injecting toxins from the tick’s body into your dog’s body, leaving them with part of the dead tick under their skin decaying away and greatly heightening the risk of infection.
Flat-ended tweezers like eyebrow tweezers (straight or sloped) might seem like just the tool for removing a tick from a dog; and blunt ended but pointed tweezers can indeed get ticks off dogs, if you know what you’re doing.
Flat tweezers though are a no; trying to get them between the head and body of the tick is highly unlikely to work, but highly likely to break the tick’s head from its body once more.
You might think if you poked or wiggled the tick gently it would get annoyed enough to interrupt its meal and waddle off. Does this work? No. Poking or otherwise bothering the body of the tick is far more likely to break the head off under your dog’s skin once again than it is to convince the tick to detach and see what’s going on.
You might think you could suffocate a tick and either get it to detach from your dog to get air, or kill it off and so cause it to drop away, using Vaseline or some other form of heavy grease.
This is not the case! Ticks, like spiders, have a very low respiration rate and could live under a layer of Vaseline or grease for hours. Even if you did manage to suffocate the tick, all that means is that you’ve got a dead tick attached to your dog now, releasing toxins into their blood stream.
One urban legend that did the rounds for far too long was that using a lit match, lighter, or needle that you’d heated up in a flame could get a tick off your dog.
This is an absolute recipe for disaster! You’re extremely likely to burn your dog (remember you can burn your dog’s skin even if the heat source is in proximity and not direct contact to it) and also, even if you get the tick with the flame or heat as well, you’ll probably just kill it in situ. It’s certainly not going to go “ow” and turn around and walk off.
There are only two almost fool proof ways to get a tick off a dog safely and fully if you do them properly, and these are using a tool called a tick twister, or using pointed but blunt ended tweezers respectively, in both cases twisting the tick off. Even the right kind of tweezers require an experienced hand to make this work, so a tick twister is the way to go.
Buy a tick twister and learn how to use it before you need it, and you’ll never have to worry about how to get a tick off a dog safely!
Ok, but what if you just don’t have the right tool to get a tick off your dog and they have a tick on them, what should you do?
If your choices are having a go by any means necessary or doing nothing, then leaving the tick alone is actually the best option. Leaving a tick on a dog does come with risks that increase the longer the tick is in place for, but none of these risks are as great as the risks that come with trying to remove a tick the wrong way.
Contact your vet or even a dog groomer, both of whom will be able to remove a tick for you, or ask another dog owner to lend you a tick twister.