Tick twisters are more or less universally considered to be the best way to remove ticks from dogs as they’re very easy to use, difficult to get wrong (as long as you use them according to the instructions) and give you the best chance of removing the tick quickly and cleanly without risking breaking its body from its head.
All dog owners are advised to buy a tick twister and keep it somewhere accessible (and that you’ll remember if it is needed, even if that’s a couple of years down the line!) to remove ticks with if required.
Used correctly and with care, tick twisters are the safest, quickest, and easiest way to get a tick off your dog. However, you do need to know how to use one and the type of pressure and movement to use to get the tick loose, as otherwise you risk breaking the tick’s head off, which comes with the risk of causing both a localised infection on your dog’s skin, and increases the risk of your dog developing Lyme disease further down the line too.
This article will explain what a tick twister is, tell you what sort of places sell them, and explain in simple terms how to use a tick twister to get a tick off a dog. Read on to learn more.
A tick twister is a small plastic tool (usually sold as a set of two in slightly different sizes) that looks a little bit like a tiny crowbar if a crowbar’s head ended in a right-angle.
They are one-piece tools a few inches long with a straight handle, and the end part of it (the part you use to remove the tick) consists of a U or V-shaped area that you slot between the body of the tick and the part that is attached to the dog, to remove the tick.
They’re called tick twisters as the idea is that when you’ve slotted the prongs of the tool between the tick’s head and body, you gently and slowly turn or twist the to apply an even, firm but light pressure to the tick and detaches the head part from under your dog’s skin, without risking breaking the tick or doing anything that might cause pain or harm to your dog.
Tick twisters are very widely sold in many if not most businesses that serve dog owners. Virtually all pet shops stock them, you can order them online from both specialist pet retailers and places like eBay and Amazon, vets almost always stock them, dog groomers might have them, country stores and equestrian stores usually have them; they’re really not hard to buy.
They’re usually sold in packs of two of slightly different sizes and they’re inexpensive to buy, generally being well under £5 for the set.
Before you remove a tick from a dog, it is important to have everything you need to hand, and a plan for how you’re going to do it.
As well as your tick twister itself (or more to the point, the pair of them so you can assess and choose the right size) you should also have and wear a pair of disposable gloves, and something to dispose of the tick in. We suggest putting the tick between two pieces of kitchen roll, then placing this in a partially sealed sandwich bag and squashing it, before sealing the bag and throwing it in an outside bin.
You should also ideally have someone to hold and restrain your dog, or at least, tie your dog up securely. The process of removing a tick is not at all painful in itself, but your dog will almost certainly not be very helpful as they think your patting them or want to know what you’re doing, rather than keeping still.
When you’re ready to begin, put on your gloves and part your dog’s fur so you can see the tick properly. Decide at this point which size tick twister you need to use. If you’re unsure, start with the larger of the two, but keep the other to hand just in case.
Then, slide the prongs of the tick twister between the tick’s body and the body of your dog. Do this gently and slowly. The body of the tick should more or less cover the prongs; if you’re using the larger twister and the tick is small enough for you to see more than a tiny part of the prongs either side, try the smaller option.
When you have the tick twister in place and are confident you’ve picked the best size, turn the tick twister gently and slowly but smoothly using an even pressure in a twisting movement, rotating it in one direction with a very, very light upwards pressure until the tick detaches.
This may take two to three full revolutions, so be sure the tick is fully detached before you stop.
When the tick is loose, place it in the sandwich bag. Try to get a look at the head end to be sure it is intact, so you can be confident there isn’t a bit trapped under your dog’s skin.
Next, use an antibacterial or antiseptic to give your dog’s skin a quick wipe off where the tick was in place, to reduce the chances of a localised infection developing.
When you’ve removed a tick from your dog cleanly and fully, infections are not common, but do just keep an eye on the area for a couple of days to ensure it heals up.
Dispose of the bagged up dead tick and your disposable gloves in an outside bin, and wash your hands thoroughly when you’re done.
Disinfect your tick twister too before you put it away, so it doesn’t spread bacteria and is ready for next time.