two dogs in grass at sunset

First Aid: How to remove a tick from your dog

Yuck. The thought alone of ticks freaks most people out. They are the creepy crawlies infested with disease. A scary fact of life. As a dog owner, ticks are a real concern all around the world. To keep our dogs healthy and safe, ticks are something that we need to educate ourselves about. Knowing how to remove a tick from a dog can prevent disease.

The risks

Most dog-free people think ticks are only a risk in long grasses out in the forest. A concern for hikers and campers sure, but not for regular city folks. Unfortunately, this is a misconception. Ticks can live in urban areas and are even found indoors. If a tick burrows into your dog, they can infect immediately with Lyme and other nasty diseases. The worst part about them is they are parasites that feed on blood. “Okay okay, we get it! Ticks are serious!” I can already hear you groan. Enough about the nasty facts, just be sure to check your dog regularly for ticks, and if you see a tick on your dog, remove it asap. 

How to check for ticks

If your dog has long fur, a double coat, or is dark brown or black, a tick may be hard to see. This is the case with my black lab mix. To check him, I pet him in an upward motion. I pull his fur back to see the skin. You can use a hairdryer, but Thor would hate that! I check his whole body, but usually, ticks latch on to the lower parts of the body and belly since they jump up from the grass.

black dog running with stick in grass

Get to know when ticks are a problem in your area. Ticks thrive from March to October here in Southern Ontario. If Thor and I have been out for an extended amount of time during these months, I am sure to check him right away. The same goes for if he has had off-leash time. I have not found one on him to date. 

In the past, a friend of mine found a tick on her dog. My friend Vanessa’s dog Marley had a tick that looked like a wart or pimple. She thought it was odd. Marley didn’t have a history of skin issues. So, she took Marley to the veterinary clinic.  Upon investigation, the vet found that it was actually a tick burrowed into his fur. Thankfully, the vet was able to remove the tick. Although Marley seemed okay, he had to take some medications after. This was to prevent any possibility of infection. Ticks can be tiny and very hard to spot. So, if you see an unusual spot on your dog, it’s always a good idea to get it checked.

Proper tick removal

If you find a tick, take a deep breath and get out a tick tool. These are often found in pet first aid kits. You can also buy them online or in any pet shop. You can use tweezers instead but never use your fingernails. The goal is to remove the tick without squishing it (ew) because it is full of pathogens (ew ew ew). If you are unsure, get to the vet!

Here is a video from The Ontario SPCA for a demonstration. This is the best and easiest way to remove a tick from a dog:

When to visit the vet

As usual, if you are unsure about anything health-related, get your pup to the vet. If you suspect your dog was bitten, don’t waste any time! Ticks can infect immediately, so be sure to act with urgency. There are medications and vaccinations for tick-related diseases and tick bites. If your vet suspects your dog needs any medications, always follow their instructions.

Symptoms of a tick bite may include:

  • Fever
  • Limpness
  • Joint pain
  • Limping
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Lack of energy

Preventative measures

Preventative tick medications are available for dogs. It can be a pill, or a gel applied to the skin. Consider this if your dog is at a high risk for ticks. It may give you some peace of mind. Preventative medication might be the way to go if the following situations apply to you:

  • If you are planning to spend a lot of time in nature.
  • If it is a bad tick year in your area.
  • If your dog has been bitten by a tick before.
  • If your dog has a health condition that may make recovering from a tick bite risky for them.

“Spot on” tick medication is controversial because it kills ticks when they make contact with your dog. Many pet owners and even some vets believe it is toxic to dogs and would never use it.

fluffy blonde dog held in woman's arms

Since my dog Thor has black fur, I have used tick medication from the vet for him in the past. One summer, I had a lot of outdoor activities planned and I had heard it was a very bad year for ticks in Ontario. That rumor does seem to circulate every year! I spoke with my vet, and she didn’t see any risk in prescribing Thor a preventative medication. Unfortunately, I don’t recall the name since it was a few years ago. If this is something that interests you, I recommend speaking to your vet. Be prepared to ask questions if you have concerns. You should feel confident trusting your vet’s opinions on what medications are safe for your dog.

Other types of topical tick repellants are available. This includes tick collars, sprays, powders, and shampoos. There are even some that contain all-natural ingredients. These preventative measures or medication will not protect your dog one hundred percent. You will still need to check your dog for ticks.


Ticks are disgusting. They are dangerous. They carry disease and can spread to other family members, including you. This is not something you ever want to find on your pet. It is possible that you will encounter one on your dog at some point. Be prepared with the knowledge of how to remove a tick from your dog. You will know how to handle it if the situation arises. Ticks are preventable with medications, but you should always check your dog’s fur for ticks after outdoor activities. Consult your vet for preventative medication, collars, sprays, or shampoos. Now let’s stop talking about this before I get the creeps!

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