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How to Check Your Dog for Ticks (And What To Do If You Find One)

How to Check Your Dog for Ticks (And What To Do If You Find One)

Warmer weather months bring a wave of outdoor adventures and exhilarating hikes with your dog. However, if you're in a region populated with ticks, this is their time to SHINE — and not in a good way.

Ticks on dogs can turn a pleasant hike into an itchy nightmare for your furry friend. Worst, these sneaky hitchhikers potentially carry harmful diseases. Of course, you'll want to make sure your dog is up to date and treated with flea and tick preventatives so you can worry less and hike more. But if you spot something fishy (or ticky) clinging to your dog's skin, it's time to spring into action. 

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Here's how to tell if it's a tick & how to safely remove it!

First, check your dog for ticks with these easy steps. 

Step 1: Set the stage. Do a tick check in a well-lit area to easily spot these pesky parasites that usually hide deep in your dog's coat.

Step 2: Start the hunt from the head. Run your hands through the fur, from head to paw. Feel for any unusual bumps or raised areas in a tick's favorite hangouts — somewhere dark, warm, and moist.

Areas around the ears, neck, groin, and toes are prime real estate for these tiny bloodsuckers.

Step 3: Comb it out. If your pooch is rocking luscious locks, use a fine-tooth comb to ensure no ticks go unnoticed. But don't yank the comb over a lump. Figure out what it is and then proceed with caution.

What to do when you find something!

Don’t panic. Investigate.

Is it really a tick or just a harmless scab or some other gross thing? Time to put your detective skills to work.

  • Ticks are usually small, dark, and round—like a poppy seed. They may appear engorged if they've been feeding on your dog's blood for a while.
  • Ticks have six or eight legs, distinguishing them from common skin issues. So when you give it a gentle poke, and it starts wiggling, you might have to brace yourself for a “ticks on dogs” showdown. If it stays put, it might be something else, like a scab, a skin tag, or a harmless bump.

You’ve got confirmation — it’s a tick! Now what? 

Step 1: Protect yourself. Before you begin tick removal, wear gloves to shield yourself from any tick-related nastiness. Safety first, right?

Step 2: Tweeze and seize. Get a pair of fine-tipped tweezers or a tick removal tool. Dab rubbing alcohol on the creepy crawler before positioning the tweezers near the tick’s head and as close to your dog's skin as possible.

Slowly and steadily pull the tick straight out, applying even pressure. No squeezing or crushing, though! You don't want the pest to spew blood into your pup, which ups the chances of infection. 

Step 3: Take a closer look. Double-check that you've extracted the entire tick in one clean sweep. That's why it's best to avoid twisting or jerking motions during the tick removal, as this may cause the tick's mouthparts to break off and remain embedded in your dog’s skin.

Step 4: Dispose of the tick. Once you've successfully evicted the fur freeloader, pop it into a small container or ziplock bag filled with rubbing alcohol. That'll put an end to its pestering days. Alternatively, you can give it the old heave-ho by flushing it down the toilet.

Step 5: Clean and soothe. You've handled the tick troubles like a boss, but don't forget to show some love to the bite area. Clean it with mild soap and water or an antiseptic solution. Then gently pat the area dry and observe it for any signs of irritation or inflammation. 

Ticks on dogs don't have to ruin your summer bonding sessions. Now that you've got the lowdown on how to check your dog for ticks and tick removal, you can keep the good times rolling by staying proactive and being thorough with your checks after outdoor adventures.

If you have any questions or are concerned about a tick you found or having trouble removing it, or maybe you just want to make sure your dog is in the clear post-tick, don't hesitate to reach out to your veterinarian!