Ticks might be small bugs, but they can cause big problems for your dog.
Check your pet for ticks every day if she’s been in a grassy or wooded area, no matter where you live. While these pests are more common in certain parts of the country, like the Northeast, they lurk in every state in the continental U.S.
Ticks feed on blood. When one of them bites your dog, it can pass on illnesses like Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever. Both of these can cause stiffness, joint pain, and other health problems.
It takes a tick anywhere from 3 to 24 hours of feeding to infect an animal. But if you know how to find and remove them early, you can lower the chances of your dog getting sick. You can also make sure she doesn’t bring one of these pests into your home, where it could attach itself to you and make you ill.
How to Check Your Dog for Ticks
1. Give her a once-over before you go inside, or just inside the door, to lower the chance that a tick will get into your home.
2. Comb through her fur with your fingers. Press gently so you can feel any bumps on the skin. Ticks can be as small as a pinhead or as big as a grape. Don’t forget to check her feet (including between her toes), inside her ears, and around her face and neck.
3. If you find a bump, part your dog’s fur so you can see her skin. Look for a black, brown, or grayish-brown bug. You might only see the tick’s body, or you might see its legs, too.
How to Remove One
1. You’ll need a pair of latex or rubber gloves, rubbing alcohol, an antibiotic ointment or antiseptic liquid, and a clean pair of tweezers or a tick-removing tool, which you can buy at pet supply stores.
2. Put your gloves on. Find the bug again and part your pooch’s fur so her skin and the tick are exposed.
3. If you’re using tweezers, grab the tick as close to your dog’s skin as you can and pull upward. Try to remove it in one motion. Jerking can cause part of the body to break off and get stuck in your pet’s skin.
If you have a tick removal tool, put the “forked” part under the bug, close to the skin. Don’t pull straight out. This, too, can cause a break and leave part of the pest behind. Instead, slowly turn the tool in a clockwise motion several times. The tick will let go of your dog.
4. Put the tick in a glass jar, plastic bag, or something else you can seal shut. Add a teaspoon of rubbing alcohol. The alcohol will kill the bug. Save the container for a few weeks. If your dog seems ill, take the tick to your vet. She’ll examine it to see what kind it is, which can help her figure out if it made your pet ill.
5. Clean the bite and the skin around it with antiseptic, or dab it with antibiotic ointment. Clean the tweezers or tool with alcohol, and wash your hands, too.
6. Check the bite area often over the next few weeks. Call your vet if it looks irritated or infected. If your dog seems especially tired, has trouble walking, or doesn’t eat or drink as usual, make an appointment with your vet and take the tick with you.
If You Aren’t Sure You Can Remove a Tick
Call your vet. You can take your dog in, and she or a vet tech will remove it for you. Plus they can show you how, so you can take off the next one yourself.