How to Remove a Tick From a Dog or Cat
Ticks are one of nature's nastiest creepy-crawlies—a round little body with sharp jaws that sucks blood and spreads diseases. Even if you keep your pet on a regular tick preventive medication, the occasional tick may bite. To minimize the risk of disease, the tick needs to be removed from your dog or cat as quickly as possible.
What You Need to Remove a Tick from Your Dog or Cat
These supplies will help you to safely and effectively remove the tick without harming your pet in the process.
- Fine-point tweezers or a tick removal tool
- Soapy water and/or triple antibiotic ointment
- Disposable gloves
- A small sealable jar with some rubbing alcohol (optional)
How to Remove a Tick from a Dog or Cat Using Tweezers or a Tick Removal Tool
- Put on disposable gloves if you have them to avoid direct contact with the tick. (But if you don't have any handy, it's not the end of the world.)
- Part the hair around the tick so you have a clear view.
- Grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible. Avoid grabbing or squeezing the body of the tick, as that could cause it to burst or break, making removal of the rest of the tick more difficult. Focus on grabbing the head of the tick close to your dog or cat's skin and holding it firmly but not too tightly.
- If using a tick removal tool instead of tweezers, slide the opening of the tool against your pet's skin so that the tick's head is wedged in the smallest part.
- Gently but firmly pull straight up until the tick releases from the skin. If using a Tick Key, pull to the side along the skin. If using a Tick Twister, Tick Tornado, or similar device, twist and then pull up.
- Gently clean the area of the bite using soapy water and apply a small amount of triple antibiotic ointment if available.
Disposing of a Tick
Once you have removed a tick from your dog or cat, you have two options: kill it and keep it, or dispose of it. If you feel inspired to release it back into the wild, you do you.
Keeping a dead tick might sound weird, but it can be beneficial to know the type of tick that bit your pet (your veterinarian can help you with that). There are also labs and state agencies that can test ticks to identify what diseases they might be carrying, such as lyme disease or Canine Ehrlichiosis.
To save your tick, place it in a small jar or other sealable container with some rubbing alcohol. The alcohol will kill it. Label the tick with the date and location of where your pet probably picked it up.
Another option is to seal the tick between layers of tape. Do not squish the tick with your bare hands. If you just want that thing out of your house, flush it down the toilet!
Best Tools for Removing a Tick from Your Pet Yourself at Home
There are a variety of tick removal tools on the market, all of which are small and portable, perfect to bring along on a hike and keep in your car.
The Tick Key is my personal favorite. It is a flat metal device with a teardrop-shaped opening that is perfect for snagging and removing an embedded tick. I keep one on my keyring with me at all times, and have used it on a variety of animals and my husband.
The Tick Tornado, and Tick Twister are similar stick-like tools with a pronged foot at one end. The foot opening has tapers that allow you to slide it around and snag a tick tightly. Both come in multiple sizes, which can be handy for tiny nymph ticks or larger adults, or species like the American dog tick. The Tick Tornado can be attached to a keyring for taking on-the-go. I have used both of these as well, and they do work!
You can find tick remover tools for purchase in your vet's office, pet supply stores, and online.
When In Doubt, Let the Vet Remove the Tick From Your Pet
If you are unsure about removing the tick from your cat or dog or think the mouthparts might still be in the skin, call your vet's office. They can usually work you in so a technician can check the area where the tick was and show you how to easily remove it (plus they will likely have tick removal tools available for sale).
Pro tip: Make a note of exactly where the tick is on your pet's body. A small piece of masking tape or medical tape can be beneficial. This will make finding the spot much easier at the vet clinic once you're there for an examination!