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Vet Tips: Protect Your Pets Against Ticks

| Updated May 30, 2023

To protect your pets against ticks, you need to know how to properly remove them. Here's how.

The return of warm weather brings out the return of the ticks.

When our dog picked up his first tick of the year some years back, we learned from our vet how to remove them. You want to get the entire tick out, in one piece.

“Most people just try to squeeze it out,” our vet told us. “That's never good. They more often than not break it off on the head. They get the tick's body out but its head – where the toxins are – remain in the dog.”

She showed me how to do it, using tweezers to dig way down, under the head, and then pulling it up.

“Be sure to wear disposable gloves,” she added. “It protects you from disease. Never try this with your bare hands.”

Jennifer just looked at me and shook her head. Usually, I just reach down with my thumb and index fingers for the extraction. No more.

Ticking Tick Bomb

The tick problem is huge and seemingly getting worse each year. Ticks are linked to lots of illnesses – in pets and humans – including Lyme disease.

My vet recommended that we check our dog every day. That's also the official recommendation of the Humane Society of America.

The tick problem is a big one, notes the society.

“Don't limit tick checks to your canine family members,” it warns in a recent publication. “Dogs can't directly transmit tick-borne illnesses to people, but ticks can move from host to host. A tick may enter your home on your dog's back and move on to another pet or human, or a tick could hitch a ride on you and then move on to one of your pets. A good tick prevention strategy includes checking all family members for these parasites, especially after outdoor activities in wooded, leafy, or grassy areas.”

This is especially appropriate for RVers, who spend a lot of time in such places.

Before it was recommended that everyone put their dogs on tick meds in preparation for tick season. However, with ticks so prevalent these days, the vet recommends that we keep our dog on the medication all year round.

To learn more about what experts are calling the “Ticking Tick Bomb,” read Tick Forecast: How to Keep Ticks Off Dogs and Out of Your RV.

How to Check Your Dogs for Ticks

First, run your fingers slowly over your dog's entire body. If you feel a bump or swollen area, check to see if a tick has burrowed there.

Don't limit your search to your dog's torso: check between his toes, under his armpits, the insides of his ears, and around his face and chin.

How to Remove Ticks from Your Pet

In just a second, I'm going to tell you how the Humane Society of America says to remove a tick from your pet. But first I want to recommend a commercial tick remover…

After my vet told me I've been doing it all wrong, I went on Amazon and ordered this tick removal tool – The Tick Key. It's $19.95 for a set of three on Amazon. It makes tick removal quick and easy. I keep one on my key chain.

Protect your pets against ticks with the Tick Key
The Tick Key

Step 1: Get your gear

  • Pair of gloves
  • Clean pair of tweezers or a commercial tick remover
  • Antiseptic
  • Isopropyl alcohol

Step 2: Remove the tick

Wear gloves while removing the tick to avoid contact with your skin (ticks can transmit diseases to people, too).

If you're using tweezers:

  • Grasp the tick as close to your dog’s skin as possible, but be gentle! Try not to pinch your dog's skin.
  • Pull outward in a straight, steady motion, making sure that you’ve removed the entire tick, since anything left behind could lead to an infection.

If you're using a tick remover (like the Tick Key tool I just mentioned):

  • Gently press the remover against your dog's skin near the tick.
  • Slide the notch of the remover under the tick.
  • Continue sliding the remover until the tick is caught in the small end of the notch and is pulled free. (The tick will remain in the bowl of the remover.

Step 3: Keep the Tick

There's one more step you need to take, something my vet did with the tick she removed from our dog…

Drop the tick into a small container that contains isopropyl alcohol (the alcohol will quickly kill the tick), and mark the date on the container. If your dog begins displaying symptoms of a tick-borne illness, your veterinarian may want to identify or test the tick.

Mike Wendland

Published on 2018-05-15

Mike Wendland is a multiple Emmy-award-winning Journalist, Podcaster, YouTuber, and Blogger, who has traveled with his wife, Jennifer, all over North America in an RV, sharing adventures and reviewing RV, Camping, Outdoor, Travel and Tech Gear for the past 12 years. They are leading industry experts in RV living and have written 18 travel books.

5 Responses to “Vet Tips: Protect Your Pets Against Ticks”

May 10, 2016at10:39 pm, ezytrail lansvale said:

That’s the remedy every pet lover faces.Every Time your pet was infested with this kind of bugs.Better to consult a vet for you to have a prescription on how this infestation end.

April 28, 2016at4:20 pm, Sueann horvat said:

Not sure of the location of the commenters here but in Northern coastal Calif. our worst tick season runs Oct. thru about May. (Our rainy season ) We have been using a product called ‘Bravecto’ (available thru our vet) on our 4 yr. old female Yellow Lab with good results.

April 30, 2015at4:14 pm, Ryan said:

That would sure slow down RV sales if there was an infestation of ticks! We all want to be ticked off! HAHA!

April 27, 2015at6:59 pm, Anthony Lanni said:

My grandfather removed ticks by lighting a stick match then blowing if out and then placeing the match head on the ticks back and the tick would back out of the dogs skin. Work ervery time.

March 28, 2016at9:19 am, Dan said:

Often repeated folk remedies like touching the tick with a hot match might have worked to remove American dog ticks, but these days the most common ticks people encounter are blacklegged (deer) ticks and Lone Star ticks. In their adult stages, these two tick species attach with great tenacity–they insert their longer hypostomes (mouthparts) deeper into the dermis than Am. dog ticks, and their hypostomes come with more backward pointing denticles (barbs). Deer ticks also secrete a cement substance that glues them into the skin of the host. When the ticks are full of blood, they secrete enzymes that dissolve the glue allowing the tick to detach. Attached nymphal stage ticks are just too small to touch with a hot match without risking a skin burn, or making the tick vomit into the bite site. Nymphs also attach with great tenacity.

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