How To Remove Ticks From Your Dog: Dos and Don’ts

Ticks – ugh! They’re creepy and they can transmit disease. Experts are warning us that this year’s going to be an especially bad year for ticks, with disease incidence expanding and becoming endemic in new areas.

Whatever you use to repel ticks (even the toxic, carcinogenic pharmaceutical products) … if your dog plays in wooded areas, once in a while he’ll probably pick up a tick or two.

Most tick-borne diseases aren’t transmitted immediately, so if you get ticks off your dog within 24 to 36 hours of a tick bite, he’s unlikely to get infected.

But that means it’s really important to check your dog for ticks and remove them promptly. Keep reading to learn the dos and don’ts of tick removal …

… but first, find out which tick diseases your dog might be exposed to.

Tick Diseases In Dogs

Are ticks common where you live? Here’s some information about:

  • the most common diseases ticks can transmit to dogs
  • which ticks carry those diseases
  • geographic areas where they’re usually found






This is an emerging disease that’s quite rare but worth mentioning because it’s not spread by a tick bite, but by dogs ingesting infected ticks …

American canine hepatozoonosis (ACH)

(Hepatozoon canis, Hepatozoon americanum)

  • This can happen when a dog removes ticks off his own body, or if he eats prey that has ticks
  • It can be a highly debilitating disease … so it’s especially important to remove ticks from your dog before he does it himself!
  • ACH is found in the south central and southeastern US

Is There Tick Disease Where You Live?

If you want to check your area for the incidence of tick disease, the Companion Animal Parasite Council (CAPC) has nice interactive maps for the US and Canada on their website.

Removing Ticks From Your Dog

Getting any ticks off your dog quickly is an essential part of tick-borne disease prevention.  So let’s take a look at some DOs and DON’Ts to keep in mind.


DO … remove ticks within 24 to 36 hours of a bite …

If your dog’s out every day in areas where he can pick up ticks, then you need to check him every day. Otherwise, check him when he’s been in the woods or any tick-infested area.

TIP: Some dogs may “show” you where they have a tick, so keep an eye out for your dog scratching himself or biting at himself repeatedly in one place.

DO … check him thoroughly all over. Ticks especially like to hang out in places like his groin, between his toes, in or around his ears, around the anal area, his tail and eyelids.

TIP: If you have a long-haired or double-coated dog, use a dog hair dryer (or your own dryer on a very cool setting) to check for ticks. As you move the dryer over your dog, the hairs will part and you’ll be able to see the skin and catch sight of any ticks lurking there.

If You Find A Tick On Your Dog

DO …use tweezers:

  • Part your dog’s hair around the tick with your fingers
  • Place the tweezers around the tick, as close as you can, possibly get to the skin
  • Don’t twist or jerk the tick
  • Just pull gently upwards with steady hands, adding pressure until the tick lets you pull it away from the skin
  • Clean the bite area and your hands with rubbing alcohol, iodine or soap and water
  • Dispose of the tick by killing it in alcohol or flush it down the toilet
  • If you’re concerned your dog may have contracted tick disease, save the tick in alcohol for testing

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)


DO … use a tick removal gadget. There are several on the market. I like the Tick Key and I keep one in several rooms of my house so it’s close at hand when I find a tick on my dog. You can also keep it on your key ring.

  • Place the large opening of the Tick Key over the tick
  • Slide the Tick Key until the tick is in the narrow slot at the end
  • Keep sliding the tick key in the same direction, along the skin
  • The tick will come out, head and all
  • Clean the bite area and your hands with rubbing alcohol, iodine or soap and water
  • Dispose of the tick by killing it in alcohol or flush it down the toilet
  • If you’re concerned your dog may have contracted tick disease, save the tick in alcohol for testing


  • DON’T … remove ticks with your fingers (though I must admit I do sometimes). If you do use your fingers, it’s best to protect them with a tissue or paper towel, and disinfect your hands afterwards (as well as the bite area on your dog). You don’t really want tick saliva or blood on your fingers as it may contain pathogens
  • DON’T … squish or crush a tick. This can force infected body fluids through the tick’s mouth and increase the risk of infection for you and your dog
  • DON’T … worry if the mouthpart of the tick stays in your dog’s skin. It can happen sometimes when they’re really well embedded. It’s a bit like having a splinter and it will fall out in a few days
  • DON’T … put substances like nail polish, vaseline or repellents on the tick to try to suffocate or kill it while it’s on your dog. This can cause the tick to vomit into your dog, increasing the possibility of infection
  • DON’T  … burn the tick with a lighted cigarette or hot match as these things can also cause vomiting
  • DON’T … dispose of the tick in your trashcan or sink as they can easily crawl back out

How Long Can Ticks Survive Without A Host?

I’ve often wondered about this (because I’ve sometimes dropped a tick after removing it) … so I looked it up. (Now I’ll be a lot less worried that there’s a tick wandering around my house looking for someone to bite).

  • Deer ticks as well as most other hard ticks (which are the ones that usually transmit disease) can dry out and die very quickly in an environment where humidity is less than 90%. Most will die within about 8 hours and won’t survive even 24 hours.
  • On moist clothing in a laundry hamper they might survive 2 or 3 days, or longer if they’ve recently had a blood meal.

If you bring ticks home on your clothes, a study by University of Vermont concluded that putting your clothes in the dryer for 5 minutes on high heat will kill ticks. If you wash your clothes first, the water temperature needs to be over 115°F to kill them. If any survive the wash cycle, you’ll need to dry them for 70 minutes on low heat, or 50 minutes on high heat. Blacklegged (deer) ticks were used for this study so other ticks may respond differently.

Of course, keeping ticks off your dog in the first place is the best strategy, but it’s worthwhile taking the time to check him regularly for ticks. If you remove them promptly, the likelihood of him getting a tick-borne disease is very low.

But before I go …

Here are some quick tips to help keep the ticks off your dog

What to Avoid …

There are many chemical tick preventives that can harm your dog. These range from spot-ons and sprays or collars that repel insects (including brands your vet may prescribe, like Frontline, Advantix, Advantage, Seresto and more).  These pesticides are toxic and can all cause risky side effects in your dog.

There are also some new oral flea and tick preventives, which are given monthly or every three months … the brand names are  Nexgard, Bravecto and Simparica. You might think it sounds very convenient to just give your dog a tasty chew every month or so … but there are risks involved. These drugs circulate in your dog’s bloodstream and they work by attacking the nervous system of the insect to kill it. This means they can also be dangerous for your dog. A number of side effects have been reported, like vomiting, lethargy, diarrhea, and seizures … and once these drugs are in your dog’s bloodstream, they will stay there for several weeks or even months. So if your dog has an adverse reaction, you can’t get it out of his system!  Learn more about these drugs that harm both the ticks and your dog!

Avoid these side effects by using organic and natural tick repellents.

3 Natural Solutions

1. Dietary Tick Preventatives

  • Garlic – Garlic helps repel fleas and ticks when it’s excreted through your dog’s skin. You may think garlic is toxic to your dog but it’s a healthy addition to your dog’s diet as long as you feed the right dose – about 1/3 tsp of fresh chopped garlic for per 10 lbs of your dog’s body weight. Here’s a more detailed dosage chart along with information about garlic’s health benefits.
  • Apple Cider Vinegar – Give your dog 1/2 tsp per day per 25 lbs of body weight.  Add it to your dog’s food or water bowl. The apple cider vinegar adds acidity to your dog’s blood which makes him less appealing to ticks and also fleas.

2. Topical Tick Preventives

  • Herbal flea and tick powder – Many herbal flea and tick powders and sprays are on the market, with various herbal combinations to prevent ticks. Or, learn how to make your own tick powder. 
  • Herbal flea and tick collars – You can make your own herbal flea and tick collar by mixing 2 tablespoons of almond oil with two drops of rose geranium essential oil or palo santo essential oil. Take the ingredients and dab a few drops on your dog’s neck area or place the essential oil directly on your dog’s collar or a bandana. Reapply the essential oil to the collar or neck weekly. There are also several herbal or essential oil tick collars on the market you can purchase.  Avoid any products containing essential oils of wintergreen, pennyroyal and clove. These oils are dangerous for your dog and should not be used for any reason.
  • Tick shampoo – You can make your own tick shampoo by mixing several drops of palo santo essential oil with your favorite organic lavender shampoo. Let the suds sit on your dog for twenty minutes before rinsing. Doing this will kill any existing ticks and prevent new ones.
  • Citrus repellent – You can make your own citrus repellent by cutting a lemon into quarters and putting them into a pint jar. Cover with boiling water and allow the fluid to steep overnight. In the morning, pour the liquid into a spray bottle and mist your dog (use caution around his eyes and nose). For best results, pay attention to the areas behind your dog’s ears, around his head, the base of his tail and the armpits.
  • Diatomaceous earth – DE is a fine white powder made from the fossilized remains of tiny aquatic creatures called diatoms.  Buy food grade diatomaceous earth and sprinkle a small amount on your dog: start at the tail, and hold back the coat so you get the powder on his skin. The powder will pierce the protective structures of insects like ticks, causing them to dehydrate and die. It’s safe for your dog but can be drying to his skin so don’t over-use it, and be careful not to get it in his eyes, nose or mouth.

3. For Your Yard

  • Nematodes – Nematodes feed on tick larvae which breaks their life cycle and kills off the parasite. The beneficial nematodes are microscopic, worm-like organisms that live in soil.  They eat many kinds of garden pests as well as fleas and ticks. You can buy them online at places like Arbico Organics as well as several sellers on Amazon. They come ready to use … you just add water as directed on the package. Spray them throughout your yard using a hose sprayer or a watering can.
  • Diatomaceous earth – Use food grade DE and sprinkle it around your yard.  The powder is lethal to ticks and fleas but safe for pets and humans – and it won’t hurt beneficial earthworms either.  It also contains minerals that are good for your garden.

There are many ways to prevent ticks and protect your dog. Ticks don’t always have to be scary … but the best way to avoid all ticks, diseases, and health concerns is to check your dog for ticks – and don’t forget to check yourself as well!