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10 Effective Ways To Keep Ticks Off Your Dog

Updated 02/16/2022 by Ava Jaine

Spring is in the air.  I bet you can’t wait to get your dog outside for a nice walk or some much needed play time at the park. Unfortunately, disease carrying ticks are everywhere!

Learning the most effective ways to keep ticks off your dog is vital to help your pup stay safe from a toxic bite.

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What Is A Tick?

Ticks are small arachnids (spiders), not insects.  Adult ticks have eight legs, a round-shaped body, and are usually 3 to 5 mm in length.  They can be black, brown, or tan in color. 

They live off the blood of animals, people, birds, reptiles, and amphibians.  When a tick feeds off of an animal or human, it can pass on a number of diseases – yuck!

keep ticks off your dog

Where Do Ticks Hide?

Ticks are usually found in forests, meadows, gardens and parks. Dogs can pick up ticks while walking through tall grass or crawling through shrubs.

Ticks can survive the cold winter months by living underground. When it gets warmer outside, they immediately begin looking for hosts to feed on.

keep ticks off your dog
 

How Does A Tick Bite?

Ticks search for soft, warm areas of the skin with little to no hair to latch on. It then secretes a numbing chemical, so that the host doesn’t feel their mouth-parts cut through their skin.

Then, the tick inserts a feeding tube and feeds on blood until it is full.  Their mouth-parts are barbed so that your dog can’t scratch to get rid of the tick. When the tick is full, it will fall off on its own.

Not all ticks transmit disease, but all tick bites should be taken seriously.  It may take several hours to transmit a tick-borne disease to a host. The sooner a tick is located and removed, the lower the risk of a transmitted disease. 1

 

Facts About Ticks:

  • A tick can swell up to 10 times its normal size from the blood it consumes.
  • A female tick can lay between three to seven thousand eggs in one sitting.
  • There are 200 known tick species located in the USA.
  • A tick’s saliva contains so much bacteria that they are among the most potent disease carriers in the world.
  • Adult Ticks have the ability to survive without a host for up to a year and a half.
keep ticks off your dog
 

How To Keep Ticks Off Your Dog

  • Tick Inspection: Stop ticks from biting your dog by performing a thorough tick inspection after spending time outside.  Early detection of a tick can prevent the spread of disease.

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  • Grooming: Use a Flea and Tick Comb regularly on your dog to help remove ticks and fleas before they bite your dog’s skin.  If your dog has long hair, brush their hair often. Longer hair makes it too easy for ticks to latch on and hide.

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  • Vacuum: Vacuum your carpets and floors frequently.

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  • Cut the Grass:  Keep your lawn short.  Trim the tall grass and weeds.

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  • Yard Treatment: Look for a lawn care service that uses essential oil-based sprays that are safe for children and pets to keep ticks and fleas out of your yard.

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  • Shampoo: Wash your dog with a pesticide-free flea and tick shampoo.  You can ask your vet which dog shampoo is safe to use.

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  • Beds and Blankets: Wash your dog’s bedding weekly.  If your dog sleeps with you, wash your bedding weekly.

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  • Tick Treatments: Try a monthly topical treatment to keep the ticks and fleas at bay.  Check your local pet store or ask your vet for their recommended tick prevention treatments.

    Note:  It takes about 24-48 hours for a tick to absorb a fatal dose of pesticide. After death, some ticks remain attached because their barbed mouth parts don’t detach. 2

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  • Natural Alternatives:  Prevent ticks on dogs naturally with essential oils.  This Tick, Flea, and Mosquito Spray is a natural preventative that uses essential oils to ward off these nasty biters.  Just spray some on your dog’s fur before hiking or camping and you’re good to go.

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  • Diatomaceous Earth: Ticks love to hide among your plants and flowers.  Sprinkle some Food Grade Diatomaceous Earth (from Amazon) in your garden to protect your dog from ticks.  Diatomaceous Earth (aka: DE) dehydrates bugs and is a great natural solution for keeping ticks and fleas away.

    I use DE around the border of my house to keep the ants from coming into my kitchen every spring… and it works like a charm!  DE is a fine powder and the dust is not safe to breath in, so sprinkle a little at a time.

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  • Bonus Tip: Another natural way to prevent ticks is to attract birds to your yard using flowering bushes, bird feeders, etc… Birds are a tick’s natural predator in the wild.  Also, if you can have chickens, they will happily gobble up any ticks in their path.

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The Companion Animal Parasite Council says the most important thing to do to prevent ticks is to use a combination flea and tick control agent All YEAR Round.

How To Check Your Dog For Ticks?

Finding ticks on your dog is not always easy, especially if their coat is long and thick. After returning from a walk or hike, remove your dog’s collar and run a Flea and Tick removing comb through your dog’s fur.  Then, manually check the following areas on your dog:

Where Do Ticks Hide On Dogs?

  • Inside and Outside Ears
  • Between the Toes
  • Face and Chin
  • Under the Tail
  • Groin area
  • Armpits
  • Eyelids

Check for bumps between the size of a pin-head all the way up to the size of a small grape. Shine a light on your dog’s fur to see if that bump is just a skin tag or a tick by looking for little black legs or red irritation between the bump and the dog’s skin.

Depending on how long they have been feeding, the tick may or may not be very big.  I usually find ticks around my dog’s ears or face. 

Always check all over, one tick can multiply fast!

keep ticks off your dog
 

Female long-horned ticks can spawn asexually and lay thousands of eggs without a mate. These ticks are native to Asia, but now have spread to the United States. 4

How To Remove Ticks From Dogs

If you see a tick attached to your dog, remove it right away. Prompt removal is essential to reduce the risk of transmitting disease.

1. You Will Need:

2. Wear Gloves:

When removing the tick from your dog,  you should wear gloves to prevent the spread of Lyme Disease.

3. Using Tweezers:

  • Use fine-point tweezers to avoid tearing the tick and spreading infections into the wound.
  • Grasp the tick body as close to your dog’s skin as possible (try not to pinch their skin).
  • Firmly pull the tick straight out without crushing or squeezing it – this would release more toxins into your dog’s bloodstream.
Note: Using tweezers often tears the tick and leaves the head behind in your dog’s skin.  Check out my favorite Tick Remover Tools Below.
 

4. Kill The Tick:

Put the tick in Isopropyl Alcohol to kill it.

I usually put some alcohol in a small plastic bag to finish the job.  If you would like to hang onto the tick to be tested by your vet, use a glass jar.

Continue to check on the tick bite area over the next few days for infection. Call your veterinarian if you notice any issues.

If you find more than one tick on your pup, ask your vet for a dog flea and tick shampoo recommendation.

5. Cleanup and Disinfection:

Always wash your hands and your dog’s wound with soap and water.  Then, gently wipe their wound with some peroxide on a cotton ball.  

Peroxide is recommended for tick bites because the oxygen it contains destroys the Lyme Disease bacteria.  

Lastly, apply an antibiotic ointment to the wound and disinfect your tweezers or tick removal tool with isopropyl alcohol.

 

Best Tick Removers

The Tick Key and the Tick Twister are my absolute favorite tick removers – ever!

1. The Tick Key

With the Tick Key (from Amazon), you simply put the tick’s body through the largest part of the opening in the key, slide it down so the smallest part of the opening is around the tick, and give it a pull.

The Tick Key removes body and head easily. Tick Key video on YouTube.

keep ticks off your dog
 

2. Tick Twister

With the Tick Twister (from Amazon), you put the prongs on either side of the tick and twist upward. It removes the tick without squeezing it, reducing the risk of infection, and doesn’t leave the tick’s head behind.

The Tick Twister removes ticks in a few seconds without pain. See the Tick Twister YouTube Video.

keep ticks off your dog

Natural Tick Removal

Soap Soaked Cotton Ball:

The Soap Soaked Cotton Ball method can be used for dogs or humans.  It is a helpful solution for removing ticks that are in those hard to reach spots when tweezers and remover tools just won’t work.

First, apply some liquid dish soap (Dawn Dish Soap preferred) to a cotton ball.  Then, cover the tick with the soap-soaked cotton ball and move it around in circles for about 40 seconds. 

The tick should back out on it’s own and be stuck to the cotton ball when you lift it away.  If your dog has extra sensitive or dry skin, try using dog shampoo instead.

Wet Q-tip Method:

Wet a Q-Tip with a couple drops of clove essential oil and rub it in a circular pattern around the tick.  This motion will agitating the little critter until it backs out.

How Do You Kill Ticks?

Drop that nasty tick into isopropyl alcohol to kill it!  Flushing the tick down the toilet won’t kill it. Do not squish the tick between your fingers. The tick-borne diseases can be transmitted to you if you touch it!

Directions:

Put the tick in a glass jar or plastic zip lock baggie.  Then, add a teaspoon of rubbing alcohol. The alcohol will kill the tick.

Next, write down the date you found the tick. Keep an eye on the bite area to see if an infection surfaces.  Save the container for a few weeks. If your dog shows any symptoms of illness, take the tick to your vet for an examination.

keep ticks off your dog
 

What If The Tick’s Head Gets Stuck In Your Dog’s Skin?

If a tick’s head gets stuck in your pup’s skin, do not try to dig out.  You could make the wound much worse than it already is.  Generally, your dog’s body will get rid of it naturally, but if it doesn’t, you can contact your vet for help.

Even if you try your best to be careful when removing a tick from your dog’s skin, it is common for the tick’s head to get left behind when a tick is removed, especially with tweezers.

Continue to keep the area clean and inspect it periodically for any inflammation or infection.

keep ticks off your dog

What Diseases Can Your Dog Get From A Tick?

Unfortunately, One tick is enough to transmit a life-threatening disease to you or your dog.  The following diseases can affect humans and dogs.

10 Diseases Ticks Can Transmit:

  • Rocky Mt. Spotted Fever (aka Tick Fever)

  • St. Louis Encephalitis

  • Tick Paralysis

  • Tularemia

  • Cytauxzoonosis

  • Lyme disease: (aka Canine Borreliosis)

  • Canine Ehrlichiosis

  • Hepatozoonosis

  • Anaplasmosis

  • Babesiosis

 

Tick Paralysis:

A tick’s saliva contains several toxins that can be released into your dog’s bloodstream. Some of these toxins can cause your dog to become lame or paralyzed.  

This is called Tick Paralysis.

Unsuspecting dog owners may think that their dog’s paralysis is permanent and may decide to euthanize their dog!  You and your vet should always check for ticks before such drastic decisions are made.  Usually after the tick has been removed, the paralysis condition wares off. 1

Symptoms of a Tick Bite

It may take days or weeks before your dog exhibits any symptoms of a tick bite. 

A good rule of thumb is to make a ‘future appointment’ with your vet after you pull a tick out of your dog’s skin.  They can do a blood test to check for Lyme Disease.

Contact your vet if your dog has any of these tick bite symptoms.

  • Redness
  • Itching
  • Inflammation
  • Swelling
  • Weakness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Lethargy
  • Fever
  • Vomiting
  • Pain
  • Paralysis
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