Here’s the best way to remove ticks after they latch on

Whether you’re out camping with your dog or just taking a stroll through the fields, chances are you’ll encounter ticks. It’s important to do a check before you leave the area and once more when you return home. Carefully check their paws (between their toes), legs, ears and armpits, as ticks like to be in nooks and crannies.

Veterinarians’ offices are called frequently by mortified pet owners wanting to know the best way to remove ticks.

The first order of business when it comes to removing ticks is to wash your mind of all the strange and bizarre methods you’ve heard of previously.

You know, things like lit matches, covering ticks with petroleum jelly, dousing them with volatile chemicals or painting them with fingernail polish.

These methods don’t work well or consistently, and in some cases they may injure your pet or increase the likelihood the tick injects disease agents or toxins into the animal.

Second, to be most correct, assemble the following items: disposal latex or nitrile gloves for you, good tweezers with a fine point, rubbing alcohol or antiseptic wipes, a small jar with a lid and lickable treats to distract the animal.

Now in theory, you don’t truly “need” all these things, but this is the best way to do it.

Next, find a second person to help you distract the animal with the treats while you remove the tick or ticks.

The latter refers to the instances where one might get home after a day afield and find ticks all over the pet.

With roots in the south, trust me, a pet with multiple ticks hanging off it was common not too long ago. With the advent of preventatives and agents that kill fleas and ticks, it is less common now but certainly not rare.

Before you start plowing through the pet’s fur, feathers or scales to find the tick you located previously, go wash your hands well. Here’s how to do that, and yes, most people don’t do hand washing very well: www.cdc.gov/features/handwashing/index.html.

Ticks can transmit diseases to both humans and animals. In fact worldwide, ticks transmit more disease than mosquitoes do. After you wash your hands well, don your gloves.

Have your partner in crime steady the animal with the lickable treats. For example, my dog will walk into a campfire for a part of an elk antler to chew and lick. Hold one of those up to her face and you could do surgery on her.

With the fine tweezers, grasp the tick as close to the skin surface as possible. Pinch it lightly and begin to gently pull.

In a few seconds, it will detach from the pet or person. For those that have harvested earthworms from a flooded lawn to take fishing, the pull is about the same, gentle, firm and consistent.

Squeeze too hard and you may push things from inside the tick into the pet. Pull too hard and you may pull the tick apart. Then you may have a harder time locating the head and getting it out.

After it releases, take a close look at it to make sure you got it all; body, head and mouth parts. And yes, you will see all eight of its wiggly legs that make people feel all oogy (invented word here) and itchy. Drop it in your container with a little of the rubbing alcohol and you will render the tick metaphysically challenged (dead).

Disinfect the bite area with rubbing alcohol or the antiseptic wipes. Doff your gloves and wash your hands again.

Save the tick in the container. If your pet shows signs of illness within a few days after the tick is removed, your veterinarian may want to see what species of tick your pet picked up.

Lastly, stay vigilant for more ticks. It is very common for additional ticks to be found on a pet in subsequent days as they engorge.


Charlie Powell is the public information officer for the Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine, which provides this column as a community service. For questions or concerns about animals you’d like to read about, email cpowell@vetmed.wsu.edu.

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