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Ticks On Dogs | Natural Prevention and Expert Advice

This article provides detailed information on how to remove ticks on dogs, how to spot them, and how to prevent them as much as possible. Read on for our expert tips on natural tick prevention and removal. 

Alison Frost

Author: Alison Frost

Edited By: Anna Bain

Ticks On Dogs | Natural Prevention and Expert Advice

The simple thought of ticks on dogs is enough to make any canine lover’s skin crawl. Those sneaky, eight-legged blood suckers that love to climb onto our best friends for a secret snack while we’re blissfully unaware can be the cause of a host of issues; for dogs and their humans alike. 

Thankfully, a few preventative measures and some general awareness can keep these critters at bay most of the time. Knowing how to practice safe and natural tick prevention is a great start, but it also pays to know how to get rid of them in cases where they manage to hitch a ride with our beloved pets. 

Need help keeping your dog safe from ticks?

Why are ticks a problem for dogs?

Aside from the fact that they’re an invasive surface parasite that makes your skin crawl, ticks are also dangerous to your dog for a number of reasons.

Experts at creeping into the hard-to-see places on your dog’s body, in many cases they’re left undetected to carry out their mission in peace, making them even more of a threat. These little blood suckers carry a plethora of different bacteria that can be harmful to your beloved pet, as well as your human family. 

Ticks on dogs and Lyme disease

The most common concern regarding tick bites is the potential for contracting Lyme disease, which as we all know has the potential for long-term adverse health effects that can sometimes be resistant to treatment [1].

However, ticks also carry the pathogens for a host of other conditions such as:

  • Anaplasma (a bleeding disorder with similar symptoms to Lyme disease)
  • Babesiosis (the breaking down of red blood cells)
  • Bartonella (an infectious disease of the lymph nodes), to name a few [2]. 

What do ticks look like on a dog? 

Ticks belong to the arachnid family, but they’re a far cry from your friendly garden spider. Whilst they mildly resemble tiny spiders in their normal state, once they’re attached to a host they begin to “engorge” (or fill with blood) and their appearance changes significantly, growing much larger and rounder.

Depending on your home region the tick species and their corresponding colour will vary, so it’s important to be aware of which ones are common where you live. 

What do ticks look like on dogs what do ticks on dogs look like

Types of ticks on dogs

In the UK, there are three main types of ticks:

  1. The sheep/deer tick (reddish brown)
  2. The hedgehog tick (yellow and red)
  3. The British dog or fox tick (yellow).

There are also other species of tick that are less commonly found such as the ornate dog tick (otherwise known as the meadow tick) and the brown dog tick.[3]

How to safely remove a tick from your dog (and how not to) 

There are numerous opinions online about how to remove a tick on a dog. Whilst some of them are quite helpful, others are ineffective at best, and can even be downright dangerous.

Here’s what we recommend for removing ticks safely and efficiently, as well as what you should absolutely avoid doing: 

How to remove a tick on a dog

Stay calm 

Your disposition will be felt by your dog and consequently affect theirs, whether it’s positively or negatively. By remaining calm (no matter how creeped out you might be), you’re helping your canine friend to do the same, which is essential for the tick removal process. A calm dog is less likely to struggle and more likely to sit still for you, allowing you to remove the tick completely and successfully. 

Determine the location

Ticks are known for hiding out in warm, dark places, such as the areas between the legs and body, between the toes, and in the ears. They’re also found in more obvious places, too, which makes your job easier.

In either case, you’ll need to part your dog’s fur to gain access to the tick for removal. This can usually be done by hand quite easily, though having another person standing by to help is better if you can.

where to find a tick on a dog

Enlist the help of tick removal tools

Tick removal tools are quite genius; they’re essentially small, plastic, hook-like instruments that are designed to hook round the neck of the tick at the closest point to the embedded head.

They allow you to safely remove these icky creatures without actually touching them and have a high success rate of removing whole ticks from the various parts of a dog. Each version will have its own specific instructions of course, so be sure to follow them correctly. 

Hand removal method

Removing a tick in a safe and timely manner is still possible if you don’t have a tick removal tool on hand. The “twist and pull” method can be as effective as the removal tool; it just has to be done carefully so as to remove the entire tick.

Grab the tick gently as close to the head as you can, twisting as you pull. In many cases this will remove the whole tick including its head, but if not, your dog’s body will likely expel any remaining parts in a few days. 

Kill the tick

This might seem obvious to most people, but it’s worth mentioning anyway: you must remember to kill the tick after you’ve removed it. Ticks go on to lay eggs once they’ve fed, so to prevent a potential infestation (or at the very least, a second bite), squashing the tick and disposing of it is crucial.

You can even go one step further and flush it down the toilet if that makes you feel better, just ensure that you kill it first and that it actually goes down. Yes, unfortunately they can also swim! 

Be sure to disinfect

Even after successful tick removal, there’s still the chance that they might have been exposed to one (or several) of the nasty bacteria that ticks are known to carry. Be sure to disinfect the bite area with a dog-friendly anti-bacterial agent or wound cleaner, and ensure you wash your hands as well. If you used a tick removal tool to assist your efforts, sanitise that, too. 

Our top recommendation for non-toxic antibacterial products for pets is Leucillin.

How not to remove a tick on a dog

Panic

As mentioned earlier, remaining calm is essential for successful tick removal. It’s natural to imagine the worst or react nervously to the idea of touching the tick itself, but for your dog’s benefit, it’s important to resist these impulses. Your calm disposition will assure your canine pal that all is well, making the tick removal process far easier for the both of you. 

Squeeze or squash an embedded tick

Using any more than gentle pressure whilst the tick is attached to your dog is a bad idea. This is because any bacteria they may be carrying will be squeezed into the site of the bite, increasing the risk of your dog acquiring an infection. It’s understandable that you’ll want to kill the tick; just wait until after you’ve removed it successfully. Then you’re free to squash away! 

Use “popular” tick removal methods

There are many variations of the “best” way to remove a tick, but it’s important to know that most of them aren’t safe for your dog. Suffocating the tick with Vaseline or trying to burn it with a hot match are both popular methods that people swear by, but they can actually do more harm than good.

Aside from accidentally burning your dog (or yourself), you may also inadvertently cause the tick to vomit whilst their head is embedded, increasing the chance of infection for your dog.

How to find ticks on dogs quickly and easily 

Thankfully, finding ticks quickly can make all the difference. If you’re fortunate enough to find them before they’re embedded, you can save yourself the effort of the removal process, as well as helping your dog avoid a nasty bite.

However, even once embedded, finding ticks in a timely manner can still reduce the risk of infection. It is important that a tick is removed within 24 to 36 hours (the quicker the better, of course).  

We have compiled a helpful checklist to help you find a tick on your dog:

  • It’s easy enough to do a quick tick check when your dog comes in from the outdoors, especially if they have short fur.
  • Giving them an all-over brushing as well as feeling around for small bumps/foreign objects (both, ideally) will allow you to quickly locate anything that doesn’t belong. It will eliminate any ticks that might have hitchhiked home with you.
  • You might also consider rolling over your dog’s body with a lint roller. Any ticks close to the surface will stick to this. 
  • In dogs with particularly long, dense, or curly coats, using a comb or hairdryer to part the fur can prove helpful.
  • Since these dogs have more places for a tick to hide undisturbed, it’s crucial that you brush and check them for ticks regularly.
  • A good rule of thumb is to simply brush them and feel around for bumps after walks or outdoor exercise. This is especially true when they’ve been to places where tick populations are high, like long grass or wooded areas.

Natural prevention for ticks on dogs 

There are obviously multiple options available when it comes to tick prevention. Unfortunately, many of them are chock full of chemicals that can prove dangerous to your dog’s health [4].

However, there are also options for keeping ticks at bay using natural remedies. These are much safer and healthier for your canine friend. Here are some internal and topical tick prevention methods we recommend: 

Internal

Feeding a raw diet

Of course, here at ProDog we’re major advocates for feeding dogs a raw dog food diet. One reason for this is when dogs eat the way nature intended them to, their bodies are better able to defend themselves against invaders, which includes parasites.

The right combination of nutrients including lean protein, fats, fibre, vitamins, and minerals contributes to their optimal health, strengthening their immune system and decreasing their chances of acquiring an infection from tick bites. 

Find out more about the comprehensive benefits of raw feeding, read our raw myth busting article or find out how to switch to raw dog food

Want to learn more about raw?

Supplements

There are a variety of specialist blend herbal supplements for dogs on the market that are safe, healthy, and do a fantastic job of keeping your canine pal parasite free.

We’ve created our own unique natural formula. ProDog Repel helps to deter the most common parasites, ticks, fleas, worms and mites. Made by canine nutritionists and approved by vets, this innovative dietary addition utilises precisely selected herbs and superfoods. It can be added to any type of dog food, giving a simple and convenient way to protect your dog without the use of harsh chemicals.

Natural tick, flea and worm prevention

Garlic

Many dog owners think that garlic is toxic for their pets, but this is not entirely true. When given in the correct dosage, garlic is actually quite beneficial for your dog. One of its benefits is the odour it exudes through their skin, which acts as a tick repellant.

You can safely give your canine friend 1/3 tsp of chopped fresh garlic per 5kg of body weight. However, puppies under 6 months old, Akitas, and Shiba Inus should be given special caution, so check in with your vet if this applies to your dog. 

Apple cider vinegar

Raw, unpasteurised apple cider vinegar has a great impact on digestive health, for both dogs and humans. However, it also acts as a natural tick repellent, with the added bonus of repelling fleas, too! You can add up to ½ tsp per 10 kg of bodyweight to your dog’s water or food daily for a combination of gut health and tick prevention benefits. 

Topical

Natural ingredient tick sprays

There are various tick prevention sprays on the market that are natural and safe for your dog. We stock Dermadog Insect Defence Dog Spray, which contains organic essential oils such as cedarwood, lemongrass, and rose geranium to keep your dog tick-free.

Also Dermadog Itchy Dog Shampoo, uses the soothing properties of lavender, eucalyptus, and peppermint organic essential oils to relieve the irritation of itchy skin.

Homemade tick repellent recipes

Citrus repellent

Cut a lemon into four pieces and cover with boiling water in a pint jar. After steeping overnight, pour into a spray bottle and spray your dog all over, especially in hard-to-see areas like behind the ears, in the armpits, around the head, and the base of their tail.  

Apple cider vinegar spray

Add the following ingredients to make a natural tick repellent

  • Water
  • Raw apple cider vinegar
  • Garlic
  • Fresh rosemary
  • A few drops of lemongrass or citronella essential oil to a spray bottle.

Spray your dog’s coat before heading outside (again, ensuring to cover all the areas ticks love) to naturally repel parasites.  

Herbal collars

Yes, you can even make flea and tick collars at home, and without chemicals! Here’s a quick and easy recipe we like: 

  • Buy a woven fabric dog collar (not plastic threaded) 
  • Combine 2 drops each of lavender, cedarwood, thyme, and tea tree essential oils 
  • Add 1 tbsp witch hazel 
  • Add 1 tsp garlic oil 
  • Soak collar for 5 minutes 
  • Allow to dry overnight 

This will provide your canine friend with up to a month of flea and tick prevention, naturally and safely. 

Effective Micro-organism bead collars

EM Tick-off Necklaces, by Harbour Hounds are crafted using several EM ceramic beads. Of course, these are not your ordinary ceramic. EM ceramic is embedded with beneficial micro-organisms which improve your dog’s coat, skin microbiome and their natural immunity, meaning they are better equipped with the natural defences to repel ticks.

Environmental tick prevention

Deter ticks from your home and garden

Keeping your garden tidy is a helpful way to ensure it’s not attractive to ticks. They thrive in warm, wet conditions, and love to hide in long grass and damp wood piles. Keeping your lawn short and ensuring any firewood is stored in a dry area (or in the sun) can help to keep ticks away. It also help if you are frequently weeding and tidying of any piles that may accumulate. 

Groom regularly

As mentioned earlier, regular brushing is a great way to ensure your dog is free from ticks. A daily brush after walks or other outdoor exercise can make all the difference, and it only takes a few minutes to do. This is especially important for dogs with long or thick coats. It not only helps to repel ticks, but any other critters or debris that they might bring home with them.

How to keep your dog tick free, naturally

Ticks on dogs are a pain for dogs and their people, but they don’t have to be a source of worry. With the natural tick prevention and removal tips in this article, you and your canine pal can enjoy the outdoors worry free once again. 

We offer a variety of skin and coat remedies for additional help keeping your best friend happy and healthy, alongside our natural tick, flea and worm prevention supplement, Repel. As always, we recommend feeding a raw, species-appropriate diet to encourage healthy immune systems and help dogs’ natural defences perform at their best!

References:

  1. Straubinger R.K et al, Dec 1998.Clinical manifestations, pathogenesis, and effect of antibiotic treatment on Lyme borreliosis in dogs. Wiener Klinische Wochenschrift,, 110(24):874-881 PMID: 10048169
  1. Rochlin I, Toledo A. Jun 2020. Emerging tick-borne pathogens of public health importance: a mini-review. Journal of  Medical Microbiology.;69(6):781-791. Doi: 10.1099/jmm.0.001206
  1. European Scientific Counsel Companion Animal Parasites. Ticks. Accessed March 2023. https://www.esccapuk.org.uk/page/Ticks/36/
  1. Turner V, Chaffey C, Ferrao P.  Oct 2011. A survey for small animal veterinarians regarding flea and tick control pesticide products. The Canadian Veterinary Journal. 52(10):1080-2. PMID:22467961

Image credit: Marc Pascual from Pixabay

Image credit: Jerzy Gorecki from Pixabay

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