How to Remove a Tick From a Dog or Cat

With spring in the air, your furry friend will be keen to venture outdoors and enjoy some fun in the sun. But as the weather warms up, that’s when ticks are at their most active. These nasty parasites are often lurking in grassy areas and woodland, waiting to feed on passing dogs, cats and people. Cats are less likely to get ticks than dogs, but regular tick treatment is recommended for both pets to keep them at bay. It’s also important to know how to recognise these unpleasant insects, and if you do spot one on your dog or cat, it’s crucial that you remove them in the right way. We’ll explain how in this blog.

What Does a Tick Look Like on a Dog or Cat?

Not all ticks will look exactly the same. Their colour can vary between light cream, brown, reddish brown, black and grey. They can also vary in size according to their age and whether they have recently fed off your pet. You could come across a tick that is the size of sesame seed or the size of a coffee bean! Shape-wise, they are usually round or oval. They have 8 spider-like legs which you may be able to see just behind its head depending on the size of the tick.

Ticks don’t jump like fleas, but climb or fall onto passing hosts. They prefer areas where there is less hair and better access to their host’s blood supply, so they often migrate to certain areas of the body, including your pet’s inside legs, feet, neck and underbelly. They will feel like a small bump on your pet’s skin.

It’s important to remove a tick as soon as you find it; the longer it feeds, the more likely it could be that your dog or cat becomes infected with a tick-borne disease. But it’s equally important that you remove them correctly.

How Not to Remove a Tick

Before we explain the correct method for removing a tick, it’s important to highlight some of the dangerous techniques you might be tempted to try, and why you shouldn’t.

Never try to remove a tick by:

  • Pulling or scraping the tick off with just your hands
  • Using blunt tweezers
  • Twisting the tick
  • Suffocating the tick using Vaseline, nail polish or similar
  • Burning the tick

To begin with, removing a tick using the above techniques is more likely to result in the tick’s mouth parts being left behind in your pet’s skin. This can result in infection.

Lots of people opt for tweezers when attempting to remove a tick, but tweezers can cause you to compress the body of the tick, risking a back-flow of the tick’s saliva and gut contents. This can increase the chance of disease transmission.

Puncturing or irritating the body of a tick using any of the other methods above may also result in this regurgitation back into your pet’s blood stream. Or it could get onto your hands putting you at risk of infection too.

If you do use tweezers, ensure they are fine-pointed tweezers, not blunt. Grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible, avoiding the body, and pull steadily upwards – never jerk or twist.

It is also possible to use a fine thread like cotton or dental floss if necessary. This technique involves wrapping a loop of thread around the tick’s mouthparts as close to the skin as possible and pulling upwards and outwards. Again, make sure you do not twist.

How to Remove a Tick

While it is possible to use fine-point tweezers or fine thread to remove a tick, the safest and most effective method is to use a specialised tick remover tool.

Tick Remover Tool

This inexpensive hook-shaped device allows you to quickly and painlessly remove the tick in one piece, without compressing it. Because it exerts no pressure on the tick, it can be safely twisted. This is the same kind of tool that your vet would use if you took your cat or dog to them to get a tick removed. It’s also reusable and easily transportable.

How to Use a Tick Remover Tool

  • A pack of O’Tom Tick Twisters contains two sizes – choose the most suitable size for the tick you’re trying to remove.
  • Carefully push the opening of the tick remover tool into the tick from side until it is securely cradled.
  • Lift the tool gently and gradually while you turn it around two to three times until the tick detaches itself. Use smooth movements and don’t be too forceful as this makes it more likely that parts of the tick will remain embedded in the skin.
  • Place the tick in a tissue and squash it, making sure no fluid touches your hands. Throw it away in a bin.
  • Use a pet-friendly antiseptic wipe over the area that the tick was attached to to reduce the chances of infection, and wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water.

Another method for removing ticks is to use a tick freezing spray. Beaphar Tick Away is an insecticide-free spray that freezes ticks in a matter of seconds, with the majority of ticks falling off automatically. It can be used on cats, dogs and people.

What if the Tick Isn’t Fully Removed?

Despite your best efforts, sometimes parts of the tick may remain embedded in the skin after you have tried to remove it. This is more likely if you haven’t used a tick remover tool.

If any part of the tick is left behind, there is a risk of infection and other complications, so it’s best to make an appointment to see your vet to prevent any problems arising.

Wrapping Up

Discovering a tick on your cat or dog is never pleasant, and they can cause all sorts of problems, which is why it’s important to remove ticks as quickly as you can. Always use a tick remover tool if possible, which can be safely twisted as it exerts no pressure on the tick’s body. If you don’t have the tools needed, it’s better to go to your vet than risk doing it wrong. Keep a close eye on your cat or dog in the days after you noticed the tick. If your pet shows signs of being unwell, speak to your vet. Ticks can carry diseases like Lyme Disease and Babesiosis, which can be transmitted when a tick latches on and takes a meal.