How to Remove a Tick From a Dog Without Tweezers

lady removing a tick from a dog without using tweezers

When removing a tick from a dog without tweezers, your best option is to use thread or dental floss. Wrap the floss or thread around the body of the tick (as close to the head as possible) and slowly pull it out. The closer you get to the tick’s head, the easier it will be to pull out. 

There are an endless number of opinions, myths, and misinformation about the best way to remove ticks from dogs, and sorting through it all can be overwhelming.

Below are the do’s and don’ts of tick removal. Next time your dog picks up one of these creepy-crawlies, you’ll be prepared.

Tick Removal Methods for Dogs

The general consensus is that tweezers are the most effective tool to remove a tick from a dog. Fortunately, there are several alternatives you can use if you don’t have a pair handy.

Needle-Nose Pliers

Needle-nose pliers can be used in place of tweezers for tick removal using the same process you’d use with tweezers.

Gently part the dog’s fur out of the way, being careful not to grab any of it with the pliers. Then grab the tick’s head as close to the dog’s skin as possible and pull the tick straight out.

Be sure not to twist the tick, as this may result in its head breaking off. It’s also important not to squeeze the tick’s body, or it may regurgitate into the dog, increasing the chances of tick-borne illness.

The dog may feel some discomfort when the tick is being pulled out, so it may be helpful to have someone hold or distract the dog during this process.

Floss or Thread

Dental floss or strong thread is an unusual but effective tool for removing ticks. While this method is simple, it is especially beneficial to have someone helping you to prevent accidentally catching some fur in the string.

To use this method, move the dog’s fur out of the way (or have your helper hold it out of the way for you). Wrap the string or floss around the head of the tick and slowly pull up and out.

Just like the plier method listed above, the closer you can get to the dog’s skin, the better. The string method is less likely than pliers to accidentally cause regurgitation due to squeezing the tick’s body, but it’s still something to be aware of while you’re pulling the tick out.

Manual Tick Rotation

If you’re looking for a completely pain-free way to remove a tick from a dog, or you’re out and don’t have access to any tools, then the manual tick rotation method is the way to go.

Ideally, you’ll have gloves for this method. Otherwise, just grab a tissue or something similar to put between you and the tick.

All this method involves is placing a thumb or finger gently over the tick and making clockwise or counterclockwise circles. You want to rotate the tick for about one minute. The tick will eventually let go.

Remember that the idea of this method is to rotate the tick until it lets go of the dog. You don’t want to squish it.

Special Tick Removal Tools

If you live in a rural area or hike regularly with your dog in areas that ticks frequent, it might be worth your time to invest in a special tick removal tool.

There are several of these devices on the market, which facilitates easy removal through rotation or pulling. Most are small enough to fit in your pocket during your next hike.They even design some to fit in your wallet.

Don’t Forget to Disinfect

Regardless of the method you used to remove a tick from a dog, make sure you disinfect the area of the bite immediately after removal. Failure to do so can lead to a localized infection, which can turn into something more severe like sepsis if bacteria makes its way into the bloodstream.

What Not to Do

Ticks carry diseases such as Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, anaplasmosis, and ehrlichiosis.

These can be passed on to you or your dog through their saliva or regurgitation if you’re not careful when removing the tick.

For this reason, it’s important to be careful when removing a tick from your dog. Avoid touching the tick with your bare hands and don’t do anything which may cause the tick to regurgitate.

The following methods are perfect examples of what NOT to do.

Do Not Use Your Fingers

Using your bare fingers to remove a tick is a bad idea for a couple of reasons:

If the tick’s saliva makes contact with your skin, harmful bacteria can make its way into your body and make you sick. The chances of accidentally squeezing the tick, causing it to regurgitate into the dog, are higher when using your fingers rather than a tool.

Do Not Suffocate the Tick

For years, people have suggested suffocating a tick by covering it with oil or petroleum jelly. The thinking is that the tick will have to come up for air, and when it does, it will have to let go of the host.

Unfortunately for proponents of this theory, ticks only breathe a few times an hour, sometimes taking only one breath in 60 minutes. So even if suffocation worked, it would take too much time to be practical.

Like every caution about removing ticks, this method can also cause the tick to regurgitate into the dog, increasing the chances of passing on a disease.

Do Not Freeze or Burn the Tick

Many sources recommend using a freezing spray to freeze a tick, or burning it with the end of a cigarette or match head.

Trying either of these methods runs the risk of disturbing the tick, causing it to regurgitate or release its bacteria-laden spit.

When seeking methods of removing a tick from a dog, it’s recommended that you find one that will be the least stressful and most safe for the dog. Anything which could potentially burn the dog is obviously not a wise choice.

Tick Prevention

The most important thing you can do to keep your dog from getting a tick-borne disease is preventing tick bites in the first place.

This can be done with a combination of avoiding places where ticks congregate, checking your dog regularly, and using tick repellents.

Environment

Ticks like to hang out in tall grass and wooded or marshy environments. Use extra precaution when in these types of areas with your dog.

If your dog spends time in such an area, do a thorough tick check before taking the dog inside.

Ticks often feed in areas with less hair, around the ears and face, groin and armpits, and between the toes. However, they can attach themselves anywhere, so be sure to check the dog from nose to tail.

Tick Treatments for Dogs

Sometimes making changes to your environment or avoiding tick-infested areas isn’t possible.

Fortunately, there are countless products out there that are designed to keep your dog tick-free, both by prescription and over the counter. Many such products repel fleas as well, so you’re getting two benefits for the price of one.

The 3 most common tick treatments are:

  • Oral medications: kill ticks once they come in contact with the dog’s blood
  • Collar: some repel ticks, some kill them, some do both
  • Shampoo: kill ticks on contact, does not prevent them

Talk to your vet about the different options available and decide together which treatment is best for your dog.

Keeping Your Dog Tick-Free

The old adage, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” is undoubtedly correct when keeping your dog free of pests like ticks.

But even with the most careful prevention, dogs sometimes get ticks. Now that you know more about removing ticks and what precautions to take while doing so, you’ll be ready if it happens.

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