14 Top Questions About Ticks on Dogs, Answered

Laci Schaible, DVM, MSL, CVJ
By Laci Schaible, DVM, MSL, CVJ. Reviewed by Veronica Higgs, DVM on Apr. 29, 2024
viszla dog standing in tall grass and looking toward the side

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Fleas get their share of attention and awareness as nuisances that can plague dogs, but ticks shouldn’t be overlooked.

Unlike biting insects, ticks don’t bite and fly away; they remain on their hosts, feeding for days before they crawl off. Here’s what you need to know about ticks on dogs, their bites, and how to handle and remove them.

1. What Does a Tick Bite on a Dog Look Like?

A tick bite on a dog looks like a small red bump, similar to a mosquito bite. These bumps often appear at the site of a tick bite or tick removal and resolve on their own over a few days.

2. How Long Do Ticks Stay on Dogs?

Ticks will typically fall off once they have taken a full blood meal. This typically happens in three to six days, but ticks can sometimes latch onto your pet for up to two weeks.

3. How Do You Check for Ticks on Dogs?

The best way to check your dog for ticks is to brush your fingers through your dog’s fur, applying enough pressure to feel any small bumps. If you feel a bump, pull the fur apart to identify it.

An embedded tick will vary in size, from as tiny as a pinhead to as big as a dime. They are usually black, gray, or brown. Depending on the size and location of the tick, its legs may also be visible. Because ticks are actually arachnids (not insects), they have four pairs of legs as adults.

4. How Do You Remove a Tick From a Dog?

If you’ve discovered a tick on your dog, it should be removed immediately to avoid a skin reaction and to reduce the likelihood of developing a tick-borne infectious disease. Diseases can be transmitted to your dog in as quickly as a few hours.

Follow these tips to safely remove a tick from a dog:

  1. Grasp the tick as close to your dog’s skin as possible with a pair of flat or curved forceps or tweezers. They should be held as close to the skin of your dog as possible. Avoid squeezing the tick!

  2. Using steady, gentle pressure, pull the head of the tick away from the skin without twisting.

  3. The site of the bite should be cleaned with soap and water.

You can also use a tick-removal tool, such as the ZenPet® Tick Tornado, that’s specifically designed for removing ticks on dogs.

Save the tick in a container filled with isopropyl alcohol with a tight-fitting lid if you would like your veterinarian to identify it.

5. What Are the Different Types of Ticks?

There are many species of ticks in North America, but your dog is most at risk for four:

  1. American dog tick wood tick (Dermacentor variabilis)

  2. Lone Star tick (Amblyomma americanum)

  3. Deer tick or black-legged tick (Ixodes scapularis)

  4. Brown dog tick (Rhipicephalus sanguineus)

6. Do Dog Ticks Carry Lyme Disease?

Yes, ticks can transmit many diseases to people and pets, including Lyme disease. A tick must be attached for 36–48 hours to transmit Lyme disease, so removing it quickly can help prevent illness. Using tick preventatives and vaccinating for Lyme disease can help prevent infection.  

Other diseases commonly transmitted by tick bites include:

7. Can Ticks Jump?

No, ticks don’t jump. To find a host, many tick species use a strategy called questing, where they identify well-used paths and wait on the tips of grasses and shrubs for a host to pass so they can latch on.

8. Can a Tick Bite Become Infected?

Yes—just like any skin wound, tick bites can become infected. Tick bites aren’t typically itchy, so if you find your pup scratching at an old tick bite wound, it is a sign that an infection may have developed. Other signs include worsening or continued redness and/or oozing around the wound.

Tick bite wounds can be cleaned gently with antiseptic wipes and sprayed with antimicrobial spray. If it worsens or doesn't show signs of initial improvement in one or two days, seek care from your veterinarian.

9. How Do You Prevent Tick Bites on Dogs?

To prevent tick bites in tick-infested areas, take the following precautions:

  • Put all pets in your household on a tick preventative. There are many different tick preventatives—some are over the counter, while others are prescription. Your veterinarian can help you choose the right one for your dog.

  • When in the woods, walk on cleared trails. Avoid walking through tall grass and low brush in wooded areas. Also avoid walking under low-lying vines and branches.

  • Thoroughly check pets for ticks after spending time in tick-infested areas. Remember to check your dog everywhere, including between the toes and inside the ears. If one tick is found, check for more.

Do not use human-grade insect repellant for dogs. Many are highly toxic to pets.

10. Can You Drown or Squish a Tick?

After removing a tick from your dog, it’s not necessary to drown it. If you decide to squish the tick, wear gloves or protect yourself. If they’ve already fed, they will be messy and bloody. The best way to kill a tick is to put it in a small, closed container filled with isopropyl alcohol.

11. Should You Burn a Tick To Get it to Release?

Definitely not. Burning a tick as a way to get it to release from its host is a myth. Burning a tick will irritate it and cause it to release more toxins and diseases that it may be carrying into your pet’s body.

12. What Kills Ticks on Dogs Instantly?

There are no products that kill ticks on dogs instantly. However, there are many excellent options for tick prevention ranging from pills to topicals to collars and shampoos. Consulting with your vet can help you choose the right flea and tick preventative for your pet.

13. Can Ticks Bite Without Attaching?

No, a tick must attach itself to feed. Ticks will also take several days to complete a feeding.

14. Can Tick Eggs Live on a Dog?

In theory, yes, tick eggs can live on dogs. But female ticks typically lay their eggs on the ground. Most dogs get ticks when individual tick adults or nymphs (juvenile ticks) crawl onto the animal.


Laci Schaible, DVM, MSL, CVJ

WRITTEN BY

Laci Schaible, DVM, MSL, CVJ

Veterinarian


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