So, you’ve found a tick on your pet—how do you deal with it? While it’s important to get these little suckers off quickly, ASPCA veterinarians advise that you stay calm and don’t rush it. Moving too fast when removing a tick could potentially create more problems, both for your pet and for you.
While the following instructions employ tweezers, be aware that there are some very good products on the market designed specifically for safe tick removal. If you live in a tick-heavy area or are taking your pets to a place where they are likely to get ticks, it’s a good idea to buy one of these tools and have it on hand. They generally work better than tweezers at getting out the whole tick, and are relatively inexpensive.
Step-by-Step Tick Removal Instructions
Step 1—Prepare its Final Resting Place
Throwing a tick in the trash or flushing it down the toilet will not kill it, and it’s actually best to hold on to it for awhile for veterinary testing in case your pet falls ill from the bite. Be ready with somewhere to put the tick after you’ve removed it—the best option is a screw-top jar containing some rubbing alcohol.
Step 2—Don’t Bare-Hand It
Put on latex or rubber gloves so you’ll never have direct contact with the tick or your pet’s bite area. Ticks can carry infective agents that may enter your bloodstream through breaks in your skin or through mucous membranes (if you touch your eyes, nostrils or mouth).
Step 3—Grab a Partner
You don’t want your pet squirming away before you’re finished, so if possible, have a helper on hand to distract, soothe or hold her still.
Step 4—The Removal
Treat the bite area with rubbing alcohol and, using a pair of tweezers, grasp the tick as close to the animal’s skin as possible. Pull straight upwards with steady, even pressure. Place the tick in your jar.
- Do not twist or jerk the tick! This may leave the mouth-parts embedded in your pet, or cause the tick to regurgitate infective fluids.
- Do not squeeze or crush the body of the tick, because its fluids (saliva and gut contents) may contain infective organisms.
Step 5—All that Remains
Sometimes, in spite of doing everything right, a tick’s mouth-parts will get left behind in your pet’s skin. If the area doesn't appear red or inflamed, the best thing to do is to disinfect it and not to try to take the mouth-parts out. A warm compress to the area might help the body expel them, but do not go at it with tweezers.
Step 6—Clean Up
Thoroughly disinfect the bite site and wash your hands with soap and water (even though you were wearing gloves). Sterilize your tweezers with alcohol or by carefully running them over a flame.
Step 7—Keep Watch
Over the next few weeks, closely monitor the bite area for any signs of localized infection. If the area is already red and inflamed, or becomes so later, please bring your pet—and your jarred tick—to your veterinarian for evaluation.