Pet First Aid Tips for Tick Bites

You’ve found a tick on your pet. How do you remove it? And what do you when it’s out?

Forget the folklore methods of using nail polish, petroleum jelly or a hot match, says Dr. Allan Paul, a professor at the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine, since those won’t work. Instead, use a pair of fine point tweezers or special tick removal hooks, sterilizing with alcohol before using it.

Grab the tick as close to your pet’s skin as possible and pull straight up firmly but gently to remove the majority of the bug. If any small portion of the “head” (technically, the mouth parts) is left behind, don’t worry. Your pet’s body will deal with it.

WHN TIP – Protect Yourself: When removing ticks, wear a pair of rubber or latex gloves to protect yourself, since contact with the tick’s blood could potentially expose you to Lyme disease, according to’s How To Remove A Tick From A Dog.

After removing the tick, thoroughly clean the bite area, the tweezers and your hands with rubbing alcohol or soap and water.

WHN Expert TIP – Don’t Crush. Never crush a tick with your fingers, says the CDC. Dispose of a live tick by putting it in alcohol, placing it in a sealed bag/container, wrapping it tightly in tape, or flushing it down the toilet. NOTE: You may want to retain the tick until you’re sure your pet is fine, in case the vet wants to see what type it was.

Your pet should be just fine after the tick is removed. But if your pet starts showing signs of illness or the bite site looks inflamed or irritated, call your veterinarian. Cytauxzoon felis can be fatal to cats while Rocky Mountain spotted fever or tick bite paralysis can develop in dogs. Pets can also contract Lyme disease, causing arthritis and swelling of your dog’s joints, resulting in painful lameness, says Companion Animal Parasite Council (CAPC).

WHN TIP – Check Your Pet: Check your pet after every walk or time spent outdoors. The sooner you remove the tick the better. Check your pet’s body, between the toes, in their armpit areas, inside their ears and around their face and chin, says The Humane Society of the United States.

You may also need to hire an exterminator if your home is infested with brown dog ticks (Rhipicephalus sanguineus), according to Companion Animal Parasite Council (CAPC).

What type of ticks can infect your pet

Here’s a rundown from CAPC:


  • Amblyomma americanum (Lone star tick)
  • Amblyomma maculatum (Gulf Coast tick)
  • Dermacentor variabilis (American dog tick)
  • Ixodes scapularis (Black-legged tick)
  • Ixodes pacificus (Western black-legged tick)
  • Otobius megnini (Spinose ear tick)


  • Amblyomma americium (Lone star tick)
  • Amblyomma maculatum (Gulf Coast tick)
  • Dermacentor variabilis (American dog tick)
  • Dermacentor andersoni (Rocky Mountain Wood Tick)
  • Ixodes pacificus (Western black-legged tick)
  • Ixodes scapulars (Black-legged tick)
  • Otobius megnini (Spinose ear tick)
  • Rhipicephalus sanguineus (Brown dog tick)

WHN TIP – Pet, Not People Products: Don’t use human tick and mosquito repellents on your pet. Ask your vet for animal-specific tick control products, and don’t use a product for dogs on cats or vice versa.

For More Information

Companion Animal Parasite Council (CAPC): Ticks – This section provides information on preventing and removing ticks from your pets. More guidelines are here. The Companion Animal Parasite Council (CAPC) is an independent council of veterinarians, veterinary parasitologists, and other animal health care professionals established to create guidelines for the optimal control of internal and external parasites that threaten the health of pets and people.

Pet Health Network®: Eight Tips for Keeping Your Dog Free From Tick-Borne Diseases – Prevention tips for dealing with ticks. Pet Health Network® is for pets and their people provides with comprehensive and trustworthy pet information.