How to remove ticks from your cat or dog

June 10, 2022 - 3 min read
This article is not intended to be a substitute for professional veterinary advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your veterinarian with any questions you may have regarding your pet’s care, treatment, or medical conditions.

This article was written for the United Kingdom market and the advice provided may not be accurate for those in the United States.

Cat with a tick
Cat with a tick

You give your dog an affectionate ruffle bend their ears when – uh oh – what's that?

If you feel a smooth hard bump, your pet could have picked up a tick.

These bloodsucking parasites are every squeamish pet owner's worst nightmare. They bury their jaws in your dog or cat's skin and glue themselves there while they suck your pets blood and swell up to over a centimetre long.

If you find a tick on your dog, don't panic. Get your gag reflex in check, collect some supplies and we'll show you how to safely remove the little eight-legged vampire.

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What you'll need...

First, get together everything you need to remove that tick.

  • Latex or nitrile gloves

  • Fine-point tweezers or a tick-remover tool

  • Rubbing alcohol

  • A small container with a lid

  • Comb

Make sure you have all these items nearby and put the gloves on.

How to remove a tick from your pet

Tweezering a tick

  1. Pour rubbing alcohol into the small container – you’ll need this when the tick is out.

  2. Hold your pet and try to keep them calm by talking to and stroking them. You might need to ask someone to give you a hand so they can hold your pet still while you're extracting the tick.

  3. Part your pet's fur so you can see the tick clearly.

  4. Put the jaws of the tweezers around the tick, as close to your pet's skin as you can. They will be around the tick's head and mouth area. Pull the tick with the tweezers using a gentle, smooth motion. Be careful not to tug or jerk the tweezers. That could break the tick's body off, leaving the head in your pet's skin. Apply just enough pressure to get a good enough grip to pull it out intact.

  5. If you’re using a tick-remover tool, follow the instructions that come with it. The type of motion you use to pull on the tick may differ depending on the tool.

Once the tick is out, look at it to check its in one piece. You should see it still moving its legs or jaws - that means you've got it out in one go and haven't left any bits of tick in your cat or dog.

This bit's important - place the tick in the container with the rubbing alcohol to kill it. A live detached tick could latch back on to your pet if you drop it and lose it, or even on to you!

Clean the affected area of your pet's skin with rubbing alcohol.

Tick on a dog

Tick-removal – what not to do

Petroleum jelly, burning, freezing or resorting to any other method to kill the tick while it's still in your pet's skin is a bad idea.

Even if you manage to kill it, the head could remain in your cat or dog's skin and make them ill.

Holding a flame near the body of the tick can be dangerous and severely injure your pet or burn its fur.

If you need help removing ticks, take your pet to your vet, who can also prescribe or recommend a preventative spray or spot-on to help avoid future bites.

How to check your pet for ticks

Run your hands across your pet’s body and inspect any skin bumps you feel to make sure they are not ticks.

They often attach themselves to the face, neck, ears and underbelly areas.

Tick, nipple or skin tag?

It can be surprisingly hard to tell the difference between a tick, nipple and skin tag on your cat or dog.

If you're in any doubt that what you can feel is a tick, put the tweezers down and speak to a vet first.

We promise they won't laugh - veterinary surgeon Dr Kirsten Ronngren gets asked this on a pretty regular basis.

"Usually skin tags and nipples are going to be the same or similar colour to the skin itself, whereas ticks will usually be a brown colour. They may change colour a bit depending on how old the tick is and if its already attached and trying to feed (i.e. filling up with blood).

"A majority of the time if you really look hard enough, you can see that ticks do have eight little legs. You can use a magnifying glass or zoom in with your phone that can help!"

Derri Dunn
Content marketer

Derri is a personal finance and insurance writer and editor. After seven years covering all things motoring and banking at GoCompare, Derri joined ManyPets in 2021 to focus on pet health. She has fostered cats and kittens for Blue Cross and Cats Protection and is owned by tabby cat Diggory and two badly behaved dogs.