Tick Treatment for Dogs

Vet checking in a dog's ears.
Vet checking in a dog's ears. (Image: michaeljung/iStock/Getty Images)

Ticks lie in wait for a host animal to cross their paths, so they can latch on and get their blood meal. Usually found in grass and on bushes, ticks are more than a blood-sucking nuisance if they climb onto your dog -- they also spread disease. The type of tick your dog is most likely to encounter varies from one region to another. Your veterinarian can recommend medications to keep ticks off your pet. If you find one of these critters on Fido, it's important to know how to safely remove it and treat the bite.

Daily Tick Checks

Every time your dog ventures outside during tick season -- which is whenever the weather is warm -- he risks coming into contact with the parasites. Check your dog carefully after every outdoor foray by running your hands slowly over his body, feeling for the tiny creatures. Even if you don't see a tick, investigate any lump or swelling, which could be evidence of a tick bite. Put together a tick removal kit in case your dog brings in an unwelcome visitor.

Tick Removal

Your tick removal kit is simple. All you need are clean tweezers, protective gloves, a veterinarian-recommended antiseptic, soap, a small jar and isopropyl alcohol. Grasp an attached tick with tweezers, close to your pet's skin. Pull the tick off with a straight, smooth movement. Check to ensure all of the tick is removed -- the head often gets left behind. If that happens, don't panic, but inspect the site for any sign of infection over the following week or so. Place the tick in the jar with isopropyl alcohol and write the date on the jar. You want to keep the tick in case your dog becomes sick in the next few weeks. That way, you can give the jar to the vet for testing. Disease transmission depends on how long the infected tick was attached to the animal.

Bite Treatment

Even after removal, a tick can cause itching and infection at the former attachment site. Clean the bite area with soap and water, and then apply the antiseptic. Keep an eye on the bite site, checking it daily until it heals. If the head remained, your dog could develop a granuloma on the site, or swelling. Put antibiotic cream on the swollen area, but call your vet if the site shows any sign of infection, such as pus. A dog infested with ticks can lose enough blood to develop anemia. If you find a severely infested dog, take him to the vet for treatment.

Tick Preventives

Many commercial flea preventives protect against ticks. A monthly pill or topical application keeps both of these biting creatures off your pet. Although many of these products are available over the counter, ask your vet about the best preventive for your dog.

Dips and Shampoos

If you don't want to use topical or oral preventives, you can treat your dog for ticks with dips or shampoos. Dips are considerably stronger than shampoos and aren't rinsed off. Read the directions carefully. These are strong solutions, so always wear gloves when applying them to your dog. Shampoos are milder, but expect to bathe your dog about every two weeks during tick season to keep them at bay. If you use either tick dips or shampoos, continue regularly checking your dog every time he goes out.

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