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How to remove ticks from your dog’s ear

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Dogs love a good scratch behind the ears. But if it’s to excess, it could be a sign that a tick has found a new home there.
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Ticks in and around dogs’ ears are quite common. If you find one, it needs to be removed as soon as possible, but only attempt this if the tick is easy to access; for ticks within the ear canal speak to your vet

If you find a tick in or around your dog’s ear, or anywhere else on your dog for that matter, it needs to be removed as soon as possible to reduce the risk of the tick passing an infection on to your dog. The ears can be a sensitive area for dogs so removing ticks from this area can be tricky. This step-by-step guide will talk you through how to remove a tick from your dog, however only attempt this if you can visualise the tick quite easily and your dog is happy for you to do so - if a tick has gone into the ear canal itself and isn’t easily accessible, then ask your vet practice for help with removal.    

Your tick removal kit

Before you attempt to remove a tick, you’ll need to be fully prepared so that you can detach it safely and gently. Do not attempt to remove ticks from within the ear canal yourself; only try if the tick is in the outer portion of the ear.  It’s important to handle the tick correctly to minimise the risk to both your dog and yourself. 

When you’re going to tackle the tick, ensure you have the following to hand:

  • tick hook
  • 2 x pairs of protective gloves
  • container with lid
  • alcohol
  • cotton swabs
  • pet-friendly antiseptic
  • old newspaper

Using a tick hook is the best way to remove a tick as it is designed to remove the entire tick with one smooth movement and is much more effective than tweezers.  Never attempt to burn off ticks, or apply Vaseline to ticks, these methods don’t work and can be dangerous.   

How to remove a tick from your dog’s ear
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Dog getting tick removed by a person with a tick hook
How to remove a tick from your dog’s ear

Only attempt to remove ticks that are easily visible around the outer edges of the ear.  If the tick has gone into the ear canal, ask your vet for advice, as poking a tick hook down your dog’s ear canal could do more harm than good.  Ticks have very strong mouthparts they use to firmly latch onto the host’s skin to suck their blood. It means that removing any tick from your dog needs to be carried out carefully to ensure the tick is detached whole. You may wish to enlist a member of the family or a friend to help keep your dog calm throughout the process.

Your step-by-step guide

Step 1 – Make sure your dog is relaxed and comfortable before you start trying to remove the tick.  You can attempt to remove ticks around the ears that are easily visible and accessible, but for ticks that are within the ear canal, speak to your vet for advice. 

Step 2 – Put on your gloves and try to expose the tick as much as possible without causing your pet discomfort. Slide the tick hook under the tick from the side angle and follow the instructions, by twisting gently while moving the hook straight upwards to remove it. Tick hooks are specifically designed to allow you to remove the tick without squeezing. 

Normal tweezers are not recommended because they are less effective and may squash the tick or cause part of it to break off. If tick mouthparts are left behind, the site of attachment may become infected. 

Step 3 – Once you have removed the tick, put it into your container, pour some alcohol on it and seal it immediately. The alcohol will kill the tick and then you should dispose of the whole container. Then place the tick hook on the old newspaper, being careful not to touch it with bare hands.

Step 4 – Next, you’ll need to treat the area on your dog to help prevent infection using a cotton swab dipped in pet-friendly antiseptic. Tick bites can be sore, so ensure you’re gentle, especially when touching the ear.

Step 5 – Remove your gloves, putting them directly in the bin and wash your hands thoroughly. Put on a clean pair of gloves before cleaning your tick hook with disinfectant and, once again, dispose of your gloves and wash your hands.

Step 6 – Keep an eye on your pooch over the next few weeks. If you notice any unusual symptoms in your dog, such as lethargy, lack of appetite, or just that your pet generally seems off colour, contact your vet.

If your dog is finding the process too uncomfortable, it’s best to visit your vet as soon as possible and they will help to remove the tick.

How can I prevent my dog getting ticks?
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How to remove a tick from a dogs ear with a tick hook
How can I prevent my dog getting ticks?

Ticks are found in many environments where dogs love to roam, including parks, long grass and woodland.  There are several measures you can take to help keep your furry best friend protected from ticks and reduce the risk of them picking up the diseases that ticks can carry. 

Check your dog for ticks

Each time you go for ‘walkies’ through long grass or woodland, ensure you check your dog for ticks as soon as you’ve returned home.

Ticks vary in size depending on how long they have been attached to the host, so a careful feel of your dog’s coat is important to try and identify them. You should conduct a thorough check by running your hands over your dog’s body to feel for any suspicious bumps. Read more about how to identify ticks on dogs.

Use preventative treatments

There are various tick treatments available to protect your dog from ticks and fleas, including spot-ons, tablets, collars and sprays. Seresto flea and tick control collar  provides the longest lasting flea and tick protection available in a single application, keeping your dog protected for up to eight months. The collar works by releasing the active ingredients into your dog’s skin and coat, and these are able to act through contact, meaning fleas and ticks do not have to bite your pet in order to be killed.*  Plus, its innovative design means there is no mess, no odour and peace of mind is as easy as putting on a collar. Find out more about how flea and tick collars work.

How do I know if my dog has a tick hidden inside the ear?

Ticks like the nooks and crannies of a dog’s ear, so they are not always easy to spot. If you can see one around the ear or in the very external portion of the ear canal, you may be able to attempt to remove it - but if you spot a tick within the ear canal itself, ask your vet practice for help with removal as trying to poke a tick hook down the ear canal can do more harm than good.   

If your dog just can’t stop shaking his head, or seems to be desperately scratching around his ears and it’s more frequent than usual, a tick bite might be the cause, however there are many reasons for dogs to scratch their ears, including infections and other parasites, so it’s worth getting your dog checked over by your vet if he is showing these signs. 

Do I need to be careful when removing ticks from my dog?

Risks for you

Ticks can carry serious infectious diseases, including Lyme disease, which can affect both dogs and people. Ticks usually have to bite and feed to transmit diseases, so the risk from just handling a tick is low, however it is best not to take any chances, and wearing gloves when handling ticks is advised. 

Risks for your dog

If you do not remove the whole tick, then the mouthparts that are left behind may result in inflammation and infection at the site of attachment. Using a tick hook reduces the risk of leaving part of the tick behind, as it’s designed to remove the whole tick in one smooth movement. If you are worried, or suspect you might not have removed the whole tick, speak to your vet for advice. The longer ticks are attached, the more likely they are to transmit disease, so removing ticks promptly from your pet is the best course of action. 

 

The best way to reduce the risk is to use an effective tick preventative treatment and to know your enemy. Read more on ticks on dogs to help ensure your pooch stays happy and healthy.

References:

*Mehlhorn et al. Parasitol Res (2001) 87:198-207, information is regarding mode of action and is not intended to relate to speed of kill or to imply parasites can be completely stopped from biting. An attachment of single ticks after treatment cannot be excluded; for this reason, a transmission of infectious diseases cannot be completely excluded if conditions are unfavourable.

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