What Kills Ticks On Dogs Instantly? How to Safely Remove and Discard Ticks.


A daily tick check on your dog goes a long way in preventing tick-borne diseases. Photo: eguchi_onion

Ticks are more than just pesky parasites; they pose serious health risks to dogs and can transmit a variety of diseases that are harmful and sometimes even fatal. Understanding the dangers ticks pose and knowing how to effectively remove and/or what kills ticks on dogs instantly can help keep your furry friend safe and healthy.

The Dangers of Ticks

Ticks transmit some pretty unpleasant diseases, such as:

  • Anaplasmosis (tick-borne fever): Signs include fever, stiffness and appetite loss.
  • Babesiosis: Symptoms include fever and severe anemia.
  • Hepatozoonosis: Infection is caused not by the tick feeding but by the dog grooming and eating an attached tick.
  • Lyme disease: This causes swollen lymph nodes, sore joints, muscle pain and ultimately kidney damage.
  • Rocky mountain fever: The rickettsia bacteria is injected into the pet by the tick and causes blood vessel inflammation, leading to swelling, bleeding and fever.

The risk of disease transmission increases the longer a tick is attached, so making prompt removal essential. Additionally, ticks can cause skin infections and, in extreme cases, significant blood loss and anemia, especially in puppies and small dogs.

OK, so we know ticks on our canine companions or feline friends are dangerous; we also know we can’t always prevent them. But don’t take chances with ticks. Use a preventive, check your pet daily, and keep tweezers or a tick hook handy to deal with these pesky critters straight away.

Unfortunately, there are many urban myths about what kills ticks on dogs instantly. Try to take a tick off the wrong way, and you increase your pet’s chance of acquiring disease.

How to Remove a Tick From a Dog and Instantly Kill It

The safest and most effective way to instantly kill ticks on dogs involves using tick removal tools and appropriate medications. Here’s a step-by-step method:

  1. Wear latex gloves: Some of the infections caused by ticks are transmissible to people, and you could become infected via a skin scratch.
  2. Use Fine-Tipped Tweezers or a Tick Removal Tool: To safely remove a tick, use fine-tipped tweezers or a tick removal tool specifically designed for this purpose. Grasp the tick as close to the dog’s skin as possible; where the tick is attached to your dog . If necessary, wet the dog’s fur so that you can see the tick more clearly.
  3. Pull Upwards with Steady Pressure: Gently pull the tick straight out with steady, even pressure. Avoid twisting or jerking the tick as this can cause the mouth-parts to break off and remain in the skin.
  4. Clean the Area: After removing the tick, thoroughly clean the bite area and your hands with rubbing alcohol, an iodine scrub, or soap and water.
  5. Kill the Tick: Once removed, kill the tick by placing it in a sealed bag/container filled with alcohol, then dispose of it. Do not crush the tick with your fingers.
  6. Use Tick Preventatives: Apply veterinarian-approved tick preventatives on your dog to avoid future infestations. Products such as topical solutions, oral medications, or tick collars can be very effective.
  7. Regular Checks: Regularly check your dog for ticks, especially after they’ve been outside in areas where ticks are prevalent.
  8. Consult Your Veterinarian: If you’re unsure about how to safely remove a tick or deal with infestations, consult your veterinarian. They can provide recommendations specific to your dog’s health and tick products suitable for your pet.

It’s important to approach tick removal and treatment cautiously to ensure the health and safety of your pet. Using chemical treatments or trying to kill the tick while it’s still attached to your dog can be dangerous and is not recommended.

Incorrect Tick Removal

When removing a tick, you don’t want to upset it so that it vomits its stomach contents into the bloodstream via the hypostome.

If you distress the tick during removal, 1 of 2 unfortunate things can happen:

  • The mouthparts get left in the skin.
  • Or the tick injects its parasite-laden gut contents into the pet’s bloodstream.

Some of the urban myths for tick removal actually do much more harm than good. These myths include:

  • Smearing the tick with Vaseline to suffocate it
  • Burning the tick with a cigarette
  • Soaking the tick in rubbing alcohol
  • Attaching cotton to the tick and pulling
  • Twisting the tick (clockwise or counterclockwise, depending on the myth) to remove
  • Picking it off with fingernails

The only thing any of those techniques above do is distress the tick — with potentially serious consequences.

Tick Prevention for Dogs

Tick prevention for dogs involves a combination of proactive measures, from choosing the right tick prevention products to maintaining a tick-free environment. Here are some effective strategies to keep your dog protected:

  1. Use Tick Preventatives: There are various forms of tick preventatives available, including:
    • Topical Treatments: Applied directly to the skin, usually between the shoulder blades or along the back. These are effective for about a month and can kill ticks before they have a chance to transmit diseases.
    • Oral Medications: These pills are given once a month and can kill ticks and disrupt the life cycle of fleas.
    • Tick Collars: These collars release chemicals that either repel or kill ticks. They can be effective for several months but must be worn continuously.
    • Tick Sprays and Powders: These can be applied directly to your dog’s coat and are useful for immediate protection, especially if you’re heading into a high-risk area.
  2. Regular Vet Check-Ups: Regular check-ups allow your veterinarian to give advice tailored to your dog’s health and local tick risks. They can recommend the best preventive products and strategies.
  3. Keep Your Yard Tick-Free: Maintain your yard to make it less appealing to ticks:
    • Keep the grass mowed and bushes trimmed.
    • Remove leaf litter, tall weeds, and woodpiles where ticks may hide.
    • Consider treating your yard with pet-safe pesticides designed to kill ticks.
  4. Check Your Dog Regularly: After any outdoor activities, especially in areas known for ticks, thoroughly check your dog’s skin for ticks. Pay special attention to the ears, under the collar, between the toes, under the tail, and around the eyelids.
  5. Keep to the Center of Trails: When walking or hiking with your dog, keep to the center of paths or trails, avoiding tall grasses and brushy areas where ticks are more prevalent.
  6. Groom Your Dog Regularly: Regular brushing and bathing can help you spot and remove ticks before they attach or become engorged.
  7. Educate Yourself About Peak Tick Seasons: Tick activity can vary by geographic area but generally peaks during warmer months. Knowing when ticks are most active can help you take extra precautions during these times.

By implementing these preventive measures, you can significantly reduce the risk of your dog being bitten by ticks and potentially contracting diseases associated with these parasites. But keep in mind, these strategies these reduce the chances of infection — not eliminate them altogether.

Most products kill ticks rather than repel them, which means they may still attach and bite. If the stuff does its job, then the tick is dead before it can feed, but some ticks take up to 48 hours to die — which leaves a chance of infection.

So don’t stop using the product, but do start daily tick patrols.

Check your cat for ticks, too, if the cat spends a lot of time outside. Photo: richdedeyan

How Ticks Feed

Before removing the tick, it helps to understand what you’re up against.

Ticks are smart enough to recognize their hosts. They find their hosts “by detecting animals’ breath and body odors, or by sensing body heat, moisture and vibrations. Some species can even recognize a shadow,” says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

“In addition, ticks pick a place to wait by identifying well-used paths. Then they wait for a host, resting on the tips of grasses and shrubs. Ticks can’t fly or jump, but many tick species wait in a position known as ‘questing,’” the CDC adds.

Ticks feed on blood. To access your pet’s bloodstream, ticks sink 2 hook-like mouthparts through the skin, as if stapling themselves in place.

Added to that, they inject a potent chemical soup of anticoagulants and anti-inflammatories to knock out the host’s defense mechanisms.

Once firmly anchored, the tick uses the equivalent of a living drill bit (a “toothed hypostome”) to pierce the skin, invade the capillaries and suck blood.

Ticks thrive on moisture. Photo: Skitterphoto

Where Ticks Hide Outdoors

Ticks hide in several outdoor places. Almost anyone who lives in a semi-rural to rural environment knows that ticks hang out in wooded areas and tall grass. But there are more places to consider:

  • Leaf piles: Those tempting piles of leaves may contain ticks — so don’t go jumping into them.
  • Wildlife: Many species of animal can host ticks, such as mammals, reptiles, birds and even amphibians.
  • Stone walls: Ticks thrive on the moisture usually present in a stone wall, as well as on the rodents that tunnel through the gaps.
  • Outdoor feeding stations: If you feed and/or water your pet outdoors, ticks will likely take up residence.
  • Ground-cover plants: Plants like ivy and myrtle provide a haven for mice and rats, so ticks will hang out here as well.
  • Picnic tables and wooden benches: Nowhere is safe. Mice will likely seek out food remnants, bringing ticks along for the ride.
  • Lawns: Is your lawn getting a little shaggy? Ticks will hide in neglected lawns — the longer the grass, the more likely that ticks will be there.

You can’t not go outside, but you can do regular tick checks on yourself and your pets to ensure that any tick that jumps on you doesn’t have a chance to latch on.

Where Ticks Hide on You

Ticks are attracted to humans, too.

Sara Chodosh of Popular Science has a great explanation:

“With every exhalation, you release carbon dioxide into the air — and, boy, does that sweet CO2 get ticks going. Some of them will literally run towards the scent of a potential host. And yeah, ticks can’t run very fast on a human scale, but the mental image of a little arthropod racing towards you on its clicking-clattering legs is still somehow upsetting. They can also pick up other scents like ammonia, so peeing in the woods only makes things worse. As soon as they smell you, they’re comin’ for you.”

Once the tick lands on you or your pet, it will immediately start moving to try to find skin. Ticks do (unfortunately) prefer moist and humid places, so, if given the option, a tick will attach itself to these places:

  • Ears
  • Armpits
  • Belly rolls
  • Groin

On your pets, ticks prefer the head area because the skin is thinner here, allowing easier access to the blood supply below, which is why you may find ticks on your pets’ ears and head areas.

But ticks will attach anywhere, which is why it’s important to do a thorough check after coming indoors.

Check your clothing; remove it, if possible, to check the insides, outsides and backs. Examine yourself as closely as possible to ensure you haven’t picked up any ticks. This includes your backside, front and hair.

If you do find a tick, use tweezers to remove it as closely to the skin as possible, following the same tick removal instructions above.


This pet health content was written by a veterinarian, Dr. Pippa Elliott, BVMS, MRCVS., with contributions from . It was last reviewed Oct. 13, 2018.

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