Black labrador with a tick being removed

Ticks on dogs

Ticks are grey-brown egg-shaped, blood-sucking creepy crawlies.

Cat tick on human thumb
Ticks vary in size from 1mm to 1cm. Photo by Stuart Meek.

They have eight legs, making them look spider-like, and vary in size from about 1mm to 1cm long. Their body becomes larger and darker as it fills with blood.

How do I know if my dog has a tick?

After feeding, ticks are big enough to spot and feel like a small bump on your pet’s skin. Run your hands over your dog’s body when you get back from a walk to check for them. They tend to attach themselves to areas around a dog’s head, neck, ears and feet. 

Ticks don’t fly or jump, but climb or drop on to your dog’s coat when they brush past them.


How to remove a tick from a dog

Twisting them off your dog is the best removal method, and pet shops sell handy tick-removal devices to make this easier. 

You need to be careful not to squeeze the tick’s body, or allow its head to get stuck inside your dog. Squeezing a tick’s body can cause it to expel blood back into your dog, increasing the risk of infection.  Ask your vet for advice if you're worried about doing this.

  1. Once you've located the tick, gently part your dog's fur so that you can easily reach the tick
  2. Get your tick remover and slowly push it under the tick
  3. When you have a firm grasp of the tick, twist it in a clockwise direction several times until the tick comes loose
  4. Take a look at your dog's skin and make sure the tick is completely removed
  5. Get rid of the tick by putting it in alcohol or popping it in tissue and flushing it down the toilet before washing your hands
Important: Never use your fingers to crush a tick.

Ticks carry diseases, so it’s important to remove any that attach themselves to your dog as soon as possible.  

How can I protect my dog from ticks?

If you live in an area with ticks, it’s a good idea to use a tick treatment that will either repel ticks or kill them quickly if they attach - the longer the tick is attached, the greater the risk of your dog catching a disease. Spot on treatments, tablets and collars are available and it’s best to consult your vet about which is most suitable for your pet. 

Important: Read tick treatment instructions very carefully if you have a cat. Some dog treatments can be lethal if used on cats. 

Why should I protect my dog against ticks?

Ticks are very good at passing on infections from one animal to another. They feed by biting an animal and feasting on their blood. Once they have had enough, they drop off.

Ticks transmit microbes that cause diseases, such as lyme disease and babesiosis.

Lyme disease in dogs

Lyme disease is a serious bacterial infection. So, if you walk your dog in areas with deer or sheep make sure you keep a close eye on your dog. If your dog has lyme disease, you may notice:

  • loss of appetite
  • depression
  • a fever
  • lameness
  • swollen and painful joints
  • swollen lymph nodes

These symptoms can be present in other conditions, so if you think your pet has lyme disease, contact your vet. They can perform tests to identify lyme disease and start treatment with antibiotics.

What is babesiosis?

Babesiosis is extremely rare in the UK and the tick that spreads it is currently only found in southern England and on the continent. 

It takes around two weeks to show signs and symptoms of the disease, but some pets are not diagnosed for months or years after transmission. 

If your dog is suffering from babesiosis you may notice:

  • pale gums
  • a swollen abdomen
  • a fever
  • loss of appetite
  • they become depressed
  • their skin becomes yellowish

If you spot any of these symptoms after walking your dog in a tick-infested area, contact your vet and make sure to tell them your dog may have been bitten by a tick. These symptoms can be caused by other conditions, but your vet will be able to identify the cause.

Where are ticks found?

Ticks are common in woodland, grassland and heath areas, but can also be found in your garden if you live in an area with lots of wildlife. You are most likely to come across them in areas with lots of deer or sheep between spring and autumn. But they are active throughout the year.

Tick prevention on holiday

If you're planning on taking your dog abroad, be sure to speak with your vet before you go. Ticks in other countries can pass on different diseases and it's important that your dog is protected against these.


How can I avoid being bitten by a tick?

Owners are more likely to be bitten by ticks if they walk their dogs in areas with a high tick population. Hikers and people who exercise in woodland and the countryside are at risk too. 

Three ways to help avoid tick bites

  • Wear long sleeved tops when out walking and either tuck trousers into socks, or wear long socks
  • Check your clothes for ticks and brush them off quickly if you spot any
  • Use an insect repellent

How can I remove a tick from my body?

Twisting them off your body is the best removal method. You can use a pair of tweezers or a tick removal tool. After you’ve removed the tick, give the bite area a good wash.

Ticks should be removed from your body as quickly as possible. Be very careful not to squeeze the tick’s body, or allow its head to get stuck inside your body. Squeezing a tick’s body increases the risk of infection. 

Important: Never try to burn off the tick or smother it with lotions, oils or moisturisers. This may cause the tick to expel some of the blood back into you, putting you at higher risk of infection.

If you develop a rash around the tick bite – these often look like red rings around the bite area – or feel unwell, contact your doctor and make sure to tell them you have been bitten by a tick. The earlier you seek treatment from your doctor, the better.

Can I catch a disease from a tick?

People can catch lyme disease from ticks, just like dogs.

Lyme disease is serious. So, if you walk your dog in areas with deer or sheep make sure you take precautions to avoid being bitten.

Symptoms of lyme disease include:

  • a circular rash
  • muscle and joint pain
  • fatigue

Left untreated, the disease can develop into conditions such as:

  • viral-like meningitis
  • facial palsy
  • arthritis
  • nerve damage

Lyme disease can be treated with antibiotics if caught early enough, so inform your doctor if you have been bitten by a tick. 

Take our tick quiz

— Page last updated 14/09/2021

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