How to Get Rid of Ticks On Dogs: What Works and What to Skip

Every dog owner who's experienced a taste of life with ticks will want to know exactly how to get rid of ticks on dogs for good. And it's a mighty good idea to get started right away because ticks will absolutely make you and your dog's life miserable.

In addition to the disgusting sensation of having a bug who loves to suck the blood of you and your loved ones, ticks can damage or irritate skin, transmit diseases and cause sickness, anorexia or anemia. In fact, ticks may be the worst pet-related pest infestation you can encounter; they're even worse than fleas.

But before you resign yourself to a lifetime of ticks, you should know that these blood suckers can be defeated. The best place to start, of course, is at the source: your dog.

How Do Dogs Get Ticks?

It's not hard to see how dogs get fleas. After all, fleas are fast, Olympic-level jumpers capable of jumping up to 7 inches (18 cm) vertically and up to 13 inches (33 cm) horizontally – that’s around 100 times their own height and length, which is like a human being able to jump over 300 meters!

Plus, fleas tend to live on the hosts they feed off of, making it easy to switch to a new host that comes within jumping proximity. No wonder fleas can spread so quickly!

Ticks, on the other hand, have no special jumping skills. Ticks don't fly, either - ticks can only crawl. Plus, ticks spend the majority of their lives living off the host's body. So how do they manage to get on your dog?

Sheer patience and determination, that's how. Ticks will climb to the tips of grasses and shrubs to patiently wait for host animals. When your dog brushes past, the tick quickly lets go of the vegetation and climbs onto your dog. This is why it's crucial to avoid tick-ridden areas like tall grasses and dense vegetation, especially during tick season which can be anytime the ground temperature is above 45 degrees Fahrenheit (7.2 degrees Celsius).

Yet another way ticks can get on your dog is by simply crawling and climbing on. If your dog often lounges in areas where other wildlife lurk, it's possible that deer, birds, raccoons, and other animals brought over ticks that are now hiding and waiting to climb onto the next potential host.

How to Check Your Dog for Ticks

One of the best ways you can prevent ticks on dogs is to do consistent checks every time your dog returns from the great outdoors.

The easiest way to do this is to pick up a tick comb - the Tick Finding Curry Comb works well and is much more thorough than a simple finger combing - and begin the tick examination in a well-lit area. It also helps to know a tick's favorite hiding places on a dog...

where do ticks hide on dogs
Image courtesy of PetMD

Ticks are drawn to dark, moist areas on the body so pay particular attention to those spots!

Tip: If you've got a dark-haired dog, it's going to be challenging to spot ticks in his fur. Which is when a "feel" test comes in handy - use your fingers to feel for unusual lumps and bumps on your dog.

As for using flea combs to check for ticks, they can work well for short to medium coat dogs but has the potential danger that you might pull off a tick and leave the head embedded, which can increase the risk of infection and may irritate the skin.

Either way, no bueno. It's better to check for ticks and remove the ones you find properly...

How to Remove Ticks on Dogs

Found a tick on your dog? The best way to remove it is to actually remove it. Ignore all the tick removal home remedies that suggest applying Vaseline, nail polish, a hot match, or anything else to the embedded tick - these can cause the tick to regurgitate infected fluids into the wound.

Instead, grab a pair of fine-tipped tweezers or a tick removal tool and get ready to extract the bugger.

best tick medicine for dogs

Here's how to remove a tick from your dog:

  • Grasp the head. Use the tips of the tweezers to gently grasp the head of the tick where it's attached to the skin. You don't want to grab the end or squeeze too hard - think of the tick as a little germ-filled balloon. If you squeeze it too hard, the germs can get pushed through to the front end, which is attached to your dog.
  • Pull gently. You want to pull the tick out gently and steadily. Don't twist or yank! If you yank it too quickly, you can leave a part of the tick's mouth behind, increasing the risk of infection. As you pull, the tick's mouth will release its grasp in half a minute or so.
  • Disinfect. Wash your hands and the tick bite area on your dog with water and soap. Let dry and apply alcohol to the bite wound to prevent infection.
  • Save the tick. Grab some Scotch tape and tape the little bloodsucker to an index card, making sure it's completely covered in tape. No need to kill it first as it'll die on its own. Write the date when the tick was found and save it to show the vet, just in case your dog starts showing signs of illness like fever, nausea, vomiting, or shows signs of inflammation in the bite area.

How to Get Rid of Ticks on Dogs

There's something satisfying about manual tick removal, but it's not the best tick treatment for dogs. After all, dogs are covered in fur and there might always be a few ticks that evade detection.

Plus, manual tick removal doesn't prevent new ticks. To both kill and prevent ticks, you'll want to consider the best tick treatment options...

Tick Shampoo

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Adams Plus Flea & Tick Shampoo, $8

One of the easiest ways to quickly kill ticks on your dog is to lather him up with a tick shampoo. The best shampoo for the job is hands down Adams Plus Flea & Tick Shampoo, which is less than $10, kills both ticks and fleas (and flea babies!), and leaves your dog's fur soft and clean.

We especially like that the shampoo is formulated with soothing, moisturizing ingredients like oatmeal, coconut and aloe vera to counteract the harshness of pesticides.

Here's what various tick sufferers had to say about this shampoo:

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how to get rid of ticks on dogs
how to get rid of ticks on dogs

Tick Collars

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Virbac Preventic Tick Collar for Dogs, $39 for 2

Whereas tick shampoos are a quick, convenient way to wipe out the ticks sucking away on your dog, they won't do much in terms of actual prevention.

This is where tick collars come in.

The most effective dog collar for tick is Virbac's Preventic Tick Collar, which is the only tick collar that detaches and kills ticks. It doesn't work right away like shampoos - the collar takes around 24 hours to start working - but it has the advantage of lasting longer. It doesn't just kill the ticks that are on your dog now - each collar provides 3 months of protection.

The downside is that tick collars work for ticks only - not fleas, so if you're dealing with both, you'll want to use the Preventic collar alongside a flea treatment for dogs.

Here's what other dog owners had to say about Virbac's Preventic:

how to get rid of ticks on dogs
best tick medicine for dogs
best tick medicine for dogs

Spot-On Tick Treatments

how to get rid of ticks on dogs

K9 Advantix Flea & Tick Control Treatment, $50

If you want long-lasting protection from both ticks and fleas, spot on treatments are the way to go. These "drops" are topical treatments that you apply on your dog just once a month to not only kill and repel ticks, but also fleas in all life stages, biting flies, mosquitoes and lice.

These spot-on treatments work by depositing into the sweat glands of the dog's skin, where the active ingredient can be released over several weeks' time. The treatments are waterproof so they're suitable for outdoorsy dogs and they apply directly on your dog's fur, between his shoulders, so there's little risk of dogs licking off and ingesting the treatment.

Here's what other flea and tick infested dog owners have to say:

best tick medicine for dogs
how to get rid of ticks on dogs

Tick Spray

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Adams Plus Flea & Tick Spray, $17

Want an affordable, use-it-when-you-need-it option of tick control? A good tick spray for dogs may be the best option for you. Adams Plus Flea & Tick Spray works as well as their shampoo - which is the best tick shampoo, in our honest opinion - to quickly kill ticks and provide residual protection.

It has the added convenience of being sprayable so you can quickly get tick prevention whenever you need it, which makes them perfect to use between shampoos and whenever you're about to take your dog into wooded areas.

Here's what other dog owners have to say:​

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how to get rid of ticks on dogs

Other Tick Treatments for Dogs

There is a plethora of tick treatments for dogs out there but the above options - tick shampoo, tick collars, spot-on treatments and tick sprays are the best ones.

But in case you're curious, here's a list of other options - and why we don't recommend them:

  • Tick Powders: These are okay treatments - they're very affordable and since they have similar formulations as the sprays, they're also effective. The downside is that the powder form can be irritating for pets - and owners - with allergies. Plus, the powder also tends to dry out the skin, especially after repeated application.
  • Tick Dips: Tick dips used to be popular back in the day when there weren't many other viable options. They still are an affordable and effective treatment but because they use a potent concentration of pesticides - at the risk of adverse reactions and toxicity - it's not worth it, especially when there are better alternatives.
  • Oral Medication: Oral medication works great to quickly and effective wipe out fleas, but there are currently no oral meds that destroy ticks.

Okay, now that we've covered the best tick treatment options to get rid of ticks, let's go over how to prevent ticks on dogs so you never have to deal with the buggers again!

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