How To Deal With Ticks on Dogs: A Comprehensive Guide

Four minutes
Jul 12, 2023

Ticks are more than just a nuisance. They can cause serious health complications for pets and people. These little buggers have the potential to spread debilitating diseases, like Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, and others.

However, ticks on dogs can go unnoticed because of their small size — certain ticks are no bigger than a grain of sand. That’s why prevention and checking for tick bites on dogs is crucial. While ticks are more active during warmer months, they’re still a threat year round. Here’s everything you need to know about ticks on dogs.

Tick-Borne Diseases

Some ticks can transmit serious diseases, often within 48 hours after contact. Tick-borne canine diseases commonly found in the U.S. can include:

  • Lyme disease
  • Canine ehrlichiosis
  • Rocky Mountain spotted fever
  • Canine anaplasmosis or “dog tick fever”
  • Canine bartonellosis
  • Canine hepatozoonosis
  • Canine babesiosis 

Tick Bite Symptoms

Usually, symptoms of tick-borne diseases in pets begin to appear between 7 and 21 days after being bit. Symptoms range from mild fatigue and fever to severe muscle pain and even death. Plus, the health threat isn’t limited to the four-legged members of your family — some tick-borne diseases also spread to humans.

Some tick bite symptoms you can watch out for include:1

  • A red bullseye around the bite
  • Vomiting
  • Fever
  • Swelling of joints
  • Loss of appetite
  • Diarrhea
  • Seizures 

What Does a Tick Look Like on a Dog?

Ticks can be black, brown, or tan. Some species of ticks can be tiny, while others may be more visible to the naked eye. They can look like a small red or dark lump or a raised mole.

After a tick attaches to your dog, it begins feeding on your dog’s blood. Sometimes, you can see the tick’s head buried in your dog’s skin with the back end of its body sticking out. The more blood the tick consumes, the larger it tends to swell. The area where a tick has attached itself may become red and irritated as well.

How To Check for Ticks

Start by looking for any irritated areas on your pet. If you see them itching or rubbing a specific part of their body, definitely check it out. Then, run your hands through their fur, feeling for small bumps.

If you notice a lump or bump, part the fur using your fingers — or gently with a dog comb — and shine a light to get a closer look.

8 places you should check

Ticks like to hide in moist, dark areas, but they can be found all over your canine companion. Make sure to check these spots, where ticks are frequently found on dogs:

  • Under the collar
  • Under the tail
  • Under the front and back legs
  • In the groin area
  • Between the toes
  • On the elbows
  • In the folds of ears
  • On the eyelids 

Ticks Can Be Scary. Vet Bills Don’t Have To Be.

Find Out More

How To Remove a Tick From a Dog

If you find a tick, remain calm. You can safely remove a tick using gloves, tweezers, antiseptic, and rubbing alcohol. There are three steps to removing a tick.

Step 1: Remove the tick

Put on rubber gloves — thin garden gloves may also work — part your dog’s fur, and use the tweezers to grab the tick as close to your dog’s skin as you can. Do your best to not pinch your pup’s skin, as this could rupture the tick or cause your dog to try and run. When you have a good grip on the tick, slowly pull outward. You don't want to split the tick or leave any pieces of it behind.

Step 2: Dispose of the tick

The next step is disposal. If you want to take the tick to the vet to be tested for diseases, drop it into a small, sealable cup. If you don’t want it tested, you can either flush it down the toilet or drop it into rubbing alcohol to kill it and then flush it or throw it away. However you choose to dispose of the tick, make sure there’s no chance it can reattach to your dog or you.

Step 3: Clean and monitor the area

The last step is to apply antiseptic to the area and ensure it’s clean. Remember to look out for any potential signs or symptoms of tick-borne illness. Also, keep in close communication with your vet should any problems arise. If you aren’t sure you got all of the tick during removal, you can always schedule a vet visit to make sure there are no traces left.

How To Prevent Tick Bites

One of the most effective ways to prevent tick- and mosquito-borne illnesses, as well as fleas, is to administer a monthly preventative recommended by your veterinarian. There are several types available, including topical treatments, oral chews, and collars. According to MetLife Pet claims across the U.S., flea and tick medications can cost pet parents up to $450 a year.2

Most flea medications are also effective at preventing ticks. Flea and tick medications can be combined with heartworm medication as well, making a preventative regimen easier to maintain. Even if they’re on a preventative, it’s still important to check your pet after they’ve spent time outside.

How To Minimize Tick Exposure

Ticks are most active in the spring, summer, and fall — although, this may vary slightly depending on where you live. Ticks can live in grass, leaves, and tall brush while they wait to attach themselves to a host. When your dog is out playing in the yard, ticks may seize the opportunity to attach themselves to and feed off your pup.

Aside from arming your pet against fleas and ticks, your yard is another line of defense. To make your landscape less appealing to fleas and ticks, consider the following:

  • Use fences or other buffers — especially between your property and wooded areas — to discourage wild animals who may be carrying ticks from coming into your yard.
  • Ensure your garbage bins are tightly shut and the area around them is clean to avoid attracting wild animals.
  • Use wood chips, gravel, or pet-safe mulch to help decrease the number of ticks coming onto your property.
  • Utilize a pet-friendly, outdoor pest spray solution to keep fleas and ticks at bay. Ask your veterinarian for recommendations. 

Don’t Take These Pests Lightly

While you can’t entirely prevent your pet from encountering ticks, you can remain vigilant and know what to look for.  A monthly preventative tick treatment remains one of the best forms of protection against ticks on dogs.

MetLife Pet Insurance offers an add-on wellness plan that can help cover parasite prevention — like flea and tick medicine. Dog insurance may also help cover treatments if your dog becomes sick.

Enjoy all of the pawsome activities the outdoors have to offer! After being outside, make checking for ticks part of your routine, and consider enrolling in a dog insurance policy to help protect your furry friend. Get a quote today!

Help Keep Your Dog Healthy and Happy


** As with any insurance policy, coverage may vary. Review our coverage and exclusions.

1 “Tick-Borne Diseases in Dogs: Symptoms, Treatment & Prevention,” Westport Veterinary

2 All claims paid amounts are based on MetLife internal claims data from October 2022.

Coverage issued by Metropolitan General Insurance Company (“MetGen”), a Rhode Island insurance company, headquartered at 700 Quaker Lane, Warwick, RI 02886, and Independence American Insurance Company (“IAIC”), a Delaware insurance company, headquartered at 11333 N Scottsdale Rd, Ste 160, Scottsdale, AZ 85454. Coverage subject to restrictions, exclusions and limitations and application is subject to underwriting. See policy or contact MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC (“MetLife Pet”) for details. MetLife Pet is the policy administrator. It may operate under an alternate or fictitious name in certain jurisdictions, including MetLife Pet Insurance Services LLC (New York and Minnesota) and MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions Agency LLC (Illinois).

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