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dried dead tick on dog

I Found a Dried Dead Tick on My Dog — What Do I Do?

Ticks, both alive and dead, can be alarming and disgusting to find on your dog. Here’s what to do if you find one attached to your dog.

Ticks are a nuisance to both people and pets and can spoil backyard playtime and outings to wooded areas. Though a dried-up dead tick can be very nasty to find on your dog, in many cases, this may be a less alarming find than a live engorged tick that is still sucking your dog’s blood. 

Dried dead ticks on dogs present less of a threat than live ones because they are no longer capable of transmitting illnesses to your dog. But like live ticks, they should be carefully removed. 

Depending on where you live, ticks may be more prevalent during warmer months. However, this does not mean that pets are safe from ticks during the winter. In fact, in many parts of the United States and the world, ticks are active year-round. 

There are a number of reasons why a tick found on a dog may already be dead. For instance, the dog may have scratched at the area the tick bit, harming and possibly killing the tick without completely removing it. 

The tick may also be dead due to the use of canine tick medicine. If you have used a tick (or flea and tick) medication on your dog, this likely killed the tiny blood-sucking arachnid. 

Like many flea treatments, canine tick medications, treatments, and collars do not stop ticks from biting your dog, but they do kill the pests and decrease the likelihood of your dog developing a tick-borne disease. Even so, it is certainly possible that you could find a dead tick stuck to your dog even if your dog has been treated against ticks. 

How Do I Remove a Dead Tick from My Dog?

If you’re not sure whether the tick is alive or dead, you should try to look closely at its legs. If the tick is dead, the legs will not move and will appear to be shriveled or stiff. Sometimes live ticks will not move very much, though, especially when they are very full from a blood meal. 

That said, the processes of removing a dead tick and a live tick are essentially the same, though you may find it easier to remove a dead tick than a live one. 

The ease with which a dead tick can be removed depends on how long the tick has been dead and how long it fed before dying. Ticks that did not feed for very long are easier to remove, and removing a well-fed tick with a large abdomen can be more difficult than removing a shriveled-up dead tick.

To remove a tick from your dog, you will first want to make sure you have fine-point tweezers, as regular tweezers are too bulky to safely remove a tick with; a tick remover tool is also safe to use. Additionally, you should have hand coverings or gloves and a pet-safe antibacterial spray or ointment. 

Gloves or other forms of hand protection are absolutely vital when you are removing a tick from your dog because it is possible for tick-borne diseases to be passed to humans during the removal process. It is also a good idea to wear gloves when you are checking your dog for ticks, since there might be a tick on the dog’s fur that latches onto your skin when you touch it. 

Cuts or abrasions on or near the hands can be an entryway for tick-born disease, as can contact with a mucous membrane such as the eye by a hand that has touched a tick. For these reasons, it is important that you be careful when touching ticks on dogs and make sure to wash your hands thoroughly afterward.

Once you have your gloves on, use the tweezers or tick removal device to grasp the tick as close to the dog’s skin as possible, being careful to avoid accidentally pinching your dog. The “head” of the tick (which is actually just its mouthparts) may split from the body and stay embedded in the dog if the tweezers are positioned too far away. 

When a tick is grabbed by the middle or even just behind the head, there is a higher likelihood that it will break apart. Live ticks carry more risk when they are broken in two because this can cause them to regurgitate diseases into the skin; even so, it is best to try to remove all of the tick from the dog, regardless of whether the tick is dead or alive. 

Removing dried dead tick from dog

Once the tick is held in the tweezers—avoiding too much pressure so that it doesn’t burst—steadily pull the tick from the dog’s skin. Be careful not to yank it out, twist it, or pull it too forcefully, as this could also break the tick in half. 

If you tried to remove a dead tick from your dog but the head stayed stuck in the skin, it is better to allow your dog’s body to naturally reject it rather than trying to dig the tick’s head out without the body intact. Keep an eye on the spot. If it becomes irritated or infected or the head does not fall out naturally, take your dog to the veterinarian to have them remove what is left of the tick. 

After the tick has been removed, clean the site of the bite with soap and water, then use a pet-safe antibacterial spray or ointment if you have one. Keep an eye on the spot—which may initially be raised, discolored, or irritated—to make sure it is healing well. If more irritation appears or if it is very slow to heal, it may be wise to see your vet. 

Be aware that tick removal from long-haired dogs may be a longer process because the tick may hold onto both the skin and the hair. Also, because it can be more difficult to see ticks on long-haired dogs, it is important to check a long-haired dog very carefully when searching for ticks. 

Finally, if your dog has a large number of ticks on their body, it would be best to let the vet deal with it due to the possibility of skin damage and other complications that may arise during the removal process. If you remove a tick at home and are concerned about the possibility of your dog contracting a tick-borne disease, save the tick for the next time you go to the vet—they may be able to identify diseases the tick carries.

Why You Should Remove Ticks from Dogs ASAP

Even if the dead tick you found on your dog died as a result of tick medication or a tick-repellant collar, it is a good idea to remove the tick as soon as possible to prevent additional skin irritation from occurring and to further eradicate the risk of your dog contracting a tick-borne disease. 

A dog’s risk of getting a disease from a tick increases the longer the tick feeds and in scenarios in which the tick vomits blood back into the dog (such as when it is suffocated or maimed). Unfortunately, a dead tick can actually cause more pain or irritation to the dog’s skin because it is not injecting the dog with its painkilling saliva. On top of the risk for disease, this is another reason to remove the tick as soon as possible. 

dried dead tick on dog

Once the tick has been removed, it is important to regularly check the bitten spot, keeping an eye out for worsening skin irritation. While tick bites may initially result in bumps, these should not last long-term. 

If your dog’s skin does not appear to be healing properly, it would be a good idea to take them to a vet to make sure that they do not have an infection or other adverse reaction. 

Ways to Prevent Ticks on Dogs

The best way to prevent ticks is by decreasing the likelihood of tick exposure. Although ticks can live anywhere, they are most likely to be found outdoors, thriving in wooded areas or in areas with tall grass. 

Ticks do not have wings and do not jump around to get to their hosts; instead, they crawl up on grass and other outdoor plants in order to try to reach hosts they can grab onto and suck blood from. If you can keep the grass and other plants in your dog’s outdoor space trimmed and short, your dog will be less likely to encounter ticks. 

Additionally, ticks feed on rats, deer, and many other wild animals. If these animals regularly enter your yard or your dog’s outdoor space, it is a good idea to try to remove whatever is attracting these animals or add fencing (if possible) to keep them out so that the ticks cannot also feed on your dog. 

Ticks become disease hosts by feeding on animals that carry diseases. Thus, if your dog gets bitten by a tick in an area that also has lots of wild animals, the chances that the tick may be carrying diseases is higher. 

In addition to trying to decrease tick risk in your dog’s environment, you can help keep your dog safe from tick-borne diseases by regularly checking them for ticks after they’ve gone outside; ideally, you should try to check every time your dog goes out.

Ticks are particularly attracted to the skin around your dog’s toes, legs, and ears, though they may attach themselves anywhere on your dog, so it is important to be very thorough and careful when inspecting your dog for ticks. 

Another way to deter ticks is through the use of tick-repellant dog collars, medicated shampoos, oral medications, spot-on treatments, or tick dips. 

live tick on dog
Live tick on dog.

Tick collars (available over the counter) and spot-on medications (available by prescription or over the counter) are placed on your dog’s neck and work by making the sebaceous oils in your dog’s coat toxic to ticks. Spot-on treatments generally need to be used monthly, while collars typically are effective longer than six months. 

Oral tick medications require vet prescriptions; like tick collars and spot-on medications, they work on the sebaceous glands and are neurotoxic to ticks. These are often also used as flea preventatives.

Medicated shampoos and tick dips work to kill ticks that are already on your dog, though how often you can use them depends on the exact product. 

In many cases, it is a good idea to consult with your vet to find out which type of tick repellant would be most suitable for your dog, especially if you have other pets: many tick repellant medications and sprays are toxic to cats. 

If you have a cat, another pet, or a small child in your household, a vet can provide guidance on the best products both to keep your dog safe from ticks and to keep those other household members safe from harmful substances. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Is It a Good Idea to Suffocate a Tick or Use a Match to Remove a Tick?

A: No, suffocating the tick in a substance is not ideal because it can cause the tick to vomit diseased blood into the dog; additionally, the process of suffocation may take more time than using tweezers or a tick removal device. 

While certain substances such as dish soap, Vaseline/petroleum jelly, and peroxide may indeed make ticks release from their hosts, these substances also make the tick vomit, greatly increasing the likelihood of disease transmission. 

It is not a good idea to use matches to try to remove a tick because you might burn your dog’s skin or their hair. Again, tweezers or a tick removal device are the best option for at-home tick removal. 

Chelsea Dickan

Chelsea Dickan

Chelsea Dickan is a long-time advocate for animals, especially those that bark or meow. When she isn't writing, she enjoys reading and watching scary movies in which the dog doesn't die.