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How to remove a tick from your dog's paw?

Basenji dog showing its paw advice © Shutterstock

Ticks are blood-sucking insects, a bit like spiders, which attach to your dog and cause all sorts of trouble. It’s not uncommon for them to crawl into your dog’s paws. They can bite animals and humans, spreading infections, microbes, and bacteria.

By G. John Cole

These eight-legged insects like to hide where you can’t find them. Your dog’s paws are ideal for this, since they can sneak between his toes or in the creases on the bottom of his feet. A tick will attach itself to your dog’s skin and then feed on his blood for days, before dropping off when it’s had enough.

How to spot ticks in your dog’s paws

Ticks are picked up from natural areas where there is lots of wildlife. They might climb onto your dog when you take him for a walk in the park, or even in his own back garden. They are especially common in woodland and grassy areas. And they are associated with deer, so if you take your dog where deers like to graze, you are putting him at additional risk of infestation! When you come back from such an area, you should check your dog for ticks. Or, if you notice him chewing or biting at his feet, take a closer look. Start at the bottom of his feet, and work methodically up each leg. Then start again from the nose and work backwards and down.

Ticks are round and brown- or grey-coloured. They may crawl from hairy areas towards less hairy areas such as the ears and paws. You can use a hairdryer to push his hair aside as you search. But slow down. It is not enough just to discover and remove a tick, since if you do it wrong you can cause more problems.

Dog paw close up
Always check your dog's paw after you've been on a walk
©Shutterstock

Removing dog ticks

When the tick decides to feed, it will attach itself to your dog’s flesh. You must be careful not to squeeze the tick’s body as you remove it, since this can make it squirt infected blood back into your dog’s body. It is best to use tweezers, and get as close to the dog’s skin or paw material as you can. Then gently lift the tick from his body with out squeezing or twisting it. Gradually pull harder until the tick comes away. Get rid of the tick by flushing it down the toilet. Or you can kill it in alcohol and save it for testing, if you’re concerned that it might have infected your dog with something.

Quickly clean your dog’s tick bite with iodine or soapy water. It is also possible to buy a specially-prepared tick removal tool such as a tick key. This should come with instructions. But you still need to clean and disinfect your dog’s wound carefully after you remove the tick.

The wrong way to deal with ticks on your dog’s paws

It is important to go about things the right way. If you make a mistake when removing a tick from your dog, it can raise the likelihood of transmitting disease into your dog’s blood. Don’t use your hands to do it, and don’t try to burn or poison the tick while it’s still attached to your dog. This can cause it to vomit back inside your dog, which transmits disease. Don’t crush the tick, since this will also spread infection. And do make sure to dispose of the removed tick carefully, preferably by flushing it. If you put it in the rubbish bin, it may crawl back out to haunt you, like a monster from a movie.

Tick dangers

So why all these frightening words about ticks? Unfortunately they can transmit some pretty horrible illnesses. You should check with local authorities or with your local vet to find out if particular tick-borne illnesses are known in your region. Lyme disease is one such danger. It is a bacterial infection that can seriously harm your dog. He may become depressed, lame, febrile, or lose his appetite. If he gets lyme disease, your vet will probably need to prescribe antibiotics to help him recover. Babesiosis is another threat.

Dog paw in human hands with a heart
Take care of your dog's paws!©Shutterstock

It’s quite rare in the UK but has been found towards the south of the islands. It can be fatal to dogs. If your dog has pale gums, a swollen belly, or fever, a few days after having a tick, he could have babesiosis. So yes, ticks can be a serious business when they attach themselves to your dog! Be vigilant and take your time when removing them, and hopefully your pet will be fine.