When on a hike in the woods, there are several animals to be wary of. Bears, bobcats, and cougars are all on the top of the list. But did you know you should be just as worried about encountering a tick? The good news is unlike a bear attack, you can easily overpower a tick. We have broken down the process of how to remove a tick so you can deal with it quickly and get back to exploring.  Knowing how to remove a tick is important when you are both out in the wilderness, and in your home.

What Is a Tick?

Before we discuss how to remove a tick, let’s talk about what a tick is. A tick is a tiny arachnid, less than a ¼ of an inch large. I know what you are wondering and yes–spiders are also members of the arachnid class.

Fossil records suggest that ticks have been around for at least 90 million years.

While there are over 800 species of ticks, there are only two classifications that transmit disease or illness to humans–Ixodidae (hard ticks) and Argasidae (soft ticks). The main difference between these two is that hard ticks have a hard plate on their back while the soft ticks do not. Helpful, I know.

Ticks require blood meals to complete their life cycles. Mostly, ticks have four specific life stages: eggs, larvae, nymphs, and adult. The last three phases all require blood meals from humans or animals. Some are less particular and will bite snakes, amphibians, and birds besides mammals. Since ticks cannot jump, fly or drop they attach to a host by reaching their legs out or crawling. This is why walking through tall grass with shorts on is so dangerous.

While a blood meal is required for ticks to survive, many can last up to a year without a meal. Hard ticks will attach to their host and feed anywhere from hours to days. A soft tick requires less than an hour. Disease transmission does not occur until the end of feeding for hard ticks, so it can take hours before they transmit pathogens. Soft ticks can transmit disease in less than a minute.

When walking in the woods or through grassy areas, you are at a higher risk of tick bites during April through September. To protect yourself, wear long pants and repellent that contains DEET.

Since tick bites are usually painless, it is hard to notice that you have been bitten. Only after the tick has finished their blood meal and fallen off your skin, will you notice the following symptoms:

tick in the human skin

  • Itching
  • Burning
  • Redness

While rare, some may develop more severe symptoms, including:

  • Rash
  • Shortness of breath
  • Swelling
  • Numbness
  • Paralysis

If you experience any of these symptoms, seek immediate medical attention.

What Diseases Do Ticks Transmit?

It is important to note that most tick bites do not result in a transmittal of a pathogen. That being said, there are several tick-borne diseases you should know. The most common are:

  • Tularemia
  • Anaplasmosis
  • Colorado tick fever
  • Powassan encephalitis
  • Babesiosis
  • Ehrlichiosis
  • Rocky Mountain spotted fever
  • Lyme disease
  • Heartland virus
  • Tick-borne relapsing fever
  • Q fever
  • Southern tick-associated rash illness (STARI)

It often takes days to weeks after a tick bite to first show symptoms of these diseases. And unfortunately, there is no test available to determine the tick that bit you. To diagnose a disease, your doctor will first examine your body looking for a tick bite. Sometimes, the tick is still on the skin. If so, it can be identified and sent out for further testing.

Identifying the type of tick is helpful as only specific ones carry certain disease. While there are blood tests available for disorders such as Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever, a positive result will not come back for weeks after exposure, even if symptoms are present.

Tick bites should be cleaned and treated with an antibiotic cream. Benadryl also can be used if the bite area becomes itchy. Those infected with a pathogen require additional treatment. Depending on the pathogen, antibiotics may be prescribed. Some require intravenous drugs or a hospitalization.

Are Ticks Dangerous for Pets?

Just as they can attach themselves to humans, ticks can attach themselves to your pet. They will typically attach themselves to a part of your dog or cat that does not have a lot of hair, such as the area around their ears, inside their legs, between their toes, and around any skin folds.

While ticks can cause many diseases, the most common ones that can affect your pet are Lyme disease, and Rocky Mountain spotted fever.  Lyme disease can cause arthritis and swelling in your pet’s joints. This leads to pain while walking. Rocky Mountain spotted fever can cause fever and difficulty walking.

If your animal shows signs of feeling unwell, it is important to bring them in to see your veterinarian as soon as possible. If you live in a region where ticks are prevalent, it is important to check your pet for ticks whenever they come in from outside, this is especially important if they come in from being out in the woods.

If a tick is found, carefully remove it (this will be discussed in the next section) and watch your animal for any signs of illness. A blood test can be ordered by your veterinarian if they think it is necessary. Besides monitoring your pet for ticks, you can take some preventative measures. Your veterinarian will help you determine the right products for your specific pet.

ticks danger on pet dog

You can make the following changes:

  • Treat your backyard with anti-tick sprays
  • Make landscaping changes to make your outdoor space less tick-friendly.
  • Rid your yard of wild animals

How to Remove a Tick Effectively

It is important to remove a tick as soon are you see it on your pet, as a disease can spread within 24 hours of a bite. Before you start the removal process, make sure you have everything you need, and that you know how to remove a tick. You don’t want to have to leave to get something in the middle as animals don’t sit still for long.

The Tools You Need

You will need:

  • Gloves
  • Tweezers (pointy ones if you have options)
  • Gloves
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Antiseptic wipes
  • Container with lid

Put on Gloves

Safety first! Ticks can be carriers of many diseases. Anything that can infect your pet can also harm you. Wearing gloves throughout the whole process can help ensure you are not the tick’s next meal. Ticks can only infect you if they break the skin.

Calm Them Down

Before getting the tick off your furry friend, it is important to get them to calm down. You know your pet, so you know what will help. Belly rubs, scratches behind the ears, or a good old-fashioned head patting. Whatever it is, do it. The poking and prodding from the tick removal can make them nervous. If there is someone else at home with you, this is when you call in the reinforcements. They can help sit with your pet throughout the whole procedure.

Find the Tick

You can’t remove the tick unless you know where it is. Spread the hair away from the area so you have a clear view of the tick.

Pick up the Tweezers

Pick up the tweezers, hopefully, you have a pair of pointy ones, and position them over the tick. Grab hold of the tick as close to your pet’s skin as possible. This is important–be careful not to pinch their skin! You won’t have a second chance of removing the tick if this happens.

tick in the skin

Put Out the Tick

Use steady pressure and pull the tick out with a straight motion. No twisting or jerking as this can leave part of the tick behind. You also want to make sure you don’t apply too much pressure and squish the tick. This put you and your pet at risk as the tick’s fluids can contain infections material.

Once you remove the tick, look to see if you remove the head and mouth parts that were attached to your pet. If not, bring your pet to the veterinarian, as more advanced methods are needed to remove the rest.

Kill the Tick

Fill the container (make sure it has a tight-fitting lid) with rubbing alcohol. Place the tick in the container to kill it. Most experts recommend keeping this jar with the dead tick in case your pet exhibits symptoms. If so, the tick can be tested to determine what disease it was carrying and your animal can be treated promptly.

Disinfect The Spot

Use an antiseptic spray or wipe to disinfect the spot where your pet was bitten. It is important to note what the area looked like when you remove the tick. You can even take a photo so you can compare it to the area in a few days to make sure it has not turned red or become inflamed. This could mean the site in infected.

Reward Your Fury Friend

Your pet did great! Now it is time for a treat. Just like you know how to comfort them, you know what they like. A spoonful of peanut butter? A piece of cheese? Whatever their food of choice is, they sure earned it, don’t you think?

Keep an Eye on Them

It is important to keep an eye on your pet for the next few weeks. If they show any strange symptoms such as a fever, fatigue or loss of appetite, bring them to a doctor as soon as possible. The sooner a disease is identified and treated, the better the results.

How to Remove a Tick – The Conclusion

Taking care of your furry friend is easy when you know what to do. Now you know how to remove a tick, you can take a walk in the woods without worrying.