How to Tick Check Your Dog (even if he’s big, black, and hairy)

I’ve been intending to write this post for over a year. There’s always something more pressing. However, my friend Karyn recently learned that her assistance dog, Thane, has Lyme. I’m very sad about this, although I take some comfort in knowing that my advocacy about Lyme occurring everywhere was part of the reason she got her dog tested, and that now he can be treated. Hopefully this post will prevent more dogs from getting tick-borne diseases.

Ever since I wrote a long, detailed post about canine Lyme disease for Lyme Disease Awareness Month in May 2010 stressing the importance of thoroughly tick checking your dog every day of the spring, summer, and fall, people have been asking me, “How do you do it?”

If you only want a very cursory explanation of how to tick-check, there is a new site devoted to ticks, dogs, and tick-borne disease in dogs, called DogsandTicks.com. The tick-checking information is on the disease-prevention page; better than nothing, I suppose, but I fear it will give people the impression that they are doing a thorough job when you’re not. The site also includes photos of ticks, how to remove ticks, information on various tick-borne diseases, and a FAQ.

If you want more detailed instructions on tick-checking your dog, read on!

People with dark-colored dogs, and long-haired dogs have expressed particular concern to me about how the heck to search an entire dog — especially if it’s a big dog. Having owned three consecutive large, dark, long-haired dogs (bouviers des Flandres), I know where they’re coming from.

I didn’t used to do systematic daily tick-checks until I got Lyme disease in 2007. That seriously changed my perspective on tick vigilance, particularly when my service dog, Gadget, too, turned out to have chronic Lyme.

Betsy and I thoroughly tick-checked Gadget (until he died, two years ago), every day. We carry on the tradition with Barnum, my one-and-a-half year-old puppy and service-dog-in-training.

There are certainly other things I’d rather be doing with the time and energy that go into tick-checking, but I’ve come to see it as required upkeep, like feeding or walking him. There are also a few side benefits that I’ll mention in my discussion.

Note: My tick-checking description includes things that are helpful to me, such as having an extra person, using my hands, good lighting, etc. I realize that if you are single, or blind, or don’t have good sensation in your fingertips you’ll need to modify how you check. It is definitely possible to tick-check by yourself (I do it often), as well as to do an effective job if you have limited vision or use of your hands. By creating a routine and becoming familiar with your dog’s normal bumps (whisker bumps, bug bites, nipples, warts and pimples), you will become much more able to identify ticks.

Please do not think that using “spot-on” flea and tick products (Frontline Plus, Advantix, etc.), makes tick checking unnecessary. This is not true. I have written in other posts that these products have several major drawbacks, including that they can cause chemical injury to people or animals sensitive to them. However, whether you choose to use them or not, they are not perfect, and your dog can still carry ticks. Consider:

  1. They do not repel or prevent ticks from climbing on and attaching; the ticks need to drink your dog’s blood before the product kills them. Ticks can feed on your dog for several hours before they die and fall off.
  2. These products are far more effective against fleas than ticks. There really is no product that is as effective against ticks as it is against fleas. They are hardy, adaptive, tough little bugs. Some are more effective against ticks than others, such as Advantix or Revolution. However, I recently spoke with Barnum’s breeder, who is an ER vet, and she told me that she would never put Revolution on her dogs, because she has seen so many serious adverse reactions to it in the ER. Revolution is the brand more vets in high-incidence areas like mine are suggesting as being more effective against ticks.
  3. Ticks evolve faster than humans can create poisons to kill them. Many vets and dog owners are reporting that products that used to be effective against ticks have lost their efficacy. This is particularly true in high-density tick areas.

So, choose whether or not to use these products, but don’t rely on them to make tick-checking unnecessary.

How about a summer hairdo?

If you have a long-haired dog that has hair instead of fur (such as a poodle or a bouvier), consider giving them a radical haircut in the spring and keeping it short through the fall. It is much easier to tick check a short coat than a long one.

Exhibit A: Gadget

Before . . .

Gadget, a gray brindle bouvier, stands on the patchy brown spring lawn. His hair is very long and shaggy, and he looks a lot like an Old English Sheepdog in terms of the amount of fur.

We let Gadget’s coat grow out in the winter.

. . . and After:

We fell asleep together

Gadget, freshly shorn, falls asleep with me after we’ve both been tick-checked.

Exhibit B: Barnum

Before . . .

Barnum lies on the bathroom floor. His coat is very long and shaggy and doesn't look well-groomed. He appears black except for a spot of white on his chin.

Yes, I know he looks disreputable here, but he’d just come in from the rain AND we were struggling with the wrong tools for too much coat!

. . . and After!

Barnum lies on a pale hardwood floor. He is close-cropped all over except for his face, which still has a bit of beard and fullness around the eyes. His brindling is very obvious, silver, white, gray, and black.

So sleek! And you can see all his lovely brindling this way, too! (Yeah, his legs and paws needed touch-ups. We did those another time.)

Barnum’s coat tends toward the texture, thickness, and consistency of thick, shag, wall-to-wall carpeting. And he’s black. It’s a gorgeous coat that’s a nightmare to check.

We always try to keep a short coat during tick season. It really makes a big difference. I know he doesn’t look as handsome, but I’d rather he’s healthy than gorgeous (and he’s adorable either way, of course). I’m sure bouvier aficionados gasp with horror at these extreme haircuts, but these are working dogs, not show dogs, and I have to do what works for me and for their health.

If you don’t have MCS and can afford it, you can get your dog professionally groomed, and then they will look a lot better than my dogs do! But, since groomers use a lot of scented products in their salons, that’s never been an option for me.

If you have a long-coated dog with fur (a “normal” long-haired dog), or a light-skinned dog (a pale-colored dog or one with a pink nose), or a dog that’s in the direct sunlight a lot, you might not want to cut down the coat due to issues of sunburn or skin cancer in the case of light-skinned dogs or due to problems with coat regrowth for typical-coated shedding dogs.

A good idea instead is to remove a lot of the bulk of the coat, use stripping tools. I am by no means a grooming expert — I only do what I have to to keep my service dog healthy and looking decent. I use the Mat Breaker and the Mars Coat King. If you want more information on this topic, ask a groomer or try a grooming forum online. Basically, the goal is to preserve the length for sun protection and the general form of the coat, but to thin/debulk the coat to keep your dog cooler as well as helping you feel the skin for ticks.

Lights, Blanket, Tick-Spoon!

Although it’s not known how long it takes for ticks to pass on Lyme and other tick-borne diseases (TBDs) — and different diseases are said to take differing lengths of time. A conservative estimate is that 24 hours is definitely enough time to pass on Lyme, while most other TBDs take less time. Rocky Mountain Spotted fever can be passed in just five hours. (I personally think that the 24-hour cut-off mark on Lyme is iffy.) Therefore, it’s important that you check at least daily, if at all possible.

It’s a good idea to create a routine, including what time of day you do tick-checking. This will help you remember to do it and will also make your dog more likely to accept it, because dogs usually find routine soothing.

Betsy and I like to tick-check everyone before bed, because it’s a time we’re most likely to both be available, and that way we’re not giving the ticks several uninterrupted hours of feeding during the night. But, if you’re a morning person, and that’s when you have the time, do it then. Or on your lunch break. If you miss your regular time, try to squeeze in a tick-check as soon as possible. Don’t give up in despair if you miss a day. This is an ongoing health maintenance routine, like brushing teeth or the coat. You do the best you can.

Part of the routine should be getting set up so that when you do find a tick, you have what you need. Before we start, I get something soft to sit on (because we usually check Barnum on the bathroom floor, and sitting on the hard, cold floor is too painful for me), our jar with hydrogen peroxide that we put the ticks into, our tick spoon (pictured below), treats, alcohol prep pads, and a pair of small, curved, blunt-tipped scissors that I use for grooming touch-ups on his paws and legs, particularly trimming the fur between his toes, which otherwise mats terribly. (UPDATE: I now use a much better tool for removing ticks, which are Tick Removal Forceps.)

Very thin, lightweight metal tool, about half the length of a popsicle stick, tapered on one end with a V-shaped opening. The length of the tool has a slight creased in the center, so that it is mildly concave. It's attached by a metal-bead key-chain to a plastic magnifying class about teh size of a penny or nickel.

This is the tick spoon we have. I find it easiest to use if I remove the magnifying glass, as it gets in my way.

On days when I’m too sick to work on the bathroom floor, we put a light-colored sheet down on my bed, and check Barnum on my bed. A major consideration for your locale is where the best lighting is. We turn on all the lights in my room right before we start the check. While you mostly use your hands to find ticks, it really helps if, once you have found one, if you can see what you’re doing.

The Side-Benefits to Tick Checking

Every person and dog is different, so how you go about the job will depend on what works for both of you. For example, Gadget knew as soon as the sheet went over the bed at night that it was “dog cuddling time,” and he’d jump up and lie down on his side and be super-relaxed. Since Gadget let me have my way with him, I usually started with his paws, just because they were an obvious starting point and therefore an easy way for me to be methodical: First the right, front foot, then all the way up to the elbow and armpit. Then the left front and up, then the right hind foot, etc.

With Barnum, because he’s more touchy about his paws and likes to start by sitting or standing and facing me (often licking my chin), I take a different approach. He enjoys having his face rubbed, so I do his whole head very thoroughly first, and when he’s nice and relaxed, I move to the legs and paws. (This is also helpful because most of the ticks I find on him are on his head and front legs and chest, so I am more apt to get them when I am at my freshest; my body and mind are not always at their best by the time I’m done.) He is getting more used to the routine now and has started to relax into lying down as we proceed.

If your dog is not totally comfortable or compliant with being touched all over, I have three suggestions, which you can combine.

The first is to follow Sue Ailsby’s “handling” instructions from Level 2 of the original Training Levels. (Scroll down to find “Handling.” The behaviors are listed in alphabetical order, so it’s below “Go to Mat.”) This slow approach really focuses you on making sure your dog is not just tolerating touch, but actually relaxing into it and enjoying it.

The second suggestion is a tip I got from another partner-trainer I met on the Level’s list. She taught her goldendoodle the names of all his various body parts (I hinted at this practice in this previous post). This can be handy at the vet or whenever you need to check a certain part. If it’s possible, the dog can offer you the part (chin, foot, etc.). However, even when the dog can’t actually present the part, by teaching him the name, he will know what’s coming and not feel “ambushed” when you — or someone else — suddenly grabs that part. For Barnum, the parts that it’s been most helpful for him to learn are “foot” (for the front paws), “hind” (for rear paws), “ear,” “lips,” and “tail.”

To teach the parts, just say the name you’ve chosen as you handle it, every time. You might want to reinforce the learning with a tidbit for relaxing into your touch or holding still upon hearing the word.

The third is if you have a squirmy puppy or other dog who is just too excited to hold still, you can use the bio-feedback exercises from Control Unleashed. This information was a godsend for Betsy and me when Barnum was a puppy who could not hold still for an instant — or so we thought. I had been dubious that I’d be able to click for such fleeting behaviors as blinking, but it really worked. I clicked and treated for eye blinks, soft/sleepy eyes, yawning, lip-licking, exhaling/sighing, lying down, any relaxed body posture, etc. I encouraged these behaviors by blinking, giving him sleepy eyes, yawning, lip-licking, exhaling, etc. We would start out with a wriggly puppy bouncing all over, and end up with him lying on his side!

Whatever you do, try to set up a routine that is as comfortable and pleasant as possible. If you and your dog like music, put on some music. If you’re most comfortable with a grooming table or bed, use those.

That’s because two side-benefits of daily tick-checking are:

  1. A good way to monitor your dog’s health. If you are familiar with every lump and bump, when a new one arises, you will know. Since you need to check your dog’s lips, you will also notice your dog’s teeth, gums, breath, and other indicators of health. On the other end, checking the anus can show you if there is poop that needs to be cleaned away or anal glands to be expressed, etc. I often use tick-checking time to trim the hair between toe pads that otherwise gets matted very easily.
  2. If you work at making sure this is a very familiar, enjoyable experience, your dog will come to view it as a treat. We include a lot of massaging of favorite parts (back of the neck, behind the ears, front of the chest), sweet-talking, and treats. If your dog gets over excited by treats, you might not want to use them, or use low-value treats. The picture above of Gadget sleeping between my legs really was taken immediately after a tick check, when we were both so relaxed, we fell asleep (and Betsy took the picture without me knowing it until later).

It used to be that we couldn’t get Barnum to lie down and relax for his tick check. However, after over a year of handling practice and lots of treats, behold a recent tick check. First, I check his ears. . . .

Sharon leans over Barnum, who is lying on the bed, his eyes shut, head resting between his paws. Sharon is holding one of Barnum's long ears in each hand, rubbing the flaps between her fingers.

His ears are his most sensitive body part, too!

Then Betsy checks his back and sides. . . .

Barnum lying on the bed on his right side. His right foreleg is stretched way out from under his head, his eyes are closed, and his head looks very floppy and relaxed. His left foreleg is stretched out lazily in the other direction. Only Betsy's arms are visible, one hand on Barnum's ribs, the other on the back of his neck.

“Ah, nobody gives a neck massage like mommy Betsy. . . . Zzz.”

The tick check: Feel your way. . .

Here’s how to actually conduct the check.

As to where to start, that’s up to you. If you want to start with the places you’re most likely to find ticks, that is the head, especially the ears (inside and out), then the whole rest of the head, including eyelids, eyebrows, cheeks, top of the head, chin, and lips. Then the neck (take off the collar so you don’t miss anywhere), the chest, shoulders, armpits, front legs (including between the toes), then back legs.

Or, if you want to work in a more orderly fashion, here’s how I usually do it:

Starting with the feet (if your dog is amenable), put your fingers between each toe (I do forefinger under and thumb over the webbing of the foot) and feel for bumps. You are checking for ticks between the toes on the underside of the paw as well as on the furred side, above. Likewise between the toes and the “heel” pad. A lot of the time, I pull out burrs, sap, etc., under the feet and between toes, or trim out mats.

If I feel anything there that I think is a tick, I have found it impossible, even with a docile dog, to use tweezers or a tick spoon in that location — there’s just not space to angle. Instead, find where the tick is attached (where its mouth parts disappear under the skin), grasp there — using your best fingernails, if that’s an option — and pull it slowly and steadily until you have it (and whatever hair came along) out of reach.

I’ll get to disposal of ticks and tick spoons, etc., after explaining how to check.

Feel the top of the foot and heel, too, and then work your way up the leg, running thumbs and fingertips up the skin, against the grain of the fur. I use an up-and-down motion sort of “massaging” or “scouring”with my fingertips to make sure I’m feeling beneath the fur to the skin, and covering all areas. Make sure to get your fingers in the indentations and grooves between the bones.

Definitely check the elbow and armpit. Lift the leg forward slightly to see the underside of the joint, if possible.

Then you can do the rear feet and legs the same way — checking between the toes and moving up the leg. While you’re back there, remember to feel the inner leg and groin, and in males, the penis and testicles. (It’s not common, but I have found ticks on the penis — gross!)

Here is where you will probably mistake a nipple for a tick, because there is a pair on either side of the penis, which is not where humans are used to thinking of nipples spending their time. Everyone who’s ever checked one of my male dogs has made this mistake. It’s very easy to do! If you’re not sure if it’s a tick, check for a similar bump further down, along the milk-line, or across the way, on the other side. If there is another little dark bump parallel to it, it is probably a nipple! Taking a good, close look helps, too. Look for legs! (Ticks have legs. Nipples don’t.) Also, over time you will get used to where each nipple is and how it feels. Don’t try to pull them off — the dogs don’t like it! (That’s one way to tell, if you’re uncertain if it’s a nipple or a tick, don’t use tweezers or a tick spoon! Grab with your fingers and pull gently, if the dog objects, it’s probably a nipple!)

Start at the base of the tail, and feel there. (This is where I save some time — not much tail on a bouvier!) Check the tail much like it’s a leg, feeling along the whole length. Now, the fun part: Lift the tail and examine the anus. Sometimes you have to run your finger around it if you can’t see it well. If you have a furry dog, you might have to trim the fur. If you’re squeamish, use medical exam gloves. We have found ticks on the anus. Truly gross. Throw out the gloves or wash your hands, then continue!

Ears, neck, and head are very important. Feel the entire ear, inside and out, and also get a really good look inside the ear. I use the opposing finger and thumb, again, for both sides, doing the entire ear. I also put my finger into the external ear canal (not deep!) because sometimes they hide in the ridges there. Rub with your fingers, like you were shampooing your scalp, the whole head and face. Check the lips, including between nose and lips, and look at the eyelids and eyebrows. (Just this year, I have found ticks on Barnum’s eyelid — right next to his eye — three times.)

Take off the collar to check the neck and chest, again, using the “scouring” motion with your fingers. Do his entire flank and as much of his back and belly and abdomen as you can reach (depending on how he’s standing or lying.) Hopefully he’s snoring by now! Then, wake him up! While he’s standing, if he will stay up, do the massaging with all your fingers on his back, which you probably couldn’t see/reach that well when he was lying down.

Then, get him on his other side, and repeat.

How to Remove and Dispose of Ticks

The best tool to remove ticks in most cases is a tick spoon, or tick tool, like the one above. Robbins Pet Care, sells a good, inexpensive tick spoon, Tick Tool, which also comes with a tick ID card and magnifying glass. Amazon carries it, too, as do other places, but I have found it cheapest online at Robbins. I have found that the tick spoon is superior to tweezers. It’s easier to handle, and you’re less likely to squish the tick accidentally.

The tool comes with instructions for use, but it’s not difficult to figure out — you slide the slit of the tool against the dog’s skin so that the tick is in the slit of the tool. You keep sliding all the way until the tick is in the very narrowest part of the spoon, and then you slowly, steadily pull up. The nice thing about this tool, too, is that it usually keeps the tick trapped in the slit while you get your stuff together to dispose of the tick.

There is one time when the tick spoon does not work well, which is unfortunate, because it’s the most important time: removing very small ticks, such as deer tick nymphs. Because they are so small, sometimes the slit in the spoon is too big to catch them. This can be made more difficult if they are slightly engorged, because that makes them squishier (and deer ticks already have a softer exoskeleton than a dog tick). If you try using the tick spoon on a really, really tiny tick, and you can’t get it, my best advice is to use your fingers. Grasp at the very base, right against your dog’s skin, and pull.

(Update: Tick Removal Forceps work better because they allow me to remove any size or type of tick, even very small ticks, including deer tick nymphs. Here is my review of the forceps.)

As for disposal, some things not to do: Do not put it in the trash can. It will just crawl out. Do not squeeze it between your fingers or smash it with a rock or pierce it with scissors, because ticks are filled with harmful microorganisms, and you don’t want those splattering out. Although many people flush them down the toilet, I don’t trust flushing a live tick down the toilet, just in case it manages to climb out. They can survive and float in water a long time, especially if they have something to grab a hold of.

A pretty safe method is to put it in a jar of rubbing alcohol with a tightly closing lid. Alcohol kills them pretty quickly. I am sensitive to alcohol, so we use hydrogen peroxide. They live for a few days in the jar, but since they’re contained, they’re no longer a threat. It doesn’t kill them right away, but it does eventually. You can also put it in a tightly sealed Ziploc bag. They will die due to drying out (not starvation; they can go ridiculously long without feeding). On a hot day, they might die within twenty-four hours or less. This is also the method to use if you want to send the tick away for testing.

If you can easily get back to the spot where you removed the tick, use a disinfectant, such as an alcohol prep pad or BZK to clean the area, although it’s important not to let your dog lick alcohol, as it’s poisonous to them if ingested. Make sure to wash your hands thoroughly, as well.

I hope this has been helpful! Please spread the word to everyone you know with a dog!

- Sharon, the muse of Gadget (I loved dog-cuddling time!), and Barnum, SDiT (I’m waiting for my massage!)

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25 Responses to “How to Tick Check Your Dog (even if he’s big, black, and hairy)”


  1. 1 virtuavet July 4, 2011 at 10:15 am

    This is an excellent description of removing ticks, training for relaxation, and I especially loved the bio-feedback clicker training and the body-part naming.

    I’ve taught people to say, “Open your mouth,” for tooth-brushing, but I love the whole-body naming. You’ve expanded possibilities for all my dog patients to live with a richer, more meaningful vocabulary. Now I’m off to train some humans….

    • 2 Sharon Wachsler July 4, 2011 at 2:15 pm

      Hi Doc Truli,
      I’m so glad you like it. I did just redo the “spot-on” section and toned it down a bit, because I don’t want to discourage people who are using these products from tick checking. I hope you will share this post with clients who seem receptive.

  2. 3 Karyn July 4, 2011 at 1:40 pm

    Thankyou so much for this timely post. I want to add that though initially my vet felt that the TBD panel wasn’t so essential due to the misconception of TBD’s here, when I started sharing all the symptoms it all added up for her. I think it was a bit stunning to get my head past doing this for proactive means and doing this because my dog probably had Lyme and sure enough does.

    I have a couple questions regarding tick testing. I got the tick key instead. I heard they are easier plus with my hand limitations I felt I could more easily hold them to get the job done. Are they not as reliable in the task? or are they OK? I know they seem a bit pricier but I got a kit of three so one is always available.

    How do I get through these BC pantaloons to his skin? I tried thinning with the furminator but that did not work so well. I don’t really want to give him a scissors haircut as then he won’t have them winter time to keep warm with. His base of his tail on the other hand will be a piece of cake since it was just shaved but I have the same quandry with the rest of it especially the lower quarter as with the pantaloons. Other areas his coat might be plush but its shorter and white in those areas.
    I have much *forest* trimming to do today between his pads- he was sliding all over the floors this weekend at the grocery stores.

    Lighting is a HUGE problem. My best light is kitchen but fluorescent and can’t be on for long before triggering seizure activity. Bathroom is a second best but not enough room for that nor could I be on floor that long. Its quite dim in my bedroom INTENTIONALLY. Being blind, I do rely more on touch but I also am one with sensory deficits as you know- is this going to really help- I mean will I be able to feel differences?

    I also found it curious that the place that a tick was on Thane is not considered a prime candidate area- lower abdomen. Perhaps he laid down where it was.

    • 4 Sharon Wachsler July 4, 2011 at 2:27 pm

      Hey Karyn,
      I’m not sure what the tick key is. I do have another tick-removal implement, which is green plastic, but I’ve never tried it because I’m used to the Tick Tool. Is that what you’re referring to? Or, can you give a link so I can see what you mean?
      I don’t know much about BC fur in terms of grooming. I’m used to dealing with bouvier hair. But, if you have access to anyone who knows about grooming, ask what a good stripping tool is for BC pantaloons. You are trying to lighten the bulk of the coat — thin it out.
      The stripping tools I use are the Mars Coat King or the Mat Breaker. The Mars Coat King is pricey, but boy, does it work great, and Barnum likes how it feels.
      Maybe somebody who knows more about grooming will chime in.
      In terms of your situation, with lighting, I would say do it by feel, first, in a location that is safe and comfortable for your eyes. Then, if you come across something that you think might be a tick, either mark the location in your mind with body landmarks, so you can find it again easily, or wet the spot with some water, or put a barrette in it. Then move to a location where you are most likely to be able to see that spot and get a closer look to determine if it is or isn’t a tick, and if so, to remove it.
      Over time you will definitely get better at being able to tell, by feel, what is a tick, and what is a scab or a nipple or a bug bite, etc.
      Yes, you can find ticks anywhere. I wanted to highlight the areas that are the most common, but it is definitely true that a tick can attach anywhere it can access the animal’s blood supply. Ticks usually crawl around looking for a preferred location before they attach, so the tick that gave Thane Lyme could have started on his legs and, for whatever reason, ended up deciding to attach on his abdomen.
      The only place I’ve never found a tick is inside the mouth, or on the eyeball itself. Basically, if there’s skin, it can attach itself there.

      • 5 Karyn July 4, 2011 at 5:56 pm

        No these are not plastic, but metal. I’m giving you two links. One is the manufacturers site and one is amazon. I bought mine in a three pack but its the same thing. I keep one in each power chair pouch and the other in his guide handle pouch.

        http://www.tickkey.com

        I cant do the manufacturer site myself, but you might find more details on effectiveness or other details there.

        http://tinyurl.com/cdo4rr

        The above link is on amazon
        I did some research before I chose this one over others. One reason I chose it is they supposably work on all size ticks- plus my hand function issues.

        I do have the Matt breaker grooming tool from my early days with Met. I will pull it out and see if it might help thin his tail and pantaloons. I love the beautiful bulk after the years of Met’s unstable thyroid and who knows what else but bulk is not good when seeking out ticks. Goodness Thane should be a piece of cake to tick check compared to what Met would have been in the early years.

      • 6 Sharon Wachsler July 5, 2011 at 7:35 pm

        OK, I looked at the tick key. It’s basically the same idea as the tick spoon. I can see how it might be slightly easier to use with your hand issues because it’s bigger and easier to grip, but the mechanism — pulling the tool onto the tick so that it ends up in the smallest space — is the same as the tick tool.
        I couldn’t tell if the tick key is any better for really small ticks than the tick tool. The video where they show using it, that tick is a partially engorged dog tick; that is NOT a small tick. So, I would have been more impressed if they’d removed a nymph with it. If you could do that easily with that, I would buy them in bulk! I might buy one if I order from spamazon at some point, just to test it out.

    • 7 brilliantmindbrokenbody July 4, 2011 at 8:52 pm

      I’m wondering how fast Thane’s coat grows. I shave Hudson down to 3/8″ at the start of the summer, and I shave him a second time at the beginning of August, and he’s back to a 2″ coat by the time it’s solidly cold here. Granted, solidly cold tends to be mid-November, but you can use that for a reference. If you’re not sure, maybe just cut one very small area you can find easily short and measure how fast it grows in a month? Most dogs grow a bit faster in the summer than the winter IIRC.

      • 8 Karyn July 5, 2011 at 12:17 am

        Certain areas of Thane’s coat are not real healthy. I’m opting against cutting and used the de-matter tonight a bit. It helped a lot so will do more of that when I can really work on it without pressure.
        I have his upper tail that was shaved as a judge to see hair growth though and really it aint growing at all after over a week so I’m not in a hurry to cut. I did some easy checking of front legs and tail tonight- this isn’t easy but I can really tell whats him and whats debris that needs removed LOL

  3. 9 Cait July 5, 2011 at 10:42 am

    This is a GREAT POST except for the stuff about shaving a dog down.

    For a hair-coated dog like a poodle, or a bouvier, shaving isn’t going to cause a problem. For a dog with a normal sheddy doublecoat- like a lab or golden or collie or GSD- that coat may not grow back right (or, in an older dog, at all!), and frequently will come back with a softer texture that makes it MUCH harder to take care of due to the undercoat and guard hairs growing in at the same pace. Some coats recover fine from being shaved, but many do not.

    • 10 Sharon Wachsler July 5, 2011 at 12:08 pm

      Cait, thank you for this comment. It never would have occurred to me that someone would shave down a Lab or a GSD or whatnot! Their coats are pretty short to begin with. I was talking about for really long coats. I guess I need to make that clear.

      And yes, having dogs with hair that will grow endlessly is different than most dogs with fur.

      We used to get our BCx clipped in the summer — not shaved down super short, but much shorter than in the winter. It never seemed to cause a problem, so I hadn’t thought of it.

      I will think about how I rewrite that part to stress thinning or stripping down a heavy coat without shaving. Do you have suggestions? Anyone know about grooming want to chime in? There was a post on Dogster about this recently — for coated dogs in the summer, not to shave the coat but to lighten the bulk, but they didn’t give any instructions.

      • 11 Sharon Wachsler July 5, 2011 at 8:29 pm

        OK, Cait, I rewrote the part on shaving/grooming to the best of my ability. Anyone who reads this post or sees the pictures of the grooming job I do has got to already know that I am NOT an expert on grooming, by any stretch of the imagination. So, I tried to suggest some things to look into, and hopefully people will find the resources that work for them in debulking their dog’s coat (in the case where that’s necessary; there are plenty of short-coated dogs out there where this is not an issue).

      • 12 Karyn July 7, 2011 at 5:44 am

        From my experience using the furminator and now more use with the matt tool as well in working with both my boys- one BC crossed with GSD and the other pure BC there’s not really anything to it. The keys I approach are to thin where the coat has bulk or could have excess loose undercoat.
        I have not thinned Thane much this year due to him having had staph last winter. The furminator can cause skin damage easily and though I generally do work better with it than some folks and pull away from the skin, I know it only takes one spasm
        For Thane right now, I personally prefer the de-matter tool. My reasoning is that I’m only interested in thinning areas of small surface area and like the teeth going the opposite direction to the furminator for the task of his pantaloons and tail which ideally right now at this point in the season are the only areas that need thinning for heat and tick checking aspects.
        Thane has a shaved area now from where he ahd a hotspot and trust me it aint growing in anytime soon so that was very wise advise Cait about not shaving down a fur based breed. I know its done for surgeries and medical care routinely but certainly would not be my choice now that I think about it.

  4. 13 Karyn July 5, 2011 at 11:27 am

    Sharon I have to thank you for mentioning de-matting tools for thinning the coat. As I mentioned I have one from my days with Met and it works great for this. I took a bunch of hair off without making Thane look like a lab if you know what I mean. Pantaloons are just that extra special thing a BC has but boy they make tick checking hard.
    I should be thanking my lucky stars I have a smooth coat not a rough right now smile

  5. 14 Pam Yoder April 23, 2012 at 6:03 pm

    The parts I read in your super article about getting the attached tick off the dog said “pull.” Everywhere else says grasp the head of the tick and twist or the head will stay in the dog.

  6. 16 evand September 6, 2012 at 2:43 pm

    hi. my dog has long thick hair, currently he infested by tick/flea as i get tired of using slow method to clean him like search through his body and pick out 1 by 1 of all the bugs (its just keep adding too many).. my area is impossible to avoid my dog from getting tick/flea. i tried to keep him inside the home, but he always run out to outside and get infect over & over again.
    its been awhile since i do some cleaning to him, i just feel helpless. but its hard seeing him scratching his body everyday. Can you please tell me what method i can use to at least decrease the bugs more easily from time to time. thank you Doc

    • 17 Sharon Wachsler September 6, 2012 at 4:50 pm

      Hi Evand.

      I’m sorry you’re dealing with a flea and tick infestation! First, it’s very important that you realize I’m not a doctor — of people or animals. So, please do not take this as professional medical/veterinary advice, because it’s not.

      In fact, I think it would probably be a very good idea for you to call your vet. Your dog is probably pretty unhappy — itching and sore and miserable. He might also have some diseases that can be passed on from flea and tick bites, so he might need a checkup. But if for some reason you are unable to speak to your vet or bring your dog in right away, here are some things you can do in the meantime.

      Let’s talk about fleas first. A flea infestation is a misery and a health hazard for dog and human alike, however, it can be dealt with. There are two issues to be addressed with the fleas:
      1. Killing the fleas you have now.
      2. Preventing fleas from breeding and continuing the infestation.

      Killing the fleas you have now.
      To kill the fleas on your dog, the first step is to give your dog a bath. You can use regular gentle dish liquid. I use 7th Generation. Some people use Dawn. Ideally something that is mild and unscented, but probably whatever you have is fine. Wet down the dog and then lather him all over with the dishwashing liquid. You don’t want to get soap and water in his ears or eyes, so try to cover his eyes when you’re in that area, and put cotton balls in his ears to try to keep water from going in. Leave the soap lathered on him for 5 minutes. Then rinse him very thoroughly. You will see the dead fleas in the water.

      To kill the fleas in your home (which will just keep breeding and jumping on your dog and you if you don’t get rid of them), you will need to do daily vacuuming and also wash some things. Start with cleaning the areas where your dog spends the most time. This would be his bed or crate, any towels or blankets he uses, etc. Things that can be washed, just toss them in the washer (such as the cover to his dog bed, towels, blankets, etc.) Everything that can’t go in the washer needs to be vacuumed. If you have carpets and upholstered furniture, those are places that fleas love to live and reproduce. Vacuum the floors daily as well as vacuuming the upholstery (fabric) of furniture — beds, sofas, chairs, etc. — making sure to get under the cushions and the backs and sides of the furniture, too.

      Stopping the Infestation Cycle

      The toughest problem with fleas is not the adult fleas, but the eggs and young (larvae). Fleas breed quickly and copiously.

      To keep the flea population down and eliminate them altogether, there are three steps to take:

      1. Continue to keep up with your vacuuming every day. You also might need to wash your dog once a week or so in case of new fleas.

      2. Call your vet and explain your problem. Ask your vet for a prescription for a LARVACIDE. This is a medicine you give your dog (usually once a month) that, when fleas bite him, will cause the flea’s eggs not to mature properly into adults. One brand is called Program. Warning: If your dog has any history of seizures, you should not give him Program or anything that contains the active ingredient in Program (lufenuron). You can either get this medicine from your vet, or you can have your vet fax the order to an online discount pet meds store.

      3. Buy a product to prevent future flea and tick problems. Some nontoxic options are available from Only Natural Pet Store. This is their flea/tick remedy section. I like this store because they have very good customer service and they have a 100% money-back guarantee for all their own brand of products. I suggest calling them and explaining that you have a flea and tick infestation right now and ask what they recommend.

      OK, now about ticks.

      Most products that work on fleas do not work on ticks. Fleas breed like wild and can take some work to eradicate once you have a problem, but they are much easier to kill and to prevent from attaching to your dog in the first place. For ticks, you either have to use a monthly toxic product like Advantix or Frontline, or a less toxic one that you apply more often, like something you can get from Only Natural Pet (at the link above).

      Lastly, I would suggest considering taking your dog to a groomer and getting him a haircut. If he has a lot of external parasites and matted hair, etc., a shorter haircut will enable you to deal better with the problem and will also allow you to see how his skin looks and monitor the health of his coat and skin. Good luck!

  7. 18 Peter May 2, 2013 at 8:57 am

    Very nice, thank you for posting.

    Based on what I saw everything was correct except for #3 under tick products. Do not underestimate the power of humans to fight illnesses and pests. A better, debatable approach would make more sense.

    • 19 Sharon Wachsler May 2, 2013 at 11:36 am

      Hi Peter.
      My goal was not in presenting something for debate. I am presenting facts in some instances and opinions in others.
      The point you reference is a fact. There are several dozen generations of ticks for each human one. TIcks have evolved in some regions to withstand the poisons people use to kill ticks. That’s not an opinion; it’s what’s happening.

  8. 20 kate June 3, 2013 at 3:16 am

    Do you use anything to prevent ticks? I’ve heard about using rose geranium essential oil or giving the dog brewers yeast tablets, or apple cider vinegar. I have one of the Only Natural insect sprays but it has citronella in it and our dog really doesn’t like it.
    Thanks! Kate

    • 21 Sharon Wachsler June 3, 2013 at 10:06 am

      Hi Kate.
      I don’t use any sprays or spot-ons because I have a severe sensitivity to fragrances, including essential oils, so it would not be safe for me to use them. I do think there are some insect sprays from natural ingredients available to use on dogs that are probably pretty effective if used correctly. I’ve heard of certain types of cedar and mint oil being the most effective.
      However, I can understand how many dogs might not like them, as their noses as more than a million times more sensitive to ours, so a scented spray could be very unpleasant for some dogs. I hate the smell of citronella, myself, so I don’t blame your dog! (It depends on the dog, I think. I had a dog who wanted to follow after people who wore perfume!)
      Brewers yeast or apple cider vinegar, IMO, will do no good to prevent ticks. Those remedies rely on boosting the dog’s immune system and overall health. That’s not a bad thing, of course, and there’s definitely evidence to suggest that a sickly dog is more likely to attract parasites, such as fleas, than a healthy one. However, that won’t repel ticks.
      The only preventative that’s safe for me to use is a tick tag sold by Only Natural Pet. I was dubious as to its efficacy when I bought it, but as it was my only option, came with a satisfaction guarantee, and I was desperate, I bought it. We’ve been using it for about a year, and I do think it has helped. It hasn’t eliminated ticks altogether, but that would be impossible where I live, which is Tick Central. I hope to do a product review on it at some point on my new blog, sharonwachsler.com.

      • 22 Kate June 3, 2013 at 11:25 am

        Thanks for your help, Sharon. I’ll look into the tick tag. I’ve seen it on their website and thought about purchasing it.


  1. 1 Product Review: Tick Key « After Gadget Trackback on October 17, 2011 at 1:12 am
  2. 2 goldendoodle Trackback on April 19, 2012 at 4:50 pm
  3. 3 Four (surprising) places ticks hang out « THE TICK THAT BIT ME Trackback on April 30, 2012 at 8:11 pm
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