Product Review: Tick Removal Forceps (Updated)

May is Lyme Disease Awareness Month, and it’s been a terrible* year for ticks here, so I want to tell you now about absolutely the best tick removal tool I have found, which are these forceps:

Close-up of thin metal forceps that are rounded at the tip grasping a dog tick on a yellow-coated animal

Forceps removing a smallish dog tick.

I have posted about other tick-removal tools, including the Tick Key and the Tick Tool. Both of these tools work well for removing medium-to-large size ticks, such as dog ticks, or even some adult deer ticks. They are better than fingers or tweezers because

  • You don’t have to touch the tick with your fingers when you remove it
  • You won’t squish the tick (and squeeze its gut contents, which contains virulent pathogens, back into the dog, cat, or human you’re removing it from)
  • They are easy to hold and can be used by feel if you are blind or low-vision

Where these two tools fail in a major way is when dealing with tiny ticks, especially soft ticks, such as deer tick nymphs, which are both tiny and squishy. This is a big deal because most cases of Lyme disease in humans are caused by deer tick nymphs. I would be surprised if the statistics were not similar for dogs. Make no mistake, however — all ticks can cause serious disease in people and humans. Some of the the illness-causing bacteria and parasites that ticks carry include babesia, bartonella, anaplasma, ehrlichia, STARI, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, and tularemia, among others. The longer a tick is attached, the more likely it will pass on disease.

I found the Tick Key to be totally useless for very small ticks and the Tick Tool to be hit-and-miss with deer tick nymphs. Often, they would slide through the slit that is intended to catch them because the slit is too large, even at its smallest point, for these tiny, squishy ticks.

The result is that I usually would have to remove such ticks with my fingers, and about half the time, I’d squish the tick and leave the mouth parts behind, still embedded. This is not ideal.

Then, in the comments of my Tick Key review, my reader Courtenay — who is a veterinary technician, as well as a dog trainer and rescuer — told me about the Tick Removal Forceps she uses. The forceps are designed and sold by Jon Vilhauer, a (recently retired) veterinarian. His site, remove-ticks.com, explains how and why he designed them, and why they are preferable to other tick-removal methods:

We have . . . what is probably the only surgical-quality instrument made specifically for tick removal.

The  new  tick forceps are:

o        Fine-tipped, so you can grasp the tick’s head without squashing its body and squeezing tick juice out all over the place

o        Curved, so you can see what you are doing and avoid stabbing your not-always-cooperative patient

o        Sturdy enough to put serious traction on deeply embedded ticks

For tick removal from dogs, cats, or humans, nothing else works as well.

The forceps are terrific! With them I have been able to remove even deer tick nymphs, without squishing them or leaving the mouth parts behind. And the price is right, too: $12.75, including shipping.

The only drawbacks I can see to the forceps are that they require more hand-eye coordination than something like the Tick Tool or Tick Key, which might be an issue for people with certain disabilities. The ends are quite pointy, so you have to be careful not to stab yourself or your animal with them. But if you have a moderately steady hand and/or a reasonably willing patient, these cannot be beat.

Jon’s website answers questions about how to remove ticks, why ticks are so hard to remove, how quickly ticks should be removed, and what happens if the head is left in. He also shows a whole bunch of other tick-removal tools and their pros and cons, so you can compare. Some of the others I was not even familiar with. I think this part of the website — about tick removal tools — is useful. I do not, however, agree with all of what he writes about tick-borne diseases, Lyme disease, and transmission of disease by ticks. For more information on these topics, I suggest reading my compendium of tick- and Lyme-related posts.

I emailed Jon before I posted this review. He said he had about 60 pairs left. I’m planning on buying at least one as a backup pair. If I can manage to get organized I’d like to do some Lyme myths posts and then do a quiz on Lyme knowledge. Whoever wins will get a pair of tick forceps. But since I never know when I will be functional enough to do this kind of thing, better buy your forceps now and don’t count on me!

UPDATE: Since so many people have ordered forceps due to this review, Jon has now ordered a new shipment, although it will take a few months to arrive. He’s concerned that he won’t be able to respond fast enough to eBay sales, especially since the number of orders has gone up so much, so he’s asked me to post the remove-ticks.com website instead. I’m very glad these tools will still be available for anyone who wants them in the future.

Four paws up for these forceps!

- Sharon, the muse of Gadget, and Barnum, SD/SDiT

Notes:

1. I have received no compensation or any other benefits or inducements to do this post. I’m posting this glowing review simply because I believe in this product and am trying to make the world a safer place for us and our animals to deal with disease-ridden ticks.

2. To read other posts at After Gadget about ticks, Lyme and other tick-borne disease in both humans and canines, visit this page.

*Terrible is kind of an understatement: Last night we found 18 ticks on Barnum. The night before we found 28. Never before have we found anything approaching those numbers. None were at all engorged, which means we had not missed them in the previous night’s search — they were new ticks, in other words.

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8 Responses to “Product Review: Tick Removal Forceps (Updated)”


  1. 1 Jen May 25, 2012 at 1:47 pm

    I’d never thought about using this type of forceps for tick removal. I use something very similar at work (picking up small things in the lab) and our version costs $80! I’ll have to get a pair of the cheaper ones for at home.

  2. 3 Karyn May 25, 2012 at 5:14 pm

    I was hoping you’d do a tick forceps review. You brought up a good point in this review- something I had been concerned about when I got mine and saw their design. I’d probably do better to let the vet help if the tick key won’t do it for me, but will reserve judgment for now.
    Goodness the amount of ticks you have this year EEK! They said all of these parasites were going to be out in force this year, but that is crazy!
    Ticks are so nasty! All it takes is one to change your life forever And yes, even in the Pacific Northwest

    • 4 Sharon Wachsler May 25, 2012 at 8:05 pm

      Yes, the number of ticks this year is mind-blowing. Before this, I think the most we’ve ever removed in a day was 8 or 9, and that was very unusual. Now, we have been averaging 5-10 each night, and certainly never before have we removed more than 25 in one day. Today, just rubbing his belly and ears when he hadn’t even been for a walk, just in the yard, I found four. Shudder.
      Betsy and I felt really grossed out the night we removed 28. It was disturbing, really. It was a bit nauseating.

  3. 5 brilliantmindbrokenbody May 26, 2012 at 10:59 pm

    Yikes! That’s an utterly ridiculous number of ticks! Ick!

    Also, I just saw this and thought of you – http://www.onegoodthingbyjillee.com/2012/02/homemade-fabric-softener-finally.html. If you used a MCS-safer conditioner in this recipe, you could make a MCS-safer fabric softener! It looks like a good balance for someone like me, who can’t live without fabric softener but is trying to reduce chemical exposure. I know a lot of people won’t do without their fabric softener, but if they could use an unperfumed conditioner, this could make a big difference!

    ~Kali

    • 6 Karyn May 27, 2012 at 2:19 am

      Wow Kali That might be a good option to get my mom away from her chemical dryer sheets- well just maybe grin
      Its neat to see so many good options coming down the pipeline.
      I use vinegar in the rinse for my electric Wonder Washer but that is pretty cool for folks who really can’t give up their fabric softeners
      For me, I have yet to find a conditioner I do well with long term so for me its good ol’ vinegar even where my hair is concerned

  4. 7 Karyn May 27, 2012 at 2:11 am

    I went to Jon’s website He’s got some good information overall but I beg to differ about using the Lyme vaccine. Just about every reputable source I have read says the cons to this vaccine far outweigh the pros and as you have noted before, it only deals with Lyme, not any of the other TBDs
    I also have not heard much positive about preventic collars- essentually wrapping a ring of chemicals around a dogs neck that one is constantly coming into contact with- shudder. I have not heard much positive about these either.
    Of course this appears to ve a veterinarians perspective and probably an allopathic one at that but I do find it troubling that he promotes these things. He does make it clear the drawbacks of products like frontline which is good, but I don’t feel that is enough
    Perhaps its just because I’ve had too much heartbreak and done way too much research on the topic Ugghhhhh

    • 8 Sharon Wachsler May 27, 2012 at 12:48 pm

      Oh yes, I’d forgotten about those pages. Well, I don’t think I’ve ever found a vet’s website on Lyme that I agree with entirely. Except one former vet who has chronic Lyme, himself. I wish I could find that site, because the information he’s pulled together is fantastic. So, I just try to take what’s useful where I find it. I think the most important thing about Jon’s site is that he’s selling an affordable, effective, and easy-to-use tick removing tool, which nobody else is. For canine Lyme info, I think there are better sources (such as me and you).


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