Tick Safety for Dogs

A white and brown dog standing in the tall grass

Tiny as they are, ticks can pose serious health risks to dogs. They’re known to carry at least ten different vector-borne diseases, often more than one at a time, which can lead to co-infections that complicate diagnosis as well as treatment. And it only takes one bite. Fortunately, if caught early, treatments can be effective. But a few simple preventative measures go a long way to keeping your pup safe and tick-free.

Three sheepdogs sitting next to each other in the woods

Keep Ticks Off Dogs

A yellow lab sitting in dry leaves

Basic Tick Bite Prevention

  • Brush your dog after walks and hikes with a fine-tooth comb. Ticks usually explore to find the perfect spot, so you can catch them before they embed.
  • Vacuum once a week, emptying the bag every time, and wash dog bedding once a week in hot, soapy water. Check out our guide to easy dog bed care for more!
  • Create a barrier between your living and play spaces, and any wooded areas beyond. Gravel or wood chips deter ticks. Keep shrubs and tall grass out of play spaces. Consider a solid or invisible fence to keep your dog within the safe zone.
  • Mow and rake frequently. Ticks lay eggs in dead leaves and hang out on tall grass when looking for hosts.
  • Deter common tick hosts: use fencing to keep deer off your property and remove vegetation that attracts them. And store wood beyond your tick barrier to deter rodents.
A yellow lab having a tick collar put around its neck

Chemical Tick Repellents

With so many different chemical repellents on the market, it can be hard to know where to start or what’s safe for your pup. Accurate dosage and the right formula are key—talk to your vet first to ensure your pup gets what they need to keep them safe and healthy. Your vet will help you cut through the noise and make an informed, personalized decision. Here are some of the options:

  • Topical spot or spray treatments
  • Oral preventatives
  • Tick collars
A brown and white dog standing tall in the misty grass

Natural Tick Repellents

  • Essential oils: Many plant oils, including rose geranium, pennyroyal, and oregano, are cited as effective tick repellents. Although some studies have been done, most evidence is anecdotal, and concentrations vary. If you're curious, try making your own: mix about 20 drops of rose geranium oil with 2 tablespoons of almond oil. Spread drops on the collar area or shoulder blades, at the ankles, and above the tail. Apply it to your own body as well, behind the knees, around the ankles, and at the wrists. Or look for ready-made natural tick-repellent sprays and oils.
  • Electromagnetic products: These claim to create an electromagnetic field that keeps ticks and fleas away. Results are inconclusive, so we recommend supplementing with a vet-approved repellent.
A brown and white dog nestled in a pile of leaves

Tick-Borne Diseases

Familiarize yourself with the ticks living in your area. Know what they carry and how to recognize the symptoms. There are around 900 species of ticks, but only a small number of those carry disease. Among that group, some prefer areas forested with deciduous trees, while others thrive in areas devoid of trees. Some are prevalent in the Eastern United States, and others in the West. Some carry disease during any life cycle, while others do only as adults. 

The most common vector-borne diseases affecting humans and pets are Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, tularemia, babesiosis, ehrlichiosis, relapsing fever, and Colorado tick fever. Lyme is far and away the most common tick-borne disease. Antibiotics cure Lyme when it is caught early, but it often becomes chronic and debilitating if it is diagnosed too late.

Most of these diseases cause flu-like symptoms, which can appear up to a few weeks after a bite. The rash or tell-tale ring around a bite doesn’t always appear, even if an infection has occurred. The only way to know with certainty that you or your dog has been infected is to check diligently for bites and to get tested regularly.

A spotted black and white english pointer standing in the woods

Remove a Tick

Once a day, run your fingers through your dog's fur everywhere: head to toe, behind the ears, behind the joints. Inspect any bumps you feel. If a tick is found within 24 hours of biting, there’s a good chance your dog has not been infected with Lyme. Even if your pup has been infected, treatments are most effective following early detection. 


  • panic and reach for a match, petroleum jelly, or gasoline. These increase the likelihood of the tick vomiting inside your dog, spewing out any diseases it may carry.
  • pull so hard that the tick’s body separates from its head, which will remain embedded and increases the risk of infection.
  • squeeze the tick too hard while pulling. You want to keep the tick alive and intact until it's completely removed from your dog to prevent tick-borne diseases


  • firmly grasp the tick’s body as close as possible to your dog's skin with a pair of tweezers—but not so hard that you puncture or squish it—and then gently tug until the tick gives up and releases its bite.
  • consider purchasing a tool specifically designed for tick removal. There are many on the market, but the tick key is a great choice. Its shape is designed so that your pull exerts just the right force to safely remove an intact tick from the skin and you can keep it on your keychain for on-the-go use.
  • wrap the tick in a damp but not a wet paper towel, so its body stays hydrated. Place it all in a Ziploc bag, write the date on it, and toss it in the fridge. Then call your vet about getting the specimen tested to determine if it's carrying diseases.
A man and a woman sitting on steps next to their brown and white dog

Tick Treatments

Before a Bite

Consider vaccinating for Lyme disease. The vaccine won't protect your pup from other vector-borne diseases, but it is a powerful line of defense.

After a Bite

Call your vet about running diagnostic tests immediately. Some vector-borne diseases can be transmitted shortly after a tick embeds.

General Upkeep

Vector-borne diseases can be difficult to self-diagnose. Ensure your dog is tested for them at each annual veterinary checkup alongside their annual heartworm screening.

Ticks seem scary but don’t let fear of them keep you and your dog inside. Most ticks carry no diseases, and most bites lead to nothing. With a little prevention and care you and your pup will be well-equipped to take on the outdoors together.