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Use tick puller for pet tick removal

Q: My golden retriever Peaches has a tick. I tried to remove it according to my friend’s instructions – I held a lit match against it – but I only managed to singe Peaches’ fur. Do you have a better idea?

A: It’s a myth that a lit match (or alcohol, petroleum jelly or nail polish) will loosen a tick’s grip. None of these techniques are effective. They just irritate the tick, causing it to regurgitate its gut contents—including harmful bacteria—into the pet.

My dogs haven’t had ticks in years (read on to learn how we accomplished that feat), but when they did, I removed them with a tick puller. That’s a small, slotted spoon or fork designed to slip under the tick and lift it off, all without having to finger the tick. Ticked Off and Tick Twister are popular brands.

Once you remove the tick, tape it to a card, date the card and seal it in a plastic bag. If Peaches gets sick in the next few months, take the bagged tick to your veterinarian who can identify it and her ailment. Alternatively, you can dispose of the tick in a small bottle of alcohol or in the toilet. Then wash your hands to be sure you’ve removed any disease-causing bacteria carried by the tick.

Peaches will be healthier, though, if you treat her with a product that prevents tick attachment or kills ticks soon after attachment. Options include a chewable tablet, drops applied to the skin or a tick collar. Ask your veterinarian for a recommendation on flea control.

Editor’s Note: Warmer weather increases the risk for Lyme Disease. Dr. Lee discusses the increasing number of reported Lyme cases in dogs throughout the US.

Lee Pickett, V.M.D. practices companion animal medicine in Pennsylvania. Contact her at

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