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Warning: you may start to experience the feeling of something crawling up your leg after reading this blog post! This year I have declared war on all the creepy crawly, disgusting ticks in our yard! The first week in April and I found a tick on both dogs. It’s not the first time we’ve had to battle with ticks, but it is the first time I am prepared with an armory of natural tick defenses.

Think you and your dog are immune to ticks if you live in the city? Ticks can be an issue anywhere, from the big city to small country villages. Ticks are anywhere there are deer, mice, grass, leaves or ground cover.

To be prepared for my war on ticks, I needed to know everything there is to know about them. So here are all the important details so you can protect your dog and your family.

Adult deer tick
Female Adult Deer Tick. Source: Wikimedia

Let’s begin with some facts that you may not have known about ticks:

Tick Facts and Myths

  • In most cases, it takes 24 to 48 hours after a tick is attached before the bacteria that causes Lyme disease can infect you.
  • Only deer ticks transmit Lyme disease bacteria.
  • 20% (1 in 5) nymphs and 50% (1 in 2) of adult female ticks carry Lyme disease bacteria.
  • Ticks grow as they feed on blood, increasing more than 10 times in size.
  • On wet clothing in a laundry hamper they might survive 2 or 3 days, or longer if they’ve recently had a blood meal.
  • Ticks can’t jump. They live in the grass, leaves or ground cover, crawl upward and latch on to dogs and people walking by.
  • Ticks can be found in nearly every part of the world and can survive a wide range of climates.
  • A female tick can lay up to 3,000-20,000 eggs.
  • Ticks only breed while they’re feeding.
  • Ticks have four life stages: egg, larva (infant), nymph (immature) and adult (mature). All stages except the egg need to feed on a host, or else the tick will die. At each stage, most ticks die before they are able to find a host.
  • Deer and mice are common hosts for ticks.
  • Freezing temperatures do not kill ticks, they do go into a feeding hibernation of sorts, but ticks are active anytime temperatures are about 45°.
  • Using a hot needle, match, Vaseline or nail polish can cause the tick to “vomit” into the dog and pose a higher risk of transmitting disease.
  • Many flea and tick medications contain pesticides which can cause severe reactions including seizers. Read WARNING! The Hidden Dangers of Flea and Tick Medications
Dog walking in woods and Ticks

Symptoms and Signs Your Dog Has a Tick

  • You find a tick (obviously)
  • You feel a small bump on your dog
  • The dog is scratching, or shaking his head
  • Inflamed, reddens or unexplained scabs on dogs’ skin

These symptoms may last as short as 24 hours or continue for days to weeks.

  • Mild to high fevers
  • Loss of appetite
  • Pain
  • Lethargy
  • Depression

Rare but does happen:

  • Tick Paralysis

What Should I Do If My Dog Has a Tick on Him?

Don’t panic if you find a tick on your dog. If the tick is already attached/engorged, then you will need a pair of tweezers or a tick removal tool. If it’s not attached/engorged, then grab a tissue and remove the tick, then flush down the toilet or place inside a baggy with rubbing alcohol. Do not throw it in the trash, it will crawl out. The rubbing alcohol will kill the tick and preserve it if you need to take it in to be tested.

Do NOT use a hot needle, Vaseline, dish soap or nail polish. These can cause the tick to regurgitate into your dog and increase the risk of disease.

When you find the tick, try to keep track of where you find it. If you have someone else at home, ask them to fetch the tick removal tool so you don’t lose its place. If you are alone, make a mental note of its placement and quickly find your tweezers or tick removal tool.

Remove the tick using the steps below:

How To Remove A Tick From A Dog

  1. Spread your dog’s hair so you have clear access to the tick.
  2. Place the tweezers or tick removal tool around the tick’s head, as close to the skin as possible. Pointy style tweezers work better than wide edged tweezers.
  3. Slowly pull upward with steady hands, adding pressure until the tick lets you pull it away from the skin.
  4. Don’t twist or squish the tick. Don’t burn the tick or use Vaseline. These can cause the tick to regurgitate and pose a higher risk of infecting your dog with Lyme or other diseases.
  5. Dispose of the tick by killing it in alcohol or flush it down the toilet. Do not toss in the trash, it can easily crawl out and find its way back on you or your dog.
  6. Clean the bite area and your hands with rubbing alcohol, peroxide or a natural wound ointment.
  7. It is normal for there to be a red area or scab where the tick was. Keep an eye on it and continue to clean the area until it heals.
  8. If you’re concerned your dog may have contracted tick disease, save the tick in alcohol for testing.
  9. Do NOT worry if you didn’t get the mouth or head of the tick. A tick cannot survive once torn into two, and the mouthpart will eventually fall out.

Using the Tick Key to Remove a Tick

I bought a few of the Tick Keys to have handy when I find our next tick. I haven’t had a chance to try it yet… and I hope I never have to… wishful thinking! But I will report back when I do to let you know how well it works.

Tick Key instructions according to the package:

  • Place the key over the tick in the teardrop hole.
  • Slide the tick key flush against the skin to entrap tick in the tapered slot.
  • Do NOT lift the tick key. Continue pulling quickly in the same direction for proper removal.
  • Disinfect the tick key with alcohol after each use.
  • Thoroughly was bite area and your hands.

What Diseases Can Ticks Transmit?

  • Anaplasmosis (Deer Tick)
  • Ehrlichiosis (Lone Star Tick)
  • Encephalitis
  • Lyme Disease (Deer Tick)
  • Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (American Dog Tick)
  • Tick Paralysis

What is Tick Paralysis?

Tick paralysis causes immediate lameness, your dog may be unable to move and appear to be in a coma. Find the tick and remove it and your dog will start to feel better quickly.

Holistic or Chemical Flea and Tick Preventions?

The diseases that ticks transmit can be serious. I want to protect my dogs from ticks the best I can. But honestly, I have a hard time putting pesticides on my dogs.

Up until a couple of years ago, I used Frontline or K9Advantix, which was recommended by our vet. That is until I learned the truth about these chemicals. I am now determined to use only natural options for my dogs.

After a lot of research, I found that Only Natural Pet has the largest selection of safe flea and tick control products that actually work.

I am using these for the first time this year so I will be reporting back throughout the summer. I am most interested in the tick tag, which lasts an entire year. So many great reviews on the tag, I can’t believe it works so well! I have also purchased the flea/tick shampoo, spray, treats and brewer’s yeast/garlic tabs.

Apparently, the natural products aren’t as strong as the chemical-based products, many recommend layering the options. So that is exactly what I will be doing this summer.

Do what is best for you and your dog. I can’t guarantee any of these natural products will work. But I do feel it’s worth trying. If they don’t work, I may have to concede and go back to Frontline or K9Advantix, but I am willing to do everything in my power not to. Make sure to follow our story on Facebook and Instagram.

>> Read more about Natural flea and tick remedies. 

It’s Your Turn

I want to hear your story. Please leave a comment below, it could help someone else in our community struggling with ticks. How do you protect you and your dog? Have you had a battle with ticks?

And if you just haven’t had enough info about ticks. Check this website:

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About the Author


Debi McKee is a mom of three kids, three dogs and the creator of Rescue Dogs 101... where she guides you in your journey of adopting and raising a rescue dog every step of the way. She also volunteers for a local dog rescue and Humane Society.

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