How To Find, Remove and Control Dog Ticks 

Learn all about dog ticks:- what they look like, what diseases they cause, and how to find them on your dog. You will learn how to remove ticks correctly to ensure you keep your Cocker Spaniel safe; don't risk accidentally leaving the tick's head inside your dog!

What Do Dog Ticks Look Like?

Dog ticks are spider-like parasites that feed on your Cocker Spaniel's blood.

Of all the unwelcome visitors your dog is likely to bring home, these are probably one of the most unpleasant!

If you are to protect your dog from ticks, you probably need to know what they look like in the first place.

Close up of a brown dog tick on a green leaf.Dog ticks spread Lyme disease

Aside from being pretty yucky, they can cause many nasty diseases (some fatal) and should be removed from your pet immediately.

There are more pictures of dog ticks below. I don't know about you, but they certainly give me the creeps!

Although dog ticks can infect humans, they also prefer to feed on canines, which is very reassuring!

Although I have had one attach itself to my arm, I managed to remove it before it could begin to feed, but it was pretty disgusting!

Dog Tick Habitat

Ticks may be active all year round, depending on climate and environmental conditions. However, they're usually more active during the spring and autumn and can be found in tall grasses, pastures, weeds, moorland and woodland.

How Do Dog Ticks Hitch A Ride?

Like dog fleas, ticks are attracted to movement, vibration and warmth. They lurk in vegetation awaiting the unsuspecting passer-by.

When a warm-blooded animal (or human) brushes past, the warmth and vibration will trigger this parasitic hitchhiker into action, and it will quickly climb onto the host.

It will then crawl through the coat towards the skin's warmth, settling in a crevice or place with little or no hair.

What Happens When Dog Ticks Feed?

The tick pierces the skin and begins to feed on your dog. As it feeds, its body fills with blood. The tick becomes engorged and grows bigger, about the size of a pea.

It also changes colour to a lighter grey, making it much easier to see.

This is a tick after it has fed on the blood of a dog. It is clinging to a sandy rock.Just looking at this tick makes my skin crawl!

The parasite won't release its grip until it has finished feeding; anywhere between 5 and 7 days!

During this time, one of the parasites that live inside the tick (spirochaete bacteria - which causes Lyme disease) makes its way out of the tick and into the host's bloodstream.

If you'd like to know more about what happens when a tick bites you, and starts feeding, this YouTube video is just the (Sorry, I couldn't resist the pun!)

It's a bit gruesome but well worth watching, here's the link:

How Ticks Dig In With a Mouth Full of Hooks | Deep Look

I hope you enjoy it, but don't forget to come back and finish reading this page.

Dog Tick Diseases

There are hundreds of tick species around the world, and these bloodsucking parasites can transmit some terrible diseases, such as:

  • Lyme disease,
  • Ehrlichiosis,
  • Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever,
  • Anaplasmosis,
  • Babesiosis,
  • Typhus,
  • Tularaemia,
  • Colorado Tick Fever,
  • Texas Cattle Fever,
  • Rhipicephalus Sanguineus.

Not all of these diseases are common in the UK, but they can be found in other parts of Europe, Africa and the United States of America.

Diseases more familiar to the UK are:

  • Lyme disease (also known as Borreliosis),
  • Babesiosis,
  • Anaplasmosis,
  • Ehrlichiosis (only a handful of cases found in the UK).

Ticks Found In The UK

Common dog ticks found in the UK:

  • Sheep tick;
  • Short-legged bat tick;
  • Hedgehog tick;
  • Tree hole tick;
  • British dog tick;
  • Cormorant tick.

Ticks Found In The USA

Ticks common to the United States of America:

  • American dog tick;
  • Gulf coast tick;
  • Brown dog tick;
  • Rocky Mountain wood tick;
  • Black-legged tick;
  • Lonestar tick;
  • Western black-legged tick.

A more comprehensive list showing their general habitat and preferred hosts can be found here.

Engorged tick after it has fed on a dog's blood.Look how big this dog tick has grown after feeding!

Symptoms Of Dog Tick Diseases

As well as passing disease to our dogs, fleas and ticks can also transmit disease to us!

All ticks must be removed as soon as you spot them, whether on human flesh or our dogs; the sooner you remove a dog tick, the more you reduce the risk of disease.

If your pet is unlucky enough to have picked up a disease from a tick, he may begin to display one or more of these symptoms:

  • lethargy, 
  • loss of (or reduced) appetite, 
  • general weakness,
  • muscle pain or weakness,
  • inflamed lymph nodes,
  • joint pain or swelling,
  • anaemia,
  • lameness,
  • fever,
  • tick paralysis,
  • rash,
  • and in the worst cases, death.

If your pet develops any of the above symptoms, see your vet as soon as possible.

This is especially true if you've recently found dog ticks in your Cocker's coat or have been abroad with your pet.

Play it safe!

This is an engorged tick after it had fed on the blood of my dog!Pesky dog tick after it had fed on Max!

How To Find Dog Ticks On Your Cocker Spaniel

During tick season, it's advisable to check your Spaniel's coat and skin regularly if you want to keep him free from parasites. Here's how:

  • Run your hands over his muzzle, head and neck and then check his ears: inside, outside and behind. You're feeling for lumps, bumps or spots on the skin.

  • Next, run your fingers through his coat on the underside of his belly and towards his 'bits'.

  • Run your fingers around the underside of his tail.

  • Do the same with the top and sides of his body.

  • Check his legs and paws, not forgetting to feel in between his toes.

  • Lastly, check his 'armpits' because this is one of their favoured places.

If you feel a lump, part his coat and look to see what's there.

Depending on how long the tick has been attached, feeding, it will vary in size from a tiny pinhead to the size of a large pea or a sweetcorn kernel.

Read on to learn the safest way to remove a dog tick.

Photo of a tick before it has fed on your dog's blood.A dog tick before it has fed on your dog's blood.

How To Remove A Dog Tick

If you find an attached tick, here's how to remove it:

Removing A Dog Tick Using A Tick Tool or Tweezers

If it's not yet attached, you can simply pick it up and dispose of it.

You can buy a unique tool called a 'tick picker' to remove attached ticks. It's a two-pronged fork-like gizmo which grasps the tick (so you don't have to!).

They're relatively inexpensive and effortless to use; however, you can also use a pair of fine-tipped tweezers to do the same job, as follows:

Top Tip: Use fine pointed tweezers rather than blunt, flat ones, as flat tweezers are more likely to squash the tick's body and cause potentially infected blood to be squeezed back into your pet's bloodstream.

  • Place the tick remover above the dog tick, ensuring the body is in the broader part of the tool before placing it flat on your pet's skin.
  • Pull the tick remover slowly backwards to 'trap' it in the fork.
  • Once the tick is securely gripped in the tool, it can be lifted upwards, away from the skin. Pull the tick out slowly and carefully. Do not twist the tool.
  • Your aim is to remove the entire tick intact.
  • If you twist the tick as you pull, the body may break away from the head and mouth parts, leaving them embedded in the skin, which can lead to irritation and infection.
  • If you accidentally leave the head in, use a pair of tweezers to pull it out and dab a little antiseptic on the wound.
  • Once you've removed the tick, place it in a small screw-top jar while you see to your dog.
  • If your Cocker bleeds a little, use a clean tissue or cotton wool pad to cover the wound and apply gentle pressure until it stops bleeding.
  • Clean the puncture wound on his skin using either an antiseptic or a gentle soap and water solution. I recommend you keep an eye on this area for a couple of days and if it becomes infected, take him to see his vet.
  • Dispose of the tick, and then wash your hands thoroughly.

Removing A Dog Tick Using Your Fingers

If you are brave enough to remove the tick by hand, always wear disposable gloves to avoid contact with bacteria or infectious germs.

Don't put yourself at risk.

Pinch the underneath the tick's head (as close to your dog's skin as possible) and gently pull the tick out. Be careful not to squeeze the body; otherwise, potentially infected blood may be forced back into your dog's bloodstream.

Remember, the closer you nip to the skin, the less chance there is of the tick's mouth parts remaining embedded in your Spaniel.

Disposing Of A Dog Tick

Once you've removed the dog tick, you must carefully dispose of it.

Here are a couple of suggestions:

  • Put the tick into a small jar with a tight-fitting lid. Pour in enough rubbing alcohol to submerge it. Wait until it dies before flushing it down the toilet.

Top Tip: Don't be tempted to squash the tick as it could be contaminated with harmful disease or bacteria - stay safe!

  • Seal the tick inside a plastic bag or tape the tick to a piece of card using sticky tape.
  • Write the date on the card to remind you when and where it was removed from your pet.

If you keep the tick for, say, 3 months, and during that time your dog shows any disease symptoms, you can pass the tick on to your vet, who will be able to have it tested to help with diagnosis.

Common Myths About Tick Removal 

Here are one or two myths about dog tick removal:

Some dog owners swear by burning the tick with the end of a cigarette or a hot match head to force the tick to release its grip on the skin. While this may work, I don't endorse it because it's too dangerous and could burn your Cocker Spaniel.

Nor do I recommend using things like alcohol or nail varnish remover; they will not release the tick.

The only safe way to remove it is to use either a tick removal tool, a pair of fine tweezers, or by hand.

If you're squeamish or worried about touching the tick or picking up disease, invest in a box of latex gloves that doctors and dentists use.

If you're still not up to the job, ask your vet, veterinary assistant, or groomer to do the job for you.

Please note that you can't kill a tick by flushing it down the toilet.

Keeping Your Cocker Spaniel Safe from Dog Ticks

Many treatments are available to guard against ticks; shampoos, sprays, tick collars, and dog tick powder.

You may need a prescription from your vet for some, but most products are available without a prescription and can be bought directly from your local pet store.

The Frontline Spot On products advertised for tick and flea treatment are very effective (however, you'll need a prescription for some lines).

All flea treatments must be applied correctly to be fully effective, so follow the manufacturer's instructions.

Home Remedies for Ticks

If you prefer a more 'natural' approach, you can buy a herbal preparation from a health shop, or you can make your own.

Apple Cider Vinegar

Apple cider vinegar will help to make your dog's blood more acidic, which (apparently) ticks and fleas find distasteful.

Simply add two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar to your Spaniel's food or water bowl (or one tablespoon in each).

You can also use apple cider vinegar for bathing your dog.

Make up a solution of 1 part vinegar, 3 parts water, and a small squirt of baby shampoo. Wet your dog thoroughly, rub this mixture into his coat and lather well.

Just make sure you get the solution in all the usual hiding places.

Citrus Oils

Citrus oils make a great natural tick and flea repellent.

Cut any citrus fruit into quarters (orange, lemon, lime, or grapefruit) and place in a large heatproof bowl. Add a pint of boiling water and cover.

Leave to cool overnight before squeezing the fruit and straining.

You can use this liquid as a final rinse after bathing your dog or put it into a spray bottle and spray his coat in all the usual 'meeting places'.

Essential Oils

Neem oil is a natural insecticide. It has antiseptic and anti-bacterial properties; it's safe and will also repel fleas.

Eucalyptus, lavender and cedar oil are also said to be natural insecticides.

Don't put these oils directly onto your dog's skin. Essential oils must be mixed with a 'carrier' such as almond oil; otherwise, they're too concentrated and may cause irritation.

The oil mixture can be rubbed on your dog's collar or dabbed onto his fur

Whichever essential oils you decide to use, it's crucial that you closely follow the manufacturer's instructions on the packaging, especially any instructions for dilution.

Tackling Dog Ticks: Summary

Checking your Cocker's coat and skin regularly will help keep dog ticks and fleas in check and allow you to remove them quickly before they can seriously harm your pet.

Always wear disposable gloves to protect your health, and carefully dispose of the tick.

Water won't kill a tick, so flushing a live one down the toilet isn't the answer.

Keep it in a small jar of rubbing alcohol for 3 months just in case it's needed by your vet. If it's not required, it can then be safely flushed away once it's dead.

Don't take any chances with your Cocker Spaniel's health - stay healthy, my friends!

Photo Credits for Dog Ticks:
1. Ryszard - (green)

2. Gail Hampshire - (brown)
3. Myriams-Fotos @ Pixabay
4. Copyright About Cocker
5. Copyright About Cocker