March 25, 2024 | Dog

How to prevent tick bites on my pet

What are ticks?

Ticks are small, spider-like parasites which live externally by feeding off the blood of mammals, birds and sometimes reptiles and amphibians. They have 8 legs and an egg-shaped body which becomes larger and darker as they feed on the blood of their “host”.

They are common in woodland and grassland areas and are most frequently seen in the  Spring and Autumn but can be active all year round. Unlike fleas, they don’t fly or jump, but drop or climb onto your pet’s coat when they brush past them.

What is the life cycle of a tick?

The tick life cycle is made up of 3 active stages: larvae, nymphs and adults. Each stage requires a host animal on which it can feed to progress to the next stage, or in the case of females, lay eggs. The average life cycle takes 3 years to complete.

When ticks are searching for a new host to feed off, they climb onto the tips of vegetation and use sensory organs in their front limbs to detect a stimulus, such as body heat given off by a host, and as that host brushes against the vegetation, the ticks hops on-board!

The tick will then take a blood meal which can last as long as a few days, and will then detach and drop off into the vegetation to digest and progress to the next stage. After mating, the female will lay several thousand eggs before dying.

Tick insect life cycle

Do ticks harm our pets?

Ticks, whilst not causing immediate pain, can pose significant health risks if left untreated. Whilst feeding off your pet, the tick becomes engorged with blood and grows to the size of your small fingernail. It also changes colour from opaque, almost creamy coloured, to dark grey or brown. Your dog probably won’t notice the tick as there is an anti-inflammatory substance in the tick’s saliva.

However, ticks carry a serious bacterial infection called Lyme Disease, which cats and people can also acquire through tick “bites”. Symptoms of Lyme Disease include depression, fever, lameness, inappetence, swollen and painful joints and lymph nodes.

If caught early, Lyme Disease can be treated with antibiotics, and early removal of the tick reduces the chance of transmission of the disease in the first place.

How do I remove ticks off my pet?

Firstly, check the tick to ensure all 8 legs and the head is visible - if not, contact your veterinary surgeon without delay for advice.

Use a tick twister like the O’Tom Tick Remover to gently, but firmly, pull the tick out - as you want to remove the tick in its entirety. Slide the “claw” of the tool between the body of the tick, and the skin of your pet, and twist in the same direction until you feel a “give” and the tick is successfully detached from the animal. DO NOT try to burn the tick off, or pull it off with your fingers - as this is likely to leave remnants of the parasite in your pet, where it could cause problems.

Once removed, examine the tick to ensure you have removed all of it, and then safely dispose of it. Do not squeeze it as this could cause disease transmission. 

Following removal, monitor the site where the tick was attached; there may be a little inflammation but this usually subsides after a few days. If there is significant swelling, or there is a discharge from the site, then please contact your vet immediately.

Can I prevent my pet from getting ticks?

Prevention is always the best policy and there are several products available which either kill ticks, or repel them if they attach themselves to your pet. These come in the form of tablets, spot-ons or impregnated collars such as the Seresto Flea and Tick Control Collar or the Vectra 3D spot-on solution.

Dr Rachel Louise Keane BVSc BSc MRCVS of PocketVet believes that it is a good idea for owners to carry a tick removal tool with them if they walk frequently through wood or grasslands.

“Remember, if you frequently walk your dog in woodland or grasslands, then it would be sensible to use a tick prevention product on a regular basis, and always be sure to carry a Tick Removal tool too, as well as regularly checking your dogs coat for evidence of ticks. If you do find a tick, and cannot remove it, or have attempted to remove it but you fear that parts of the tick may have been left embedded in your pet’s skin, then contact your veterinary surgeon immediately for advice”.

Medically reviewed by:


Tick Talk | The Life Cycle of a Tick with Photos

What are ticks? - The British Deer Society (

‘Be tick aware’ toolkit (

Ticks on dogs and cats | RSPCA - RSPCA -

Ticks on dogs: how to identify and remove ticks | Vets Now (