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Infected Tick Bites on Dogs: What they Look Like & What to Do

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owner removed a tick with the dog looking at it suspiciously

Tick bites are not uncommon in dogs, particularly during warm weather and when dogs go to areas where ticks are rampant. This includes places with long grass and where ‘host’ animals like deer, raccoons and mice can be found.

If we see the tick itself, we should remove it ASAP by twisting it with a tick remover. After, we can kill it by putting it in an eggcup of rubbing alcohol. Then, we should clean the area it was attached to with salt water. It is best not to squish the tick, as this can spread infection.

Importantly, we have to monitor the area closely after, to check for any signs of an infection. As with any cut to the skin, a tick bite can potentially lead to a bacterial skin infection.

What are the signs of a tick bite infection?

An uninfected tick bite will be a little red and the skin should not be raised. The redness should improve each day and the lesion should not bother the dog.

If the tick bite has become infected, we might see signs such as localized swelling and redness as well as a pus discharge that will be yellow or green. The skin can feel hot to the touch and your dog may start to feel under the weather.

Signs will usually take a few days to develop. You might notice your dog is rubbing, licking and chewing at the lesion.

Tick bites are more likely to become infected if the tick is removed improperly i.e. the tick mouth is left behind. However, even when a tick is removed perfectly, an infection can occur.

What can I do from home?

The best thing we can do from home is to prevent ticks all together. This usually means the use of products such as prescription tick collars and spot-ons as needed. It also means checking your dog all over for ticks, each time they come indoors.

If you spot a tick, remove it quickly; the sooner they are removed, the less risk of infection being spread.

If your dog is licking or chewing at the tick bite location, try to prevent this by using a buster collar. It is also important to bathe the area, which can be done with salt water or a cleaning solution such as Chlorhexidine. The skin can be cleaned once or twice daily.

Should I see my vet?

If you think the tick bite is infected, a trip to the vet is key. They can examine the area and provide any required medication. If there is an abscess, this may be lanced and flushed out with saline.

When any part of the tick has been left behind, a minor procedure may be needed so it can be removed. This is usually done under sedation. After, dogs will be issued with some pain relief, anti inflammatories and antibiotics.

As long as the infection is dealt with promptly, most lesions will improve rapidly and there will be no long-lasting effects.


  • Dr. Linda Simon, Veterinarian

    Dr Linda Simon (MVB MRCVS) has 10 years of experience as a veterinarian. She is a veterinary surgeon with a special interest in geriatric patient care, dermatology and endocrinology. She is a member of the British Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons. She graduated top of her class from UCD School of Veterinary Medicine in Dublin in 2013. Linda has also worked as a locum vet in a range of clinics, including 24 hour emergency clinics and busy charity clinics.

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Disclaimer: This content is not a substitute for veterinary care. Always consult with your vet for health decisions. Learn more.

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