What Kills Ticks on a Dog Instantly?

A Dog tick on the skin of a dog.
© Ivan Popovych/Shutterstock.com

Written by Peralee Knight

Updated: October 29, 2023

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Dogs are one of life’s greatest blessings, but caring for a pet dog comes with its share of downsides. One of the more revolting of these downsides is having to remove a tick, or worse, multiple ticks, from your dog! The concept is so gross that we are willing to bet that is why you are here! So, once you’ve identified ticks on your pet, what kills ticks on a dog instantly?

What Are Ticks?

Ticks (order Ixodida, mite superorder Parasitiformes) are parasitic arachnids. As parasites, they live by feeding on the blood of mammals, birds, and sometimes reptiles and amphibians. As arachnids, they are related to mites and spiders because they are all arthropods who have eight legs. Ticks grow to 3-5 mm in length, depending on age, sex, species, and “fullness.”

Ticks live in grassy, brushy, or wooded areas, including your backyard. They are most active during the warmer months (April-September).

For both humans and dogs, most tick bites cause only minor skin irritation. Sometimes, however, a tick bite can result in serious illness because it is infected with bacteria, viruses, and other disease-carrying organisms. The most dreaded results from a tick bite are Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever.

How to Remove and Kill Ticks on a Dog Instantly

Removing a dog tick from cat skin with a tick remover tool.

Removing a tick from your dog is best done with tweezers.


Most experts agree that removing the tick before trying to kill it is best. It is important to know the correct method for removing a tick from your dog, as well as how to dispose of it. Also, it is crucial to know how to prevent your dog from picking up a tick, as well as which products kill both ticks and eggs.

If you notice one or more ticks already attached to your dog, physically removing the tick is recommended. Submerging a tick in original Listerine or rubbing alcohol will kill it instantly. However, while applying these substances may kill the tick, it will stay attached to your dog’s skin unless you remove it with tweezers. It is important to know that dogs are susceptible to dangerous species like deer ticks, American dog ticks, and wood ticks and can get the same life-threatening diseases we can. Also, we cannot forget the much-loathed dog tick or its indoor-loving cousin, the brown dog tick!

Best Practices to Remove a Tick From Your Dog

To safely remove a tick from your dog, follow the steps below:

  1. Using clean, fine-tipped tweezers, grip the tick close to the dog’s skin.
  2. Using steady pressure, gently pull the tick in a straight upward motion.
  3. Do not twist, jerk, or squeeze the tick when pulling it from the skin. This may leave the head embedded, which is harder to remove from a dog’s skin or fur.
  4. If the head becomes detached, use the tweezers to remove it carefully.
  5. If the mouthparts do not come out, leave them to come out naturally.
  6. Thoroughly clean the affected area and your hands with alcohol or soap and water.
  7. To kill the tick if it is alive when removed, use alcohol or original amber-colored Listerine, place it in a sealed plastic bag or container, seal it in adhesive tape, or flush the tick down the toilet.
American dog tick isolated on white background.

If you think the tick on your dog is one of the known species that spread serious illness, take your dog to the vet as soon as possible!


It is important to keep in mind that many home remedies do not work. More importantly, some remedies may even be harmful or dangerous to your dog or your other pets. For example, some natural remedies may be safe for your dog but prove toxic to your cats! Additionally, some at-home remedies are worse than unsafe; they are plain dangerous.

 The following home remedies are not recommended for use to kill a tick on your dog:

  • Nail polish
  • Dish soap
  • Essential oils
  • Flammable materials like gasoline
  • Fire, flame, or high heat
  • Corrosive chemicals like bleach.

We cannot stress enough that the use of fire, flame or highly combustible materials should not be used to kill any tick. Additionally, many of these products may be unsafe for your dog due to ingestion. Do not use any type of chemical or product on your dog unless a trusted veterinarian approves it.

Bernese mountain dog being examined by veterinarian

Take your dog to be examined by a veterinarian when there is a large tick infestation.


When To Take Your Dog To The Veterinarian

There are occasions when you should take your dog to the vet to remove ticks instead of removing them yourself. Additionally, some species of ticks can transmit serious diseases to your dog. Also, a full-blown tick infestation is a life-threatening condition for any pet. This is true for both adult dogs and puppies. We strongly urge you to take any pet with multiple ticks to the vet as soon as possible.

You should take your dog to the vet when:

  • Your dog has more than a few ticks. Only a professional veterinarian should handle a large tick infestation. Attempting to remove many ticks may harm your dog, and multiple ticks may require additional medical care!
  • There is reddened skin near or around the bite.
  • There are fever symptoms, rashes, or listlessness.
  • There are other symptoms of illness.

Remember, your vet is your best and most trusted source for getting to the bottom of any health concerns. Even the smallest symptom of illness regarding a tick bite should be discussed with your vet. A trip to the vet is especially crucial when dealing with many ticks. Remember, ticks are blood-sucking parasites!

Products Available That Kill Ticks on Dogs

why do dogs roll in the grass

Topical medicines like Frontline have products for dogs of all ages.

©Chutima Chaochaiya/Shutterstock.com

Many products are commercially available that can not only kill adult ticks on your dog but their eggs as well. This often has the added benefit of killing ticks on surfaces your dog encounters as well. You can also take steps to eliminate ticks on yourself and your yard, too!

Commercial tick and flea products include:

  • Spot treatments like Frontline that you apply monthly to kill ticks and fleas.
  • Oral medications that work monthly to kill ticks and fleas without exposure to the medication via the dog’s skin.
  • Flea and tick shampoos for dogs instantly kill any ticks present on your dog for up to two weeks.
  • Tick dips that stay on the skin and fur. This method is not advisable for dogs under four months old, pregnant dogs, or nursing dogs.
  • Tick collars that protect the head and neck of your pet. This method will not necessarily prevent ticks on the body.
  • Tick powders and sprays are made for dogs that kill ticks instantly and last for up to one week.

Remember, always make sure any product or chemical you use on your dog is vet-approved and safe! For more on how to deal with ticks, check out our articles on where ticks live, how long ticks live, and what ticks look like!

Unsafe Tick Removal Methods That Could Harm Your Dog

While there is a lot of information online about how to remove pests like ticks and fleas from your dog, some methods are just unsafe. Both commercial products and home remedies may pose a serious risk to your dog! Remember, always consult your vet before using any flea and tick removal method on your dog. You can also check out our top picks for flea and tick treatment for dogs.

Substances that are known to cause harmful effects on dogs are:

  • Prominent levels of permethrin
  • Essential oils like clove or cinnamon. These can cause stomach problems, gagging, drooling, foaming at the mouth, skin irritation, lethargy, or liver damage.
  • Any product meant for human use or use for other pets or livestock.

Additionally, products like dish soap or vinegar have little to no effect on either killing or preventing ticks on a dog. While many home remedies sing the praises of using these products, none of them have been proven to work.

Using a New Product For Fleas and Ticks on Your Dog


Seeking the advice of your vet before using new products is highly recommended.

©Chutima Chaochaiya/Shutterstock.com

To find commercial products that are safe for your dog, read labels carefully and look for EPA-approved or FDA-registered products. Also, monitor your dog closely when using a new product. If you notice any signs of distress or illness, stop using the product and call your vet!

Ticks are an unfortunate part of owning a dog, but the issue does not have to be completely horrible. While prevention is key, knowing what to do if your furry friend gets a tick is just one more way to show you love them!

How Do You Know if a Tick Head Is Stuck in Your Skin Even Though You Have Removed the Body?

American Dog Tick (Dermacentor variabilis) on human skin.

A tick will feed on its host until it is fully engorged.

©Melinda Fawver/Shutterstock.com

Now that we know how to remove ticks and then how to terminate them in a safe manner, let us take a deeper look at what happens if part of the pest, specifically the head, is not fully extracted from the body.

One of the most important things to remember when you have had a tick on you or someone in your family is to monitor the area, even after you have removed the insect. Your instinct may be to get rid of the tick and forget about it, but parts of its head and mouth could remain in your skin. This can cause some problems and even illness, in worst case scenarios.

You want to look for a black dot in your skin that remains well after the removal. Another indicator is a small whelp that arrives on the bite area. At that point, you want to visit your dermatologist to remove whatever remains of the tick because it has been lodged deep into your skin. These are all very important not only to avoid lingering skin irritations but also to make sure you are not subjected to things like Lyme disease or Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever.

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