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Dried Dead Tick on Dog: How to Remove It & the Next Steps

This is not medical advice. For medical advice regarding pets, see your veterinarian.

It is common to find dried dead ticks on dogs. If you see a dead tick on your dog, make sure you remove it properly. Sometimes its mouthpiece can remain attached to the skin. Dead ticks on dogs are common if your dog wears an antiparasitic collar or has a spot-on pipette applied.

Who doesn’t like to walk with their dog in the park or forest? But these walks come with a downside. Besides coming home with rocks and sticks, dogs can also bring back ticks.

Ticks feed on blood and drop off the host to move to the next evolutionary stage. But they can also die stuck in your dog’s skin. Why is this happening?

Knowing what to do when you find a dead dried tick or any other tick on your dog and how to prevent ticks from climbing on your pet is key to proper care.

In this article, you will find out what a dead dried tick looks like, why ticks die still attached to your dog’s skin, how to remove them, and what to do after. 

What Is a Tick?

Ticks are mites that can parasitize dogs and other species. They suck blood until they become full, also known as engorged. They fall off after feeding to molt or find a mate for reproducing. Sometimes they can die stuck in your pet’s skin or remain loose in its fur.

A tick is an external parasite that feeds on its host, including dogs. They have four stages (egg, larva, nymph, and adult). Only the last three feed on blood. 

After they have fed and become engorged, ticks drop off their host and search for the right place to molt and evolve into the next stage (for larvae and nymphs) or mate, lay eggs and die (for adult females).

Some species of ticks release a cement-like substance when they attach to the host’s skin that helps them stay firmly in place. Others have hook-like barbs on their feeding tube.

From the nymph stage, ticks differentiate sexually and become males or females. Male ticks do not feed, only the females. Their role is to mate with the females, after which they die.

Male ticks can climb on the host along with the females, reproduce, and die into the pet’s fur, while the female ticks can die while “cemented” or “hooked” into the dog’s skin.

Engorged bean Tick close up

What Does a Dead Tick Look Like on a Dog?

Dead ticks can look dried, skinny, wrinkly, and flat or full of blood (engorged); it depends on how much they have eaten and the time that has passed since they died.

Dead ticks can look in many ways; it depends on the amount of blood they have ingested. It also depends on how much time has passed since they died.

The dead ticks you find on your dog can be unfed and fed nymphs or adults.

Tick stages vary in size, from very small (larva), which you can barely see, to adults that are bigger than a sesame seed.

  • Unfed ticks look flat. You can find flat and dried ticks in your dog’s fur if it has been a while since they died. Unfed ticks are dark in color.
  • If the tick has fed with moderation, it will look wrinkly and of a brownish color. It will be a little bit bigger than an unfed, dried dead tick.
  • Engorged ticks are full of blood and look silver-white, even gray-green. They can be a little wrinkly if it has been a while since they died.
  • Flat ticks dry quicker than engorged ticks. They are smaller in size and dry (dehydrate) faster.

Related: What Does a Tick Look Like on a Dog?

Dead Flat Tick on Dog

If you found a dead flat tick on your dog, the tick was unfed. Live ticks that are unfed or male ticks are also flat.

Dead flat ticks usually remain loose in your dog’s fur because they didn’t get the chance to attach and eat or have ingested antiparasitic substances. There are also cases when a freshly-attached tick dies, remaining stuck in your dog’s skin.

Rest assured that dead flat ticks cannot transmit any of the pathogens ticks are (usually) infected with.

This is why it is important to check your dog’s skin and fur thoroughly after every walk. So that ticks can be identified and removed before they get the chance to feed until they become engorged.

Engorged Ticks Fall Off the dog

Engorged Dried Dead Tick on Dog

Finding a dead engorged tick on your dog can be worrying. An engorged tick had time to feed properly and become full of blood. Infected ticks transmit various pathogens in 24-48 hours (sometimes even less) after attaching themselves to feed.

Sometimes you can find them attached to your dog’s skin, other times you can find them in your dog’s fur.

Engorged ticks are usually big and round (globular) and look like a big silver-green raisin. They can be one-quarter to two-thirds of an inch in diameter.

Here is how long ticks take to become engorged, depending on their evolutionary stage:

  • Larvae – 3-5 days[1]
  • Nymphs – 2-3 days
  • Adult females – 4-7 days[2]
  • Males do not become engorged; their only purpose is to reproduce.

If you find an engorged dead nymph (six legs), it has been at least two days since it attached itself to your dog’s skin.

Unfed larvae or nymphs are so tiny you can barely see them. Larvae are approximately 0.5 mm, while the nymphs are big as a poppy seed (1-2 mm).

If you found an engorged dead adult female (eight legs), it has been at least four days since it attached itself.

Engorged Ticks are Dangerous to Dogs

How to Know if a Tick Is Dead or Alive?

You can tell if it is dead or alive by looking at its legs. Compared to live ticks, which have their legs on the outside, dried dead ticks’ legs will curl up and look stiff. If the tick isn’t attached, it is easy to say if it’s dead or not.

If you find ticks on your dog and want to tell them apart (alive from dead), you have to look at their legs.

The legs of a tick are attached underneath to its thorax. Larva and nymph stages have three pairs of legs, while adults have four. Ticks’ legs will curl beneath them when they die and look stiff.

Some dead ticks will dry, while others will look wrinkly (dehydrated), depending on the amount of blood they have eaten.

Can a Tick Die While Attached to a Dog?

Yes, ticks can die while still attached. The most common reason why ticks die while still being attached is if they ingest antiparasitic substances.

Applying anti-tick and flea substances on your dog is a great way to prevent tick- and flea-borne diseases.

Antiparasitic substances for ticks and fleas come in various forms, such as:

  • Spot-on pipettes
  • Collars
  • Pills

The active ingredient is absorbed by the skin fat in 48 hours. After being absorbed it enters the dog’s system.

Tick Mark on Dog skin

When a tick bites a dog that has antiparasitic substances in its system, it will ingest the substance and die soon after.

For dog owners that use an antiparasitic collar or pills for their dog, vets usually recommend applying a spot-on antiparasitic pipette monthly.

Why Are Ticks Still Attached After They Die?

Ticks are still attached after they die due to their mechanism of anchoring themselves. Ticks have more than one mechanism with which they can attach to a dog’s skin.

Some secrete a cement-like substance, while others have barbs on their feeding tube.

The most commonly known tick species that secrete the cement-like substance are from the Ixodidae family (ticks with a hard body). This family includes the well-known deer tick that can be found on the majority of dogs.

The literature compares this substance with the adhesives of some sea animals, like barnacles, mussels, and sea urchins.[3]

The cement is produced by their salivary glands, and it is secreted before and during feeding. If you catch the tick a few minutes after attaching itself, you can easily pull it out without force.

If the tick succeeds in cementing its mouthparts, you need to use pressure to detach it.

Ticks that use hook-like barbs interact flexibly and dynamically with the host’s tissue fibers, propelling their mouthpiece deeply into their skin until they are firmly attached.[4]

These types of attachment are essential for ticks that feed for long periods because they are at risk of detaching from the dog’s movement and scratching.

Are Dried Dead Ticks on Dogs Dangerous?

Flat, small ticks are not dangerous even when they are alive. Infected engorged ticks are dangerous (dead and alive) because they have had the necessary time to transmit pathogens to your dog.

A tick becomes engorged in 1.5-3 days. The time it takes to transmit various pathogens to their host is 24-48 hours since attaching themselves, sometimes even less.

The most common diseases (and dangerous) ticks can transmit to dogs are:

  • Lyme disease (borreliosis)
  • Babesiosis
  • Rocky Mountain spotted fever
  • Ehrlichiosis
  • Anaplasmosis

For a tick to become infected, it must feed on an infected host first. Then it will transmit the pathogens to the new hosts it feeds on.

Related: Can a Tick Kill a Dog?

Reasons Why Ticks Fall Off  

Ticks, dead or alive, can fall off for many reasons. The most common reason is that the tick has finished feeding and wants to find a place to molt or lay eggs. Ticks can die after ingesting antiparasitic substances, and then fall off.

The reasons why dead or alive ticks fall off are:

  • They finished feeding
  • They ingested antiparasitic substances and died
  • Your dog bit or scratched the tick before it can attach
  • They didn’t find a host in time to feed on

Do Dried Dead Ticks Fall Off by Themselves?

Usually, unattached dried dead ticks fall off by themselves.

Dead dried flat ticks are lighter than medium-fed or engorged ticks, which means they will fall off easily.

Medium-fed and engorged ticks, being heavier, are more likely to remain in the dog’s fur. But if the dog scratches itself or shakes its fur, ticks will fall off.

Do not smash an engorged tick even if it’s dead. Properly dispose of it.

What to Do if You Find a Dead Tick on Your Dog

Finding any kind of tick can be gross for some dog owners. But if you find a dead tick, make sure you check if it is fed or not and properly dispose of it.

Here is what to do if you found a dead tick on your dog:

  • Remove the tick with a paper towel if it’s not attached
  • If it is attached, properly remove it with tweezers by applying pressure and force
  • Check if it is fed or not (flat – unfed; round/globular – engorged/fed)
  • Be careful not to break its mouthpiece into the dog’s skin
  • If the mouthpiece remained attached, remove it carefully with tweezers, a sterilized needle, or go to a vet
  • Clean the bite area
  • Dispose of the tick or send it to a lab for testing
  • See a veterinarian if your dog needs one
  • Use antiparasitics to prevent ticks in the future

How to Remove Dead Ticks From Dogs?

Because removing ticks can be challenging, you have to learn along the way how to do it properly. The most common method is to use tweezers if the tick is attached, regardless of whether it is dead or alive.

If you find a dead tick that is not attached, pluck it from your pet’s fur and dispose of it; flush it down the toilet or throw it in the garbage bin.

Removing live or dead attached ticks can be tricky. You have to:

  • Prepare your tweezers (you can also use special tweezers for ticks)
  • Grab the tick as close to the surface of the skin as possible
  • Use a little force to pull it up
  • Apply constant pressure
  • Do not twist the tick
  • Dispose of the tick
  • Clean and disinfect the bite area

If the tick’s mouthparts remain attached to the dog’s skin, use tweezers or a sterilized needle to remove them. Sometimes, the dog’s organism will push it out from the skin.

Related: How to remove a tick from a dog

What to Do After You Remove a Tick From Dogs?

You found a tick on your dog; you removed it, and now what? The next step is to dispose of the tick. While disposing of the tick, keep in mind that it may carry various pathogens that can harm you and your dog if you get exposed to its insides.

Ticks don’t die if you crush them. So, never crush a tick, dead or alive. It may carry bacteria, viruses, and other parasites, which can harm you and your pet if you have been exposed to the tick’s insides.

Ticks do not drown, so flushing them down the toilet means they will be on their way to a new host. Dead dried flat ticks can be flushed; they don’t pose any threat.

If you found a live tick you can:

  • Wrap it in adhesive tape – it will die of hunger
  • Submerge it in rubbing alcohol – it will dry out (dehydrate) the tick
  • Wrap it in a damp paper towel, put it in a container, and send it to a lab for testing[5]

Is It Normal for a Dog to Have a Bump After Removing a Tick?

Seeing a bump in your dog’s skin is common. The reasons behind a bump can vary. The most common is that the tick irritates the bite area and causes it to swell and become red.

Tick bites are similar to mosquitos’ bites. A small, red bump can occur at the biting site or after the tick has been removed. This kind of bump resolves itself in a few days.

The tick cuts the skin to insert the feeding tube, which can have hook-like barbs that irritates the area. Other species secrete cement-like substances that cause the same reaction.

In more complicated cases, besides redness and bumps, ticks can cause granulomas. Granulomas usually occur when the mouthpieces remain in the skin. A granuloma is a small area of inflammation that forms when the immune system cells adhere together and create tiny nodules.[6]

Related: Ticks on Dogs Symptoms

Conclusion

Ticks are nasty living creatures that sometimes can be dangerous and harm us or our pets.

The process of removing a tick, dead or alive, from our dog’s skin can be tricky at first for some dog owners. Always make sure you don’t leave its mouthpiece stuck in your pet’s skin because it can cause local reactions.

Dead ticks usually do not pose a threat because they have stopped secreting saliva, through which they transmit pathogens, and are no longer able to attach to our pets.

You can easily distinguish a dead tick from an alive one by looking at its legs. If they are curled up and stiff, it means the tick is dead.

Most dead ticks you find on your dog are due to the antiparasitic substances in the dog’s system. Ticks ingest these substances and die shortly after. Some ticks detach, while others remain attached to the skin.

Applying antiparasitic substances on your dog and even in your yard can represent what makes the difference between a healthy dog versus an infected, sick one.

FAQs

Do Dead Dried Ticks Leave Scabs on Dogs?

Dead dried ticks can leave a scab on your dog. At the bite site, ticks can cause a local reaction that manifests as reddening, bumps, scabs, or itchiness. These kinds of modifications usually resolve themselves in a couple of days. Ticks can also be confused with scabs. If you are unsure what’s on your dog, part its fur and look closely. Scabs are flat against the skin, while ticks stick out.

Do Dead Dried Ticks Leave Skin Tags on Dogs?

Dead dried ticks or live ticks do not leave skin tags on dogs. Skin tags are skin growths that are typically thin and flat, and light in color.

How to Tell if Your Dog Has a Skin Tag or a Tick?

Ticks can look like a skin tag or mole. It is not difficult to tell the difference between a skin tag or a tick on your dog’s skin. You have to look at the color. Skin tags are of skin color (light), while ticks are usually dark brown or silver-green. If your pet has light-colored skin and fur, you can easily distinguish between these two.

About Iulia Mihai (DVM)

Dr. Iulia is a certified veterinarian with more than 10 years of experience in the field. With extensive knowledge of diet, care, and medication, she helps Misfit Animals provide readers with accurate knowledge on technical topics.