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Embedded Tick on Dog: Appearance & How To Remove Them

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Ticks never bury or embed themselves completely under the skin. They are easily confused with moles or dark skin tags. Inspect the tick carefully before trying to remove it. The embedded mouthpiece can cause a local infection if you don’t remove the tick properly.

Ticks in general are extremely dangerous for humans and pets, and dogs are the most likely to host these external parasites.

These parasites create discomfort even when they are not attached. 

But what do you do when some of them are partially embedded in your dog’s skin?

There is an increased risk of ticks transmitting diseases when they are embedded to your dog because they are more difficult to remove. They can also cause infections at the site of attachment if they are improperly removed. 

It is best to contact your veterinarian if you don’t know how to handle an embedded tick.

In this article, you will learn why ticks embed themselves into the skin of hosts, what they look like, how to remove embedded ones, and more.

How Do Ticks Embed Themselves Into the Skin?

Ticks embed themselves by pushing their feeding tube deeper into the host’s skin. Ticks do that to have a better grip, helping them stay attached regardless of your dog’s scratching and biting.

Ticks don’t have an actual head; they have a capitulum[1] on which the mouthpieces are found. Ticks use these mouthpieces to cut the host’s skin and draw blood. 

The mouthpieces of a tick have three components. The hypostome or feeding tube is the one with which a tick can bury itself into the skin of its host.

Hypostome

How Do Ticks Embed Themselves Into the Skin
Image Source

The hypostome is a barbed needle-like structure through which the tick injects saliva and draws blood in an alternate pattern.

The tick attaches to the skin due to the barbs on the hypostome (it anchors to the skin).

Ticks traumatized by scratching or biting can stick the hypostome deeper into the host’s skin, becoming partially embedded.

The other two components of the mouthpieces are:[2]

  • Palps
  • Chelicerae

Palps

Palps are leg-like structures with a sensory role. Ticks use these structures to detect moving and approaching hosts. The palps cover the hypostome to protect it while the tick isn’t feeding. They fold back when the tick feeds.

Palps also prevent ticks from going too deep into your dog’s skin.

Chelicerae

Chelicerae are knife-like structures that are used to pierce into the host’s skin. Ticks insert the feeding tube to draw blood after cutting the host’s skin.[3]

What Does an Embedded Tick Look Like on Your Dog?

An embedded tick can look like a mole or dark skin tag. The capitulum is not visible compared to non-embedded ticks. Their scutum and legs are still visible if they are not engorged.

An embedded unfed tick can be distinguished from an engorged one even if it is partially buried in your dog’s skin.

Problems occur when embedded ticks become engorged. When this happens, their capitulum is completely buried into the skin, and their legs gather under their body, which causes them to be confused with moles or dark skin tags

Related: What Do Ticks Look Like on Dogs?

What Does an Embedded Tick Look Like on Your Dog
Ticks’ Feeding stageEmbedded Ticks Body Traits
UnengorgedSmall, flattened, dark brown or reddish-brown, with a visible scutum and legs.
Partially engorgedWrinkly appearance, green/silver hue, with a visible scutum and legs.
EngorgedGlobular, green/silver/pink/yellowish hue. Their scutum is not visible, and their legs can gather beneath them.

Embedded Tick Versus Mole

TraitTicksMoles
ShapeOval with a narrow support base. Their body becomes globular as they feed.Round or irregular with a wide support base.
ConsistencyFirm (hard)Soft
ColorUnfed – dark or reddish-brownEngorged – usually have a green or silver hueDark or light brown.Sometimes they can have a bluish hue.
Frequent localizationArmpits, groin area, face area, ears, abdomen, between the paws, or skin folds.Legs and back.
Other traitsNo hairs are growing out of them.Tiny hairs can grow out of them.

Embedded Tick Versus Dark Skin Tag

TraitTicksDark skin tags
ShapeOval with a narrow support base. Their body becomes globular as they feed.Various shapes, but usually irregular.
ConsistencyFerm (hard)Soft, even mushy.
ColorUnfed – dark or reddish-brown.Engorged – usually have a green or silver hue.Brown or reddish.
SizeUnfed adult ticks have at least 3 mm in length.Engorged ticks can exceed 10 times this size, depending on the species.Usually 2-5 mm, but can get up to one cm in diameter.

Are Embedded Ticks Dangerous?

All ticks are dangerous. They can transmit deadly diseases from the nymph stage if they carry pathogens. Embedded ticks also pose a risk of infection at the bite site. The place of attachment can become infected if you remove an embedded tick improperly.

Dogs can often remove attached ticks on their own. They do so by scratching and biting. 

As for embedded ticks, this behavior is counterproductive. Biting and scratching make ticks bury themselves deeper into the dog’s skin. This is why embedded ticks are considered more dangerous: they are better suited for staying attached long enough to transmit a variety of tick-borne diseases.

The most commonly transmitted tick-borne diseases to dogs are:

  • Rocky Mountain spotted fever
  • Lyme disease
  • Babesiosis
  • Ehrlichiosis
  • Anaplasmosis

A tick must be attached for at least 36 hours to transmit diseases to your dog. 

Studies on Lyme Disease have shown that ticks can transmit Borrelia bacteria within 16 hours of attachment.[4]

Embedded ticks can produce a local allergic reaction where the skin around the tick swells and becomes red and painful.

The attachment site can also become infected if an embedded tick is not properly removed. Local antibiotic treatment and/or surgical removal of the embedded mouthparts are required if this happens.

Engorged Ticks

What to Do if You Find a Tick Embedded Into Your Dog’s Skin

You can contact your veterinarian or try to remove an embedded tick yourself, depending on how deep it has embedded itself. The longer you leave an embedded tick attached, the greater the risk of transmitting various diseases to your dog.

Buried ticks are much harder to remove than non-embedded ones because their mouthparts are deeply attached to the skin. 

If you find an embedded tick on your dog, you have two options: 

  1. Go to the vet.
  2. Remove it yourself.

Embedded Tick Removal

Tick on dogs Removal

There are many tick removal methods you can try at home. The safest and most effective one is to use tweezers or special tick removal tools, which you can find at any veterinary office or pet shop.

The steps to remove an embedded tick are the same as removing a non-embedded tick:

  1. Use gloves: you do not want to come into direct contact with the tick.
  2. Prepare the tweezers or tick removal tools.
  3. Grab the tick as close as possible to your dog’s skin: It is important not to grab the tick’s abdomen. This is more difficult for embedded ticks. You need to grab the mouthparts.
  4. Pull the tick up firmly, without twisting or jerking.
  5. Properly dispose of the tick: If you throw it into nature, the tick will search for another host to finish its feeding cycle. Kill the tick by submerging it in alcohol or acetone.
  6. Disinfect the bitten area.

There is a greater risk of a local infection when the mouthpieces of embedded ticks remain in your pet’s skin when you remove the tick. Don’t panic if this happens. You removed the part of the tick that could transmit diseases to your pet. 

What to Do After You Removed an Embedded Tick

Monitor your dog for a while after you have removed an embedded tick. Contact your veterinarian immediately if your dog starts behaving strangely or the bite site becomes infected.

If the tick’s mouthparts remain embedded in your dog’s skin, you can remove them yourself with a sterile needle. Go to the vet if you don’t feel comfortable handling it yourself.

The best way to make sure no tick gets buried in your dog’s skin again is to take preventive measures.

Tick Prevention

Because ticks can be dangerous, preventing them is vital. This way, your pet won’t get bitten by ticks in the first place. There are various methods of preventing ticks. The most common is applying spot-on pipettes every four or five weeks.

Tick prevention is key to keeping dogs healthy. There are luckily plenty of ways to do so. Here are some of the most common ways to prevent ticks:

  1. Spot-on pipettes (effective for 4-5 weeks).
  2. Collars (effective for 4-8 months).
  3. Chewable tablets (effective for five weeks).
  4. Sprays (effective up to four weeks).

Don’t bathe your dog 48 hours before you apply anti-parasitic products. After you’ve applied a product, wait 48 hours more before bathing your dog again. This ensures the product works as intended.

This does not apply to chewable tablets.

Make sure you always apply or administer the right concentration of active substances for your dog’s weight and age:

  • If you apply a product with a too low concentration, it won’t work.
  • If you apply a product with a too high concentration, you risk intoxicating your dog.
  • If you apply a product with a too low concentration, it won’t work.
  • If you apply a product with a too high concentration, you risk intoxicating your dog.

FAQs

How Do You Remove a Deep Embedded Tick?

Embedded ticks are removed like a regular tick. Make sure you grab the embedded tick as close as possible to your dog’s skin and pull it up firmly without twisting.

Can a Tick Get Embedded Under a Dog’s Skin?

Ticks can only get partially embedded. They never embed their whole body. You can see a tick’s abdomen and legs when they are embedded.

What Does an Embedded Tick Look Like?

An embedded tick looks like a raised mole or dark skin tag. Its entire head is buried in your dog’s skin, and sometimes its scutum. Depending on the degree of burial, the feet of embedded ticks can gather under them.

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.

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