How to Get a Leech Off a Dog

by Judith Willson
    Removing a leech doesn't require special tools.

    Removing a leech doesn't require special tools.

    Michael Blann/Digital Vision/Getty Images

    Dogs that enjoy swimming might encounter all sorts of other creatures, some of which like eating dogs. Leeches in particular abound in still water and sluggish streams; they attach themselves to pretty much any creature that swims past. Although they might look revolting, leeches don’t normally transmit diseases in the manner of ticks. Removal is usually straightforward.

    Step 1

    Get your dog to stand in front of you while you inspect him. Leeches often come in batches, so if he has one leech clinging to him, he might well have more. Check him thoroughly, not forgetting his ears, belly, legs and tail.

    Step 2

    Slide a flat object between the leech’s mouthparts -- the narrower end, attached to the dog -- and your dog’s skin. Try a thin, stiff piece of plastic or your fingernail.

    Step 3

    Grip the leech firmly around the middle of its body with your other hand and pull. Leeches drop off once they’ve satisfied their hunger, but in the meantime they’ll be sucking blood from your pet.

    Step 4

    Drop the leech into a bucket of water. Add salt to the water if you want to kill the leech; flush the water down the drain later. If you are feeling eco-friendly, use plain water and dump the leeches back where they came from.

    Step 5

    Wash each wound in tepid water, then dab with antiseptic cream. Although the leech probably hasn’t introduced toxins, bacteria always present in the environment can potentially cause infection. Basically, treat the leech wounds as you would scratches.

    Step 6

    Bandage any wounds that keep bleeding. Leeches release a substance that temporarily stops blood clotting. The effects shouldn’t last too long, but you may wish to stem the bleeding in the meantime.

    Items You Will Need

    • Bucket
    • Antiseptic lotion
    • Bandages

    Tips

    • If you are getting tired of leech removal after every walk, consider keeping your dog away from natural bodies of water until the summer is over. If he absolutely loves playing in water, provide an alternative in the form of a child’s play pool.
    • If you can’t bear to touch leeches, ask somebody else to do the job. Alternatively, just wait until the leech drops off by itself and treat the wound as above. One leech is not going to drain your dog dry.

    Warnings

    • Contact your vet if a leech has become lodged in an inaccessible part of your dog, such as its ear. Removal of the leech and treatment of the wound in such areas requires some expertise.
    • Avoid using the folk remedy of dabbing salt on the leech. It will probably work, because salt is lethal to leeches, but is liable to make the leech regurgitate into the wound, which could lead to infection.

    Photo Credits

    • Michael Blann/Digital Vision/Getty Images

    About the Author

    Judith Willson has been writing since 2009, specializing in environmental and scientific topics. She has written content for school websites and worked for a Glasgow newspaper. Willson has a Master of Arts in English from the University of Aberdeen, Scotland.

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