TICKS – Why should I care?
What are ticks?
- A tick is member of the arachnid (spider) family. It is a small external parasite that lives by feeding on the blood of its hosts (such as dogs and many other mammals, as well as birds)
- There are many different families of ticks, each of which can carry a variety of diseases
- Ticks use their mouthpiece to firmly attach to a host and feed on their blood, and while attached are able to transmit blood-borne pathogens
- Ticks have become much more common in Ontario in the last few years – a) climate change is resulting in warmer and more humid environments favourable to a variety of tick species, b) it is more common nowadays to travel with your pet, and sometimes returning pets bring back non-native tick species, c) we share the environment with a variety of wildlife hosts who sometimes bring ticks with them
Ticks found in Ontario:
- Ixodes Scapularis “Deer tick”
- Rhipicephalus Sanguineus “Brown Dog tick”
- Dermacentor Variabilis “American Dog tick”
Ticks are differentiated by looking at their scutum (or “armor”) and length of mouthpiece
A tick just attached to my dog – should I be worried?
Don’t panic, but the tick should be removed as soon as possible. The longer the tick is attached to your dog, the greater the chance of disease transmission. Typically, it takes 24h for a tick to be transmit a pathogen; however, ticks have been known to pass disease earlier if they attach and start to feed
When a tick is fully engorged (aka – full of blood), any diseases it may contain could be passed to your pet.
What diseases can be passed to my dog?
There are many diseases that are transmitted by ticks, depending on where the ticks live.
The most common tick-borne diseases seen in Ontario are:
- Lyme disease (Borrelia burgdorferi) – transmitted by the Deer tick
- Erhlichia (Ehrlichia canis) – transmitted by the Brown Dog tick
- Anaplasma (Anaplasma phagocytophilum) – transmitted by the Deer tick
How can I prevent tick-borne disease in my dog?
- Vaccination against tick-borne disease – ASK US if there is a vaccine we recommend for your pet!
- K9 Advantix II- product applied topically once a month to the skin * caution if you live with cats*
- Bravecto – product given orally once every 3 months
- Nexguard – product given orally once a month
- Routine screening of your animal – have a feel! Ticks can easily pass as a wart if you don’t have a closer look!
ASK US what to look for when checking your pet for ticks – we are happy to help!
- Be aware of tick “hot spots” in your neighbourhood – areas with thick brush or tall grass are the perfect environment for a tick to hide in and hop on to your pet! Also be aware of the tick “hot spots” in Southern Ontario: Point Pelee, Long Point, Prince Edward County, the Thousand Islands, the Toronto Islands and the Rouge River Valley. These areas all have higher than average tick populations, and higher than average incidences of Lyme disease.
Did you know that you should use tick prevention if you travel to warm climates in the winter?
TELL US if you are planning on traveling with your pet(s) outside of Toronto
Did you know that ticks can be active ANY TIME the temperatures are above 4° Celcius?
If your dog spends a lot of time outside, consider tick prevention year round, as most months now have at least a few days above 4°C
How do I remove the tick?
CAREFULLY! It is very important to remove the entire mouthpiece when removing the tick. Leaving the mouthpiece behind can cause a local inflammatory reaction and possibly infection!
ASK US to show you the proper way to remove a tick – we have tools that can help you!
Should I test my dog for tick-borne disease?
YES! Yearly screening for exposure to tick-borne disease can help to ensure your pet is safe. This is especially important if you do not use tick preventives. All we need is a little bit of blood – ASK US if you would like more information on testing for tick borne infections
Did you know… ticks can actually pass disease to you or your family as well? It is very important to screen not only your pets, but yourself too!
Written by Dr. Emily Chris of the Animal Clinic