- Ticks are more active when the temperature exceeds 4° Celsius. Adult ticks are more likely to be discovered throughout the months of January to May and September to December, whereas you can find nymphs from April to November. This, in essence, makes the entire year, depending on the weather, “tick season.”
- I recommend keeping your dog on tick preventives from March through December, at least.
- They like to hide in dark, moist areas of the body, like the ears, eyelids, collar, armpits, groin, between the toes, and under the tail of their hosts, to evade detection.
- Ticks transmit diseases such as Lyme disease, Anaplasmosis, and Ehrlichiosis.
- Ticks are as little as a poppy seed in the nymph stage but can grow up to four times their usual size after feeding.
- Their saliva lessens the discomfort of a tick bite, allowing ticks to feed for days undiscovered. It also makes it easier for them to latch on.
WHAT ARE TICKS?
Ticks are arachnids like scorpions, spiders, and mites, but they're commonly mistaken for insects. These parasites have eight legs but no antennae, while insects have six legs and two antennae.
They are ectoparasites (organisms that live on an animal's exterior) and suck blood from their hosts; ticks can transmit and spread dangerous bacteria. These bacteria dwell inside the cells and have the potential to cause a variety of illnesses that harm thousands of pets each year.
WHAT TICK-BORNE ILLNESSES ARE THERE?
Some diseases are caused by tick bites and can have serious (and in some cases, fatal) long-term implications. That is why it is critical to prevent tick-borne infections and get symptoms treated as quickly as possible by a trained veterinarian.
Lyme disease is the most common tick-borne disease. The bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi causes this disease and is spread by the bites of infected black-legged ticks, western black-legged ticks, and the tick species Ixodes angustus, which has no common name. Early symptoms of Lyme disease include fatigue, fever, headaches, and rashes. If left untreated, it harms the joints, neurological system, and heart.
Tularemia and Rocky Mountain spotted fever are both carried by American dog ticks.
Rocky Mountain Spotted fever symptoms range from headaches and muscle pains to vomiting and rashes. The illness can cause blood vessels to leak or clog, resulting in brain, heart, or lung inflammation. This tick-borne disease has the potential to kill pets.
Tularemia is a highly transmissible bacterial infection that produces fever, weight loss, and ulceration at the infection site. In severe cases, the condition might be fatal.
Encephalitis is another tick-borne illness. While most infections generate only mild sickness, casualties are possible. The virus causes inflammation of the brain, flu-like symptoms, and seizures.
Ehrlichia, another tick-borne infection carried by lone star ticks, triggers fever, bleeding, poor appetite, and lethargy. It can cause respiratory and renal failure if left untreated.
While many of the viruses responsible for tick-borne diseases are zoonotic and may infect humans, sickness cannot be transmitted directly between dogs and humans.
WHAT KINDS OF TICKS EXIST IN CANADA?
Ticks are divided into two groups: hard ticks and soft ticks. Both species are common across North America, with hard ticks being more widespread in Canada.
Ticks have approximately 850 species documented on a global scale. While some species cannot survive and reproduce inside, others, such as brown dog ticks, can.
The black-legged tick, also known as the deer tick, brown dog tick, American dog tick, and Rocky Mountain wood tick, are all widespread tick species in Canada.
WHERE CAN YOU FIND TICKS?
Most species in Canada dwell in a variety of habitats, from thickly forested regions and forests to grasslands. This includes public parks, ticks have been discovered on dogs playing in Trinity Bellwoods, High Park, and several other downtown Toronto parks.
Ticks used to be common in homes in the southern United States and in South America, but they are now becoming more common in cooler places like Canada.
Some ticks, notably the brown dog tick, may reside in homes. They do not bite humans and do not transmit Lyme disease, although they have been known to generate massive infestations in homes. Rocky Mountain spotted fever has been linked to these ticks.
WHAT IS THE LIFE CYCLE OF A TICK?
The life cycle of this parasites is akin to that of other arthropods, with metamorphosis starting with the egg stage and going through larval, nymphal, and adult phases. Ticks require blood at every step of their life cycle. A female can lay hundreds of eggs before dying.
The eggs normally hatch into larvae with six legs after four to ten days. After hatching, larvae must fend for themselves in search of a blood meal. Nymphs have eight legs and resemble small adults.
An adult tick has a life span of one to three years, which is often associated with the accessibility of food throughout adulthood.
Tick nymphs are highly active in spring and summer, whereas adults are most active in late autumn. They are typically found in thickly forested areas with an abundance of shade or in areas overgrown with tall grass.
Ticks become active in the spring when the temperature rises above 4° Celsius, but it is never too early to begin tick prevention! When the weather starts to warm up, outdoor pets should be on tick preventives.
HOW CAN TICKS INFECT DOGS?
Dogs frequently catch ticks while they are outside, rushing through the woods or tall grass, and the ticks are hanging on low shrubs or grass, usually 18 to 24 inches from the ground.
Ticks sit on the tips of a long blade of grass, waiting for a passing host. When you, your dog, or any other warm-blooded animal passes by, they grab hold and begin searching for the ideal place to sink their fangs.
Ticks just wait for their prey, much like an ambush. They may even go up to a year without eating until the proper animal passes by.
Check your pets for ticks on a regular basis as the weather heats up, especially if you take them into the woods or on trails. Ticks prefer to gather near the head, neck, feet, and ears, so pay attention to these areas.
HOW CAN WE KEEP TICKS AT BAY?
There are various tactics you may employ to assist your pet in avoiding these pests. Treating your pet with a topical preventive is the first step in preventing tick bites and disease. These medicines stay on the skin and kill ticks within 5 minutes of contact before the tick can bite.
Another method of avoiding contamination is to do yearly parasite prevention with a 4DX blood test.
Running a 4DX blood test on your dog regularly is the only way to make sure he or she doesn’t get an illness that gets worse before it can be treated. Illnesses can be dormant, and your dog could get bitten on warmer days during the winter.
In addition to this bloodwork, if you find a tick on your dog, get it tested to see if it is a disease-carrying tick.
Finally, your pet can be inoculated against Lyme disease. Though it is not a vaccination I would suggest for every dog, if your dog spends any time outside in tick hotspots, I would advise having them vaccinated for Lyme disease. It adds an extra layer of protection against developing Lyme disease if they are bitten by a tick or if you forget to give your pet the preventative medication.
IN THE HOUSEHOLD
The best way to get rid of ticks in our yards is to use proper landscaping techniques to keep them out and make it hard for them to live there.
Keeping the grass cut, clearing all the leaves and weeds, chopping tree limbs, and limiting your pet’s activity outside can keep them from encountering ticks.
There are insecticides that can get rid of a lot of ticks, and you can get them at local hardware stores or retail chains that sell them.
Because ticks may spread potentially serious bacteria and viruses, anybody accessing tick-infested areas must wear appropriate clothes, keep shirts buttoned and tucked into trousers, and wear proper footwear. Also, there are repellents available for both your skin and your clothes. When a pest problem gets bad enough, home or business owners may want to talk to a professional.
WHAT DO I DO IF I FIND A TICK ON MY DOG?
Ticks on your dog should be removed immediately, and you should check with your veterinarian.
Use fine-tipped tweezers and disposable gloves to remove the tick. If you have to use your fingers and do not have gloves, safeguard yourself with a tissue or paper towel. Pathogens can enter the body through mucous membranes or skin breaks after coming into contact with infected ticks.
Take hold of the tick as close to the skin’s surface as possible. This reduces the possibility of the head being broken from the body during removal.
Pull the tick out with constant, even pressure. Continue to apply continuous pressure even if the tick does not immediately release. After a minute or two of steady, slow pulling, the tick may release.
Tick Twisters and Tick Keys are tools that may be useful. However, exercise caution while using them, since twisting or jerking the tick may cause the mouth parts to break off and remain in the skin, increasing the danger of infection.
After eliminating the tick, thoroughly cleanse the bite area and rinse your hands with soap and water.
Don’t try home remedies like putting petroleum jelly or grease on the tick’s back or rubbing it with a hot match. They don’t work and just make the tick salivate, which makes it more likely that it will spread the disease.
Consult your veterinarian immediately if you feel uncomfortable removing a tick if you are incapable of removing it because it has dug itself too deep into the skin, if you see symptoms of Lyme disease, or if you are worried about being bitten.
Remember that tick exposure is greater in wooded, bushy areas where tick populations are established. When ticks latch on to your pet to feed on their blood, they may spread serious diseases such as Lyme disease. Also, the best defence against these harmful pests is appropriate parasite prevention.
If you have more questions about ticks or want to talk about how to keep your pet free of parasites, please call us at (416) 351-1212 to set up an appointment.