3484 Mavis Road, Mississauga, ON, L5C 1T8
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Our Tuesday hours are: 8 am - 7 pm

Ticks and Why They Complicate Things

 

 

Deer Tick

 

 

What are Ticks?

Ticks are parasites and, while all parasites are disgusting, the ones that attach and suck blood always seem to have that little extra repulsive quality.  Ticks fall into this category and unfortunately they are becoming more prevalent in our area.  In addition to their disgusting nature (sorry if we have offended any tick and parasite lovers out there) ticks also have the ability to transmit diseases during the process of sucking blood.

Size of tick larva, nymph, adult male and adult female

Ticks are closely related to spiders. They are typically small when unfed, (1 to 5 mm in length), and all active stages feed on blood. They cannot fly and do move quite slowly. Ticks usually come in contact with people or animals by positioning themselves on tall grass and bushes. Once they land on a host they can take several hours to find a suitable place on the host to attach and feed.  Most tick bites are painless.

Tick Life Cycle

There are two major tick ”blooms”, when ticks emerge from their previous life stage and begin feeding.   One bloom occurs in the spring/summer and the other in the late fall.  This is when we need to be extra attentive to protect both ourselves and our pets from tick bites and the possible diseases they carry.

Ticks and Disease

Ticks can transmit several diseases (anaplasma, ehrlichia, lyme) but the one that gets the most attention in our area is Lyme disease.  Lyme disease is transmitted by the black legged tick or deer tick (Ixodes scapularis).  Until recently this tick was primarily seen along western Lake Erie; however, now the blacklegged tick is being found all around Lake Ontario, including the GTA.  It is becoming endemic in eastern Ontario, especially in the Kingston area.

Lyme disease can affect both you and your pets, in fact we humans are much more susceptible to the disease than dogs.  While a bite by an infected tick will lead to infection in humans 80-90% of the time, only 5-10% of dogs bitten will become infected.  Not all ticks are infected with lyme so not every tick bite could cause lyme disease.

There are two other ticks in our area which get less press but can transmit disease.  The American dog tick is the most common tick while the brown dog tick is less common but can live indoors.

Tick Bite Prevention

It is important to be vigilant for ticks even in our area. We have seen ticks attached to dogs who have not been outside Mississauga.

As we mentioned earlier, ticks like to locate themselves in long or overgrown grass and in bushy areas so pay special attention if you and your dog like to walk in such areas.  Wear socks, pants and long sleeves to protect yourself.  Check both you and your dog for ticks after your walk and remove any you find.  Brushing your dog after a walk is a way to help remove ticks which are attempting to attach.  If you have difficulty removing a tick from your dog call us and we can do it for you.

Protection Against Ticks

We have products that work against fleas and ticks, or fleas and heartworm but nothing that is completely effective against all three parasites.  Revolution, a topical product which many of you have used, is the best compromise as it does well against fleas and heartworm and has some effect against ticks.  However, to obtain good protection against all three parasites two products are required.  For ticks and fleas we have a topical agent, (Advantix) and an oral chewable tablet (Nexgard).  Both work well against ticks and  fleas but require a second medication to protect against heartworm.

Why Ticks Complicate Things

Traditionally we have started heartworm prevention in May or June because the mosquitos which carry the parasite are not infectious until then.  However, the first tick bloom is in the early spring and summer before your dog is taking heartworm preventive medication.  To completely protect your pet we recommend starting your dog on tick prevention in March or April and then adding heart worm protection the beginning of June.

Should My Dog Be on Tick Preventive?

Knowing your dog’s lifestyle, you might feel that tick protection should definitely be added to your dog’s summer parasite prevention regimen.  If so, call us and we will be happy to discuss which medications would be best for your dog(s).

If you are uncertain about the addition of tick preventives, we will be happy to discuss the pros and cons with you to help you decide whether it is appropriate for your situation.

I Have a Cat, Do they Get Ticks?

Ticks can attach to cats who go outdoors.  However, because cats are so fastidious in their grooming they usually groom off the tick prior to the tick being able to obtain a blood meal.  Most of the tick preventives  used for dogs should not be used in cats.  If you are concerned about protecting your cat Revolution is an option.  As we mentioned it is not a perfect tick preventive but does protect well against fleas and gives some tick protection.  We do recommend flea protection for cats who go outdoors.