Dr. Julie Schell BSc(Hons), DVM, CVA, ACVCHM, CVC
Bow Bottom Veterinary Hospital
Fascinating facts about ticks include:
- There are about 40 different species of ticks in Canada.
- They are arachnids as they have 8 legs, whereas fleas are insects with 6 legs.
- Some female ticks can live 3 years as they complete their life cycle.
- Ticks can cause major, serious diseases such as Lyme Disease, Anaplasmosis, Ehrlichiosis Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, paralysis and anemia (blood deficiency).
They are very powerful creatures that can severely negatively impact pet’s lives, and therefore their owner’s lives. For example, Lyme disease is a crippling illness and can have long lasting, devastating clinical signs such as arthritis, fever and decreased energy.
Ticks are very hardy and small. Some species are only the size of a poppy seed and therefore, are very challenging to find hidden in the fur of your dog or cat. They are also often painless when attached to skin, so your pet may not scratch them off themselves. To help prevent your pet from being bitten from ticks, contact your veterinarian. They will prescribe safe and effective tick protection in the form of a tasty chewable tablet given either monthly or every 3 months for dogs, or, topical medication applied to the neck area monthly or every 3 months for dogs and cats. All dogs and cats who go outside should be treated as ticks can fall off birds flying overhead and land in your back yard, waiting in the grass or trees to attach to your pet as they walk past.
Dogs who travel or who live in areas of Canada that are heavily infested with ticks may also require a vaccination to protect against Lyme Disease. Contact your veterinarian to discuss if vaccination is necessary.
In addition to the prevention medication, applying veterinary approved, pet friendly essential oil topical sprays that have peppermint and cedar are helpful. The sprays may also have citronella and lemon which dispel mosquitoes: https://www.bowbottomvet.com/2013/05/17/use-of-essential-oils-for-tick-and-bug-prevention/
You should also do a check of your pet’s coat each day to look for ticks. Usually you will only find them in a larger adult life stage as the juvenile or non-engorged size is very small.
If you do find a tick on your pet, it needs to be removed as quickly as possible. This is because within 48 hours of attachment, an adult tick can transfer the causative agent (Borrelia burgdorferi) into your pet or start injecting toxins that lead to paralysis. You have two options for tick removal:
- Bring your pet to your veterinarian or to an emergency veterinary hospital if your regular veterinarian is closed. They will professionally remove the tick and send it for testing to the Government of Alberta. The test will include tick species identification, and if the tick is the Ixodes genus, further testing for Lyme disease will be done. Your pet’s skin will also be examined to determine if the tick’s attachment site is painful or infected. Topical ointments, and possible oral antibiotics may be needed.
- If you cannot get your pet to a veterinarian (for example you are camping remotely), then try to remove the tick yourself. Wearing rubber gloves, remove the tick with proper equipment such as the commercially available “Tick Twister”: Or tweezers. You should always carry a Tick Twister or tweezers with you while camping.
Do not touch the tick with your bare hands as sometimes the saliva of the tick will have infectious agents such as Borrelia burgdorferi, the bacteria that causes Lyme Disease. Be sure to remove the whole tick including head and body. The “Tick Twister” or tweezers will help you do that (pull the tick off at the base of the mouth parts are attached the skin). Then, the tick should be placed in a secure hard plastic, glass or metal container (with a piece of wet tissue or cotton ball that is wet to keep the tick alive) and brought to your veterinarian. Your veterinarian will then send the tick to the Alberta Government for identification.
For more information contact your veterinarian and check out: