Ticks & Lyme Disease

Tick bite location

What are ticks?

Ticks, ectoparasites, reside on the outside of their host. While ticks inhabit the animal’s exterior, they embed their mouthparts into the skin and secrete a sticky, glue-like substance to attach themselves. Once attached, ticks feed on the host’s blood. Ticks pose various health risks. In rare instances, tick infestation can lead to anemia due to blood loss. Certain female ticks can also secrete a toxin while feeding, causing paralysis, although this risk is also rare. The primary concern associated with ticks, as many pet owners are aware, is the transmission of diseases, most notably Lyme disease. Another example of a tick borne disease is Rocky Mountain spotted fever.

Where are ticks found?

Ticks commonly inhabit woodland or grassy areas. The prevalence and types of ticks your pet encounters can vary depending on geographic location. In Ontario, the blacklegged tick, also known as the deer tick, is the most commonly encountered species. While deer ticks are known carriers of Lyme disease, not all ticks transmit the disease. Ticks are most active during spring and summer months but also year-round when temperatures are above freezing.

What is Lyme disease?

As mentioned, ticks most commonly associate Lyme disease. Lyme disease symptoms typically only begin to develop several weeks after an infected tick bites your pet. These symptoms include fatigue, swollen lymph nodes, loss of appetite, stiffness or joint pain, and fever. To be proactive with treatment, test your pet for Lyme disease after a tick bite. You need to repeat this test approximately 4 to 6 weeks afterward, as Lyme disease becomes detectable during this period.

How can I protect my pet from Lyme disease and ticks? While Lyme disease is a treatable ailment, it is best to prevent and protect your pet from tick-borne diseases. Preventative treatment can come in various forms, including topical and chewable. Your veterinarian can explain the differences between treatments and recommend the suitable one for you and your pet. Topical treatment kills major tick species upon contact, before they bite, while chewable treatments kill ticks upon biting into the skin.

If you notice a tick on your pet, removing it may be challenging as ticks latch onto their host effectively. Take your pet to your veterinarian so they can remove the tick safely. Some experienced dog owners may use tweezers to remove the tick by pulling it slowly upward. You can choose to keep the tick and bring it to your veterinarian for examination by placing it in a container of alcohol to kill it. Redness and irritation around the tick bite are normal, but monitor your pet for healing at the bite site and symptoms of Lyme disease.

It is recommended to speak with your veterinarian if you find a tick on your pet, so that you and your veterinarian can appropriately plan and treat following the parasitic invasion.