Ticks are gross and can be dangerous. They are tiny bugs who bury their head in your skin, drink your blood and literally grow in size after a blood meal – potentially passing on diseases as they feed! They are ugly, insidious and just plain creepy crawly… unfortunately, they are becoming more and more prevalent across Ontario and at Westway Animal Clinic, they have become a regular site – hitchhiking on our furry friends.
Year after year we find ourselves talking about ticks and other parasites as the weather warms up. What’s changed? Well – the prevalence of ticks continues to be on the rise. So, let’s do a quick run through of everything you need to know.
- Ticks are commonly found in wooded and grassy areas (especially tall grasses and weeds).
- Ticks can carry three main diseases we need to worry about: Lyme, Ehrlichiosis and Anaplasmosis (there are different versions of ehrlichiosis and anaplasmosis).
- Infection occurs when a tick carrying a specific pathogen latches on and feeds.
- Unfortunately, if your pet is infected, they may not actually show any immediate symptoms; this is why testing is so important.
- We recommend a test called a Snap4Dx Plus – this is a quick and simple blood test that allows us to test for heartworm disease (carried by mosquitos) as well as lyme disease, ehrlichiosis (2 variations) and anasplasmosis (2 variations).
- Over time, signs of infection can range from: lameness, fever, painful/swollen joints, loss of appetite, depression and a lack of energy to kidney failure, neurological issues, blindness and bleeding complications – unfortunately these diseases can be fatal if left untreated.
- While a pet may show no symptoms initially, the good news is that these diseases can be treated which is why testing is a critical step.
- The best news is that we can work to prevent infection by minimizing risk of exposure, inspecting your pet daily for ticks (and removing quickly if found) and ensuring your pet is on a preventative medication.
As of mid May, Idexx Laboratories has already reported 401 (1556) positive lyme tests, 26 (107) positive anaplasmosis tests, 52 (151) positive ehrlichiosis tests and 23 (195) positive heartworm tests across Ontario. For reference, we have put the total number of cases identified in 2016 in brackets. While further investigation is always done after a positive 4Dx Snap test, these numbers indicate that we do have infected ticks out there. As infected ticks are a problem for both pets AND humans, this is something we need to take very seriously. If you are wondering about your own neighbourhood, use this handy tool to enter in your postal code and see what is happening in your area.
Check your pets for ticks after every adventure into an area that may pose risk of exposure. If you find one, the best way to remove it is with a Tick Twister, a small plastic tool that you slide under the tick and rotate, allowing you to easily remove the tick without leaving the mouth-parts implanted in the skin. It is so important to us that you remove the tick properly that we have decided to supply our pet owners with a complimentary tick twister should one be needed. If you are nervous about doing it on your own, our team at Westway Animal Clinic are happy to assist you.