Apr 01 2016

It’s Time to Talk Ticks Again!

Tick season is upon us again. Or at least, it is now in full swing, as ticks have been found on dogs even in northern areas in the winter. Along with these ticks come conversations about what is or isn’t effective in keeping them off of our pets. Add the fact that every few years a new tick-borne disease seems to emerge—it’s not just about Lyme disease anymore— and the concern about keeping them away rises proportionately.

About Ticks:  Ticks are external parasites that feed on blood from hosts including small wildlife, dogs, cats and humans.  Female ticks require a blood meal to complete their life cycle. One female tick lays 4000-8000 eggs!  Ticks start as eggs laid in the summer, emerge as larvae in the fall, molt into nymphs in the winter and end up as adults in the spring.  The infant stage of a tick can be quite small and missed even with keen observation.  An adult tick is the size of a sesame seed and once it is engorged with blood can become the size of a pencil eraser.  The engorged part of the tick can have variable colours.  

Ticks become active in temperatures over 4C, which means they are questing now.  Fleas become active at 12C .There are two “blooms” in the tick population each year, occurring in the early spring and late fall. Tick bites will be most common during these times.  Tick bites are usually not painful, but cause irritation (reddening) of the skin and minor swelling.  Even after the tick has been removed (or falls off), swelling and/or redness in the area of the bite can last for a few weeks

The Risk for You and Your Pet :  Deer tick populations are expanding and it is possible that Lyme disease can be acquired outside the currently identified areas.

A deer tick bites a human or dog and transmits Lyme bacteria (Borrelia burgdorferi) through its saliva. Lyme positive dogs may be asymptomatic, but a subset can become ill and require treatment. In early stages (4-6 weeks after a bite) symptoms can include fever, decreased energy, swollen lymph nodes, decrease of appetite and limping.  The treatment for dogs that get sick is a course of antibiotics.  In certain dogs (if left untreated) the immune system is constantly active, creating antibodies, which can lead to irreversible kidney damage.  Symptoms of Lyme disease in a person are different from those in dogs.

It is best to prevent tick bites through avoidance of known tick habitats or by removing ticks right away before they have time to transmit disease. You can keep your pet on a trimmed lawn and on-leash when in the woods. Be vigilent in looking for ticks by combing through your pet’s fur when it comes back from playing in wooded areas or areas with long grass.  A tick can be removed at home with tweezers or by a veterinarian at our clinic.

What You Can Do to Manage the Risk:  On the whole, the news is good. Since the relatively recent appearance of new  treatments such as Bravecto  it has become easier to control insects and other parasites. Bravecto is a chewable product effective in preventing fleas and ticks from your pet . The dosage is simple. One chew every 12 weeks. Talk to your veterinarian to see if Bravecto should be part of your pet’s parasite prevention protocol!  Now is the time to make sure your pet is covered for the parasite season ahead. Call us today at 705-789-7979.

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