Ticks are becoming more and more widespread in North America, and they’re now being found in areas where people and pets did not previously encounter ticks. They are commonly found in woodlands, parks, tall grasses, bushes and other habitats that are frequented by potential mammal hosts. Ticks are external parasites that feed on the blood of host animals such as mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians. An adult tick looks for its next blood meal by climbing up tall grasses and bushes to wait for an animal to pass by. Ticks thrive in damp environments and are usually less active in hot, dry weather; but can be found any time of the year when the temperature is above freezing.
Many species of ticks carry bacteria, viruses or other pathogens that can cause serious and sometimes deadly diseases in humans and/or animals including Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, babesiosis, ehrlichiosis, and tick paralysis. Not all black-legged ticks, also known as deer ticks, carry Lyme disease. Ticks must be infected by the bacteria causing Lyme disease for it to be passed on. Clinical signs in dogs usually occur 2 to 5 months after they are bitten by an infected tick. Cats can develop Lyme disease but it rarely occurs in them, even in high risk areas.Dogs can show several signs of Lyme disease but the most common are lameness, swelling in the joints, swollen lymph nodes, lethargy and loss of appetite.
Ticks attach to a host by inserting their mouthparts into their skin. They can also produce a sticky, glue-like substance that helps them to remain attached. After attaching, the tick begins feeding on their hosts’ blood. This area can become red and irritated. Ticks prefer to stay close to the head, neck, feet and ear areas but in severe infestations they can be found anywhere on the body. Blood loss, anemia, tick paralysis, skin irritation or infections are complications that are related to tick bites. Although rare, ticks can cause a deficiency called anemia when enough blood is consumed. Certain female ticks can cause a rare paralysis in dogs as a result of a toxin produced while feeding.
Ticks can hide under your pet’s fur, so we recommend checking your pet for ticks every time they come in from outside. Using a brush, flea comb or your fingers, comb through your pet’s fur by applying enough pressure so any small bumps can be felt. Be sure to check between your dog’s toes, behind ears, under armpits, around the tail, head, and under their collar too. There are many videos available online to teach you to how to safely remove ticks from your pets.
Although dogs and cats can get Lyme disease, there has not been any evidence that they can spread the disease directly to their owners, but they can bring the infected ticks into your home and yard. Keep ticks off your pet by keeping your dog or cat on a monthly tick preventive during the warmer months. Even indoor-only pets are at risk because ticks can get inside from your clothing or shoes. At Avro Pet Hospital, our veterinarian can advise you on the best tick preventive products for your pets.