Beware of ticks!
At the turn of the millennium… and with the planet heating up… ticks made their way steadily up the U.S. coast and eventually came across the border. At first, they “laid claim” to a relatively small territory, notably, the Eastern Townships. However, they quickly spread… everywhere. And they are here to stay. Just how do ticks affect our pets and us? Unfortunately, ticks carry diseases that can jump to humans. These diseases are called zoonoses.
As soon as the temperature reaches four degrees, ticks are on the hunt, looking for mammals that will serve as both home and pantry (they feed on a mammal’s blood). They transmit disease with their bites. This is why we work so hard to protect pets between March and December; these are the months when ticks are active because of temperature.
“We veterinarians see that tick presence is growing, so providing the means for prevention against ticks will, more and more, become part of our core protocols,” says Dr. Louis Journet, veterinarian at the Journet veterinary hospital in Montréal. Dr. Journet adds, “Ticks carry diseases that can be transmitted to humans, but they really have to bite hard to do so. However, the risk of becoming a carrier of the bacteria is always present, so prevention is key.”
If you see a tick on your cat or your dog, your reflex will probably be to immediately get it off. However, that “knee jerk” reaction may result in leaving the mouthpiece of the tick behind, under your pet’s skin. This then forms a small inflammatory granuloma that could become infected. There are tick-removal tweezers specifically designed for this, but it is much easier to simply consult your vet. For one, your vet will safely remove the tick and second, your vet will analyze the tick to see if it carries any disease.
Is a tick easily visible to the naked eye? “When the tick is not “full”, answers Dr. Journet, it is very small and difficult to see. However, when engorged, yes, it is quite visible, unless the dog has a lot of hair.”
Are there any symptoms that point to a dog having ticks? “Not usually, answers Dr. Journet, Not unless there is some inflammation. Therefore, you should regularly examine your pet with your own eyes, for the presence of ticks.”
What about cats?
When discussing ticks, we’re usually talking about their presence on dogs. However, it should be noted that ticks find all mammals to their liking. They could prey on cats, but in general, cats aren’t as susceptible to diseases carried by ticks. However, ticks do carry all sorts of diseases, including anaplasmosis and Lyme disease (caused by bacteria), which can eventually lead to complications in the joints and kidneys.
Furthermore, your cat or your dog could even be seen as a sort of sentinel for you. After all, if a blood test indicates that your pet has Lyme disease, it follows that you also have been in an environment with ticks that carry the pathogen. So, if you yourself start exhibiting any symptoms, you should visit your doctor. That being said, it must be noted that you won’t get Lyme disease from your pet. The disease would not spread through the cat or dog, but from the tick.
You can protect your pet by giving them a skin or oral treatment during the time ticks are active.
Don’t hesitate to consult your veterinarian about ticks. Your vet will take many things into account, including your pet’s lifestyle and “friends” (especially if your dog is often out of the house) and might suggest vaccinating for Lyme disease. As the saying goes: an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
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