Ticks? No, Thanks! – Passionimo Answers your Questions
Ticks have no secrets for our veterinary teams! Below are the 10 questions most frequently asked about those parasites and their growing importance in the lives of dogs and humans due to the rise of Lyme disease.
I feel like we are hearing more about ticks today than we did in the past. Why?
You are absolutely right. In the past, ticks were a bigger issue in hot countries. Thanks to Global Warming, they are now more widespread in Quebec and pose a bigger threat… They travelled here through migratory birds and other wildlife. This is a cause of concern because ticks can transmit all sorts of diseases, with the most frequent one in Quebec being Lyme disease.
What does a tick look like?
It depends on their lifecycle stage: larvae, nymph, or adult. Only ticks in the 2 latter stages can transmit diseases. Nymphs are the size of a sesame seed while adults are the size of a raisin… with 8 legs!
What’s the difference between ticks and fleas?
Good question! Both feed on blood but are otherwise very different. Fleas are insects. They lay about 50 eggs a day over a period of 1 to 2 months and live on their host (animals). Ticks, however, are part of the arachnid class, which also includes spiders, and only lay eggs once and not on animals.
Once gorged with blood, that is 5 to 14 days after they have attached to their host, ticks will fall off the animal and lay eggs in their environment… Typically, if you find fleas on your pet, it means that there are at least hundreds of them in your home. On the other hand, it’s possible to only find one tick on your dog.
Moreover, it would be wrong to presume that pets infected with fleas or ticks will scratch themselves. Major flea infestations may lead to scratching, but this will rarely happen with ticks.
Where can pets get infected with ticks?
In any grassy area, such as trails, hedges, parks, and gardens. Ticks are not limited to rural areas. Every day in our veterinary clinics, we remove ticks from pets who have not set one paw outside of Montreal. In short, ticks can be anywhere.
Why this focus on ticks today when there’s still snow outside?
Because as soon as the temperature hits 4 C, these little pests jump to life. That means vigilance and protection are critical as soon as snow starts to melt. Ticks are very patient creatures: they can stay latent for months between 2 lifecycle stages if necessary!
Their front legs keep watch to jump on any animal suited to be a host coming in their path. Once on the host, they find a comfortable spot—on the legs, back, head, etc.—and latch on.
Ticks even secrete a cement-like substance that “glues” them in place and then drink blood for days on end, up to 10-100 times their volume. Once gorged with blood, ticks fall off the animal to lay eggs a few days later. Throughout their lifetime, a tick will have 3 huge blood meals.
What can cause Lyme disease in dogs?
Dogs are less susceptible than humans to contracting Lyme disease. It’s important to note that only ticks from the Ixodes scapularis species (widely known as deer ticks) can transmit Lyme disease. About 10% of deer ticks are infected and about 10% of dogs bitten by those ticks will develop this disease.
Lyme disease can cause joint and kidney problems, fever, and lethargy. The trouble is that the disease can develop months after the exposure. If you find a tick on your pet, please bring it to your veterinarian so that it can be tested by a laboratory to determine if it’s from the Ixodes scapularis species and, if so, if it carries Lyme disease.
While a tick bite on humans will cause a patch of redness that can reach a diameter of 5 to 10 centimetres, this will not be the case on dogs. And because ticks hide in the dog’s coat, they can be hard to detect for the human eye.
Since ticks are so hard to detect, what can we do to protect our pets?
There are different types of prevention, with most being administered orally or topically on a monthly basis. The choice of prevention will depend on your pet’s lifestyle. You must also use caution for yourself. If you go hiking, wear long pants, cover your feet, and make sure to inspect your skin immediately after.
Also take the time to check your dog’s coat, even if ticks are very hard to detect. Talk about it with your veterinarian during your pet’s annual check-up. It’s easier to prevent Lyme disease in dogs than it is in humans.
What to do if, despite those tips, I find a tick on my dog?
You must remove the tick at once, taking care to also pull out the mouthpiece, which will be buried into the skin. There are widely-spread rumours about the removal of ticks, including burning it with a match to make it unlatch… Don’t! Not only are you running the risk of burning yourself and your dog, but this will also stress out the tick and cause it to regurgitate on your dog, increasing the risk of transmitting disease-causing bacteria.
The best thing to do is to use a tick twister, which looks like a mini crowbar. You simply insert it under the tick’s legs and twist it gently until it unlatches.
Is it true that there is a tick species that can make you allergic to meat?
Yes, this tick was discovered in Virginia where many people were showing symptoms of bizarre allergies. A link was made between meat allergy and the bite of a tick called the “lone-star tick,” also known by its scientific name Amblyomma americanum.
This tick is currently not found in Quebec, but we are keeping a close watch, as it could follow the same migratory paths as the Ixoedes scapularis, responsible for spreading Lyme disease. In addition, ticks can transmit other diseases, but in a lesser frequency.
So, at the end of the day, the best thing to do is to protect our pets?
Yes, it is preferable to protect your cats and dogs. Your veterinarian can prescribe an easy, safe, and effective treatment, which will last several weeks. Unfortunately, there is currently no such effective preventive solution for humans. As for cats, they are in large part not susceptible to Lyme disease.
We hear more and more about a concept of global health called “One Health,” which is based on the principle that human health is connected to animal health. By protecting our dogs against ticks, we reduce tick infestations in high human-traffic areas.
While ticks can be frightening, with simple tips and tricks, you can protect yourself from the risks they represent: cover yourself, protect your dog, inspect yourself and your dog after a hike, and do not hesitate to use tick repellents.
Do you have other questions?
Please do not hesitate to contact the Passionimo veterinary clinic closest to you.