Why is there more Tick Talk now than ever before? What has changed?

Well for starters, one of the contributing factors to the increase in ticks in Southern Ontario is our ever-changing weather here. Our recent climate change has ticks migrating north. This is a growing concern as ticks can carry infectious bacteria that can transmit diseases such as Lyme. Ticks are travelling on average about 45 km more north each year from the United States. Increasingly, blacklegged ticks (also known as Deer Ticks), the most common ticks in Ontario, are showing up more and more in cities, such as Toronto.

Lyme disease has been declared endemic in Southern parts of British Columbia, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia. The blacklegged tick is the primary tick vector (disease carrier) for the bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi, which can cause Lyme disease in domestic animals as well as people. Ticks can transmit other tick-borne diseases as well, such as erlichiosis and anaplasmosis.

So, what do we do to protect ourselves and our pets? The concern is higher for dogs (and humans) than cats. Cats seem to be much less vulnerable to contracting Lyme disease. It may be that cats are excessive self-groomers and, thus, the infected tick has little chance to transmit the bacteria, as they remove it themselves. This brings us to the best form of protection, which is PREVENTION.

How do we prevent ticks from biting and feeding on our canine companions? One suggestion is to stay away from tick-infested areas. You can search online to see the areas that are considered high risk for ticks and Lyme disease. In general, blacklegged ticks are mainly found in woody and/or brushy areas. So staying out of these woody, high grass environments (such as ravines and trails) will help. Ticks do what is known as “questing” in these areas, which is how they search for a host. They position themselves atop a piece of long grass, leaf or other vegetation with their front legs stretched out waiting to grab and climb aboard a host. Ticks in Ontario will quest once the temperature reaches 4 degrees. Thus, they do not die during our cold winter, they stay low to the ground, under a tree for example, and each day that reaches a temperature of 4 degrees or higher they are known to quest. Lately, many days in our winters have been above this temperature, which means that your dog can get a tick in the middle of February!

Even though Ticks will quest in cold temperatures, they prefer at least 7 degrees celsius and are most active in our spring and fall temperatures. This is why it is important to speak to your Veterinarian or one of us at North Town Veterinary Hospital about prevention medications for your pet. There are several choices now available for tick prevention. What is best for your pet depends on their environment and risk and your Veterinarian can prescribe the correct prevention for their individual needs.

Another effective form of prevention is to comb over your dog after every walk. There are tools such as “tick twisters” you can get that help to easily and safely remove a tick from your pet if you happen to find one. Speak to your Veterinarian about such tools or bring your pet into your clinic to be shown how to safely remove a tick. Always inform your Veterinarian if you have found a tick on your pet so they can advise whether Lyme disease testing is recommended and perhaps a more effective tick preventative.

In general, ticks are becoming a growing concern here in Southern Ontario so it’s important to talk us at North Town Veterinary Hospital or to your regular Veterinarian for the most up to date information and prevention. As we learn more, we are much better equipped to help keep your pet safe from infectious parasites and disease. Please do not hesitate to contact us at North Town Veterinary Hospital in Brampton with any questions you have as tick season is fast approaching and we are here to help.

Written by Allison Burgess, Client Service Representative