Over the past few years, we have been seeing an increase in tick bites and more positive Lyme disease tests, so it is important to know the facts.Ticks tend to live in tall grasses and forested areas.
There are 3 types of ticks that are more common in Ottawa and surrounding areas, and several tick borne diseases. The tick we are most concerned about is the deer tick (ixodes scapularis). They become active at temperatures of 4 Celsius and above, which means that with the warm weather the ticks are out early this year! Due to every month having at least one warm day where ticks could bite we are now recommending year round protection from ticks! One bite is all it takes.
They are attracted to the warmth and motion of mammals, and as a dog (or human) walks by, ticks will climb on or drop onto their host, attach their mouthparts into the skin and start feeding. Once they have fed for several hours, they grow in size and can be much more easily noticed. Be sure to run your hands over your dog after they come in from outside and check for ticks very carefully – they are very small and can easily be missed!
Deer ticks are the only tick in the area which carry lyme disease. These ticks need to feed for about 24-48 hours before they can transmit the disease. Signs of lyme disease are usually mild and include fever, lameness, stiffness, swollen joints, and enlarged lymph nodes, but can become severe and cause severe kidney disease among other concerns.
In the event of a tick bite we monitor for signs of lyme disease and run a screening test called a SNAP 4Dx, which checks for the immune system’s response to lyme disease. This test cannot tell us whether a dog will become afflicted with the disease, just that there is exposure to the bacteria.
You can help protect your dog from ticks, and the diseases they carry, by using preventative medication. There are many different types of preventative medications so be sure to ask your vet which is right for you and your pet.