Ticks Talk

sad pup with ticks

Over the past couple of years,  Southern Ontario ticks have received a great deal of media attention due to their involvement in the transmission of Lyme disease. Unfortunately, this disease can not only affects our pets, but us humans as well. In pets, clinical signs include: fever, loss of appetite, joint disease and, in severe cases kidney failure. In humans, symptoms may include fever, headache, swollen lymph nodes, cognitive dysfunction and nervous system disorders.

Many people are unaware that ticks emerged as a threat in Ontario back in 2009 and the government of Canada has been monitoring their progress ever since. Ticks have migrated from the eastern seaboard of the United States and colonized in two areas of Canada – Kingston and Turkey Point. Since this time, they have spread approximately 43 kilometers a year surrounding Toronto. In the spring of 2015, the Rouge Valley near the Toronto Zoo, became classified as a lyme hot spot, soon anticipated to be endemic.. Unfortunately, Health Canada predicts Lyme disease will spread across all of Ontario by 2020.

So what are ticks? Ticks are small bug-like parasites that spend most of their days living in forests and long grass. They lie awaiting a host (deer, dog, cat, human) to walk by at which point they grab hold of fur or skin. They do not jump as fleas do and, unlike fleas that can bite up to 400 times a day, ticks only bite once. For the first 24 hours, ticks adhere themselves to their host. They burrow their heads into the skin and produce a numbing agent. They remain attached for up to 7 days, engorging themselves with a blood meal. It is during this time that ticks transmit Borrelia burgdorferi – a bacteria that presides in their gut. This organism is the cause of Lyme disease.

The good news is that there are steps that you can take to protect you and your furry loved ones. When hiking in the woods wear closed-toe shoes, long-sleeved shirts and pants, pull your socks over your pant legs. The use of  an insect repellent containing DEET and doing a full-body check for adult ticks may aid in tick prevention. Your veterinarian has topical and oral products that can help protect your pets. In addition, a Lyme vaccine is available for dogs who frequent forests known to have Lyme disease carrying ticks.

About Brendon Laing 7 Articles
Dr. Brendon Laing is a practicing small animal veterinarian with an entrepreneurial spirit who is always looking for new ways to serve pet parents and the community. Dr. Laing received his bachelor’s degree from Queen’s University and his veterinary degree from OVC, where he was the recipient of the prestigious Small Animal Surgery Award from the American College of Veterinary Surgeons. After graduation, he joined his father in practice at Town & Country Animal Hospital, making them a rare father-son team. When he isn’t caring for his patients, Brendon is actively involved in the community; he has been providing veterinary advice as Whistle Radio’s resident veterinarian for the past 3 years and loves presenting to children at his local 4H club. Brendon also currently sits on the OVMA board of directors where he helps shape the future of the veterinary profession. Brendon’s passion for improving veterinary care has driven him to pursue a new practice model aimed at providing on-demand mobile veterinary services. He believes that technology will be the cornerstone of future veterinary practices, enabling veterinarians to surpass the expectations of today’s well-educated and service minded pet parents.

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