Ticks affect both humans and dogs. There are several health issues that may occur as a result of their presence on one’s body; one of them – Lyme disease (or Boreliosis) – has been found to be the most common tick-borne disease throughout the Northern Hemisphere.
I live in Toronto; is my dog in danger of getting ticks?
Yes. Most people think ticks reside only in country, wooded areas and their surroundings but this year, they have been seen in the City of Toronto (University of Toronto grounds, the Distillery District) so even if you and your dog haven’t been cottaging or camping, stay aware! One of the potential tricky places for ticks is your own backyard where during hot, summer days, dogs find relief in the shade of trees and shrubs. This parasite can also be brought home on your cat or on mice that your cat brings home. The tick season starts when the temperature begins to climb in the spring and continues through to the fall. Surprisingly, there have been several cases recently which showed that even during mildly warm months like March, dogs may become ticks’ victims.
Why is such a tiny creature so harmful to my dog?
The most problematic issue with ticks is Lyme disease, which develops from a specific type of bacteria spread through the bite of an infected tick. There are several species of ticks that carry this bacteria, with the black-legged tick being the most common one in our area. Lyme disease is also an issue for humans, but it can’t be spread from pets to us directly – we too must be bitten by a tick carrying the bacteria. Because a tick bite penetrates the skin, it opens the body up to infections, and can be just downright irritating to your dog, and s/he will scratch persistently in an attempt to remove the irritation.
How can I prevent ticks?
The best way to avoid ticks and their accompanying problems is to use an effective insecticide which prevents different kinds of ticks from staying long enough on your pets to bite. Even the best preventive, however, doesn’t immediately kill ticks, so occasionally you may see a tick on your dog. It is important, therefore, that you develop the habit of checking every part of your dog, particularly the head and ears (use a flashlight to see whether the ear canal is clear), the spaces between the toes, and underneath the front and back legs.
What if I find a tick on my dog?
We don’t recommend removing a tick if you haven’t had previous experience doing so. Ticks secrete a cement-like substance so they may be strongly attached, and it’s very easy to simply remove the body but leave the head imbedded. When this happens, infection sets in.
Our staff is happy to answer your questions, and our veterinarians are proficient at removing ticks should you find any. Remember that prevention is always better than treatment (and cheaper!).
Marek Pakiela is a veterinary student from Poland who is currently interning with us.