You may or may not be aware of the rising popularity of the topic of ticks and Lyme disease in our local news. Because of our high numbers of migratory birds, deer, and moose, ticks have actually been around in the Maritimes for quite some time. It’s the fact that, due to climate change, we are seeing an increase number of associated Lyme disease (in people and dogs) that’s creating more awareness of these little pests. Here is some information on which types of ticks you should be looking for, in out neck of the woods (literally . . . ha!) and what you should be doing about them:
What Is A Tick?
Ticks are actually in the arachnid family along with spiders, scorpions and mites. They are parasites that feed on the blood of animals or humans and can be carriers of several blood borne diseases; such as Lyme disease. They wait on tips of grasses and shrubs, and when it is brushed by a moving person or animal the tick quickly lets go of the plant and climbs towards the host’s skin to start feeding. Ticks can be active on winter days as long as the ground temperature is above 7⁰C.
What Kind Of Ticks Do We Have In Atlantic Canada?
Ixodes scapularis (“Deer Tick” or “Black-legged Tick”) have been recovered from dogs and occasionally cats, as well as from some people in all Atlantic Canada provinces.
Dermacentor variabilis (“American Dog Tick” or “Wood Tick”) is the primary tick in Nova Scotia, particularly in the Annapolis Valley, and in New Brunswick, in areas with the right habitat.
Rhipicephalus sanguineus (“Brown Dog Tick”) is present at low levels.
What Is The Tick Life-Cycle?
In general, eggs hatch in the spring when the ground thaws; releasing very tiny larvae. As the pictures above depict, ticks have 3 life-stages: larva, nymph and adult. Each life stage will find a host (starting with small rodents/birds then moving on to larger mammal) and feed for several days, then fall to the ground to molt into the next stage. Male and female adults feed and mate on the host; the female falls to the ground to lay over 3000 eggs and then dies. Peak tick activity is May/June and October/November, but prevention should be used for all of spring, summer and fall.
What Is The Best Way To Deal With Ticks?
• Environmental Control: Modify your yard to create at “tick free zone”. You can do this by regularly removing leaf litter and clearing tall grasses and shrubs from around the home. Keep ticks away from recreational areas by placing a border of wood chips or gravel between the lawn and wooded areas. Also, discourage deer from entering your yard with enclosures or removing any enticing vegetation.
• Prevent Ticks from Attaching: The most effective way of preventing ticks from attaching to your dog is by treating every 28 days with either a topical or oral prevention product. Products we have available at the clinic are Revolution, NexGard, and K9 Advantix II.
Revolution – The only reason I mention this product here, is because we used to recommend it for ticks in this area when we weren’t seeing as many around. This product will protect against the Dermacentor tick, but not the others. And it’s really the Ixodes tick that we worry about transmitting Lyme disease. However, this is currently the only product that has any tick protection for cats. ALL OTHER TICK PRODUCTS ARE TOXIC FOR CATS IF INGESTED AND WILL CAUSE SEIZURES.
NexGard – This is a new dog product that we started offering this spring. It is a “treat-like” chew that is given once every 4 weeks and will prevent tick and flea infestations. This will kill all types of ticks.
K9 Advantix II – This is a liquid product that is applied to the skin along the spine, from the neck to the base of the tail. This is the only product that will kill the fleas and all types of ticks on contact, before they have a chance of biting. If you have cats or young children in the house, it is recommended to keep them separated from the dogs until the product is dry (~12hours). What I usually recommend is applying it at night before bed and shutting them in a separate room for the night. Cats can get sick if they lick this off your dog or your dog’s bedding.
• Find and Remove Ticks Quickly: Check for ticks every time your pet comes in from an area you know is inhabited by ticks (woods, marshes, walking trails, anywhere you’ve seen deer). Rub your hands all over the whole body, paying particular attention to the head, ears, neck and feet. For tips and tricks on removing the tick, please check out my post from last season: https://www.mountainroadvet.com/i-found-a-tick-on-my-dog-what-do-i-do-now-by-dr-chantal-rittwage/
What Should I Watch For If My Pet Had A Tick?
After you pull the tick off, there bite might look red, crusty, or scabby; this is normal. Make sure it doesn’t get infected by keeping it clean and dry, preventing your pet from licking/scratching excessively, and if necessary applying a topical over the counter triple antibiotic cream (ie: polysporin). The inflammation should go down within a week, but if it doesn’t it may have become infected and you should check with your veterinarian.
Ticks that are infected with diseases can transfer those diseases through their saliva into yourself or your dog (cats seem immune). For more information, stay tuned for next month’s post on Lyme disease!