Spring has arrived (on the calendar) and the snow seems to be leaving. The geese are back, and the ducks, and – the ticks are out too.
Ticks are tiny creatures. They depend on a warm-blooded host to take a blood meal, and unfortunately those can be our pets (or we ourselves, for that matter). They can also transmit some pretty detrimental diseases like Lyme disease. Ticks belong to the family of arachnids, which means they are more closely related to spiders than to insects. Here in Alberta, we have several different species of ticks; most common are the Deer Ticks, Rocky Mountain Wood Ticks and American Dog Ticks. Ticks are generally small – about the size of an apple seed (adults, not engorged from a meal). Typically, they drop from a higher spot like the blade of grass or brush onto their intended host. Then they crawl to a more sheltered spot to attach and feed. On dogs, favourite spots are in the ears, but also in the armpits or groin area, or even under the tail.
It is important to note that not every tick transmits disease. But they do not come with a little flag which says: “I’m infected – Caution!” While the bite of a tick usually does not cause a problem, the transmission of disease can. And there are a few more besides Lyme disease for our pets, like Anaplasmosis, Ehrlichiosis or Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. And since these parasites are so small, and can be easily overlooked, it is better to be on the safe side and prevent any disease. There are quite a few different products on the market for that, and in forms like chewable tablets or topical applications. Typically, these products are used monthly. They can be used year-round or at times when ticks are active (April to late October). We as veterinary professionals can help you select the best product and treatment schedule, with respect to the individual risk of your pet.
For more information you can also go online: “Ticks in Alberta: what you need to know” is information through the Alberta Veterinary Medical Association (ABVMA). The Public Health Agency of Canada also has some information, and there is also a tick submission program through Alberta Health (there is a new submission process in place; look for “Alberta Submit-a-Tick Program”; currently only photo submissions are accepted). We can help with that as well.
Have a great month of April!
– By Dr. Susanne Krägeloh