March is national Tick Awareness Month. As the weather starts warming up, ticks that were dormant for the winter start becoming active again in search of a warm blood meal.
Ticks are more prevalent in certain geographical locations, but have been reported and are present across the country.
Ticks are small blood sucking parasites which crawl up on to vegetation (grasses or bushes most commonly) and then latch onto animals or people passing by. While they do not jump, it doesn't take much time for them to get from the plant to you or your pet. These pesky critters can transmit blood born diseases such as Lyme disease, anaplasmosis, ehrlichiosis, and Q fever. Many of these diseases are zoonotic (ie. they can be transmitted between animals and humans). Not all ticks carry disease as they have to bite an infected host first to acquire it, but risk minimization and disease prevention is much preferred over disease treatment.
Minimizing Tick Bites and Disease
Avoidance of high risk areas helps to reduce exposure. If you do happen to enjoy and perform activities where you travel to these higher risk areas, ensure that you apply tick prevention medications, and thoroughly check your pet (and yourself) afterwards for ticks. Do exercise caution with over the counter tick products, as some can be toxic to animals (often cats) depending on the medication.
If you happen to find a tick, either remove it by grasping it as close to the skin as possible, and pulling it straight out. Do not crush the tick. If possible, keep the tick and bring it to your local veterinarian for testing, as there is a province wide surveillance program for tick borne disease like Lyme disease.
If you are planning on going camping, hiking, travelling, or into bushy or grassy areas with your pet, consider getting some tick prevention before you go. This reduces the risk of tick bites, disease, hypersensitivity reactions, and creepy crawlies coming home with your pet. If you have any questions about ticks or their diseases and prevalence, give your veterinarian a call.