Why should we be worried about ticks not only for our pets, but for ourselves?
The simple answer to that question, is that some species of ticks carry Lyme disease. In particular for us in Ontario, Ixodes scapularis, which is commonly known as the deer tick or backlegged tick. Lyme disease can be transmitted to dogs, as well as humans through the bite of an infected tick, so we are both at risk. Dogs are sentinels because we screen them each season with a small blood test. Where dogs go ,people go. It would only make sense that for dogs who test positive, it may also be possible for their owners to have been exposed too.
# Of Lyme Positive Dogs Over The Last 5 Years In Ontario
While blacklegged ticks are not commonly found in the Waterloo Region, ticks are expanding their range, especially with a little help hitching a ride from travelling deer and migratory birds.
Healthcare for Pets
Our goal is to help create awareness and help prevent the spread of Lyme disease not only in our area, but throughout the rest of Canada. Ticks go through 4 life stages. Most often when we see them, it is one that has bitten and attached to a dog, becoming fully engorged. (To read more about the tick lifecycle - click here) Owners often mistake them for a growth on their dog. Last year, Animal Hospital of Cambridge removed 54 ticks from local dogs in March 2017. This year we started removing ticks as early as February 2018 ! Stop by our hospital to pick up a FREE Tick Identification Card. Tick Pullers are also available, but quantities may be limited.
There are certain areas in Ontario that are already known to be “hotspots” , for populations of the backlegged tick. Click here to see a map of tick endemic areas published by Public Health Ontario.
Blacklegged ticks are typically found:
• Along the northern shores of Lake Erie (Point Pelee National Park, Rondeau Provincial Park, Turkey Point Provincial Park and the Wainfleet Bog Conservation Area)
• Along the north shore of Lake Ontario (Prince Edward Point National Wildlife Area) and the St. Lawrence River (St. Lawrence Islands National Park), Northwest Ontario (Rainy River)
• In southwest Ontario (Pinery Provincial Park) • In urban-suburban parks (Rouge Valley)
When Do Ticks Become Active ?
Blacklegged ticks become active in the spring when temperatures reach just 4 degrees Celsius. They continue to be an issue for the remainder of the summer and into the fall. They are normally found in forested areas or areas with long grass, where they attach themselves to humans and animals passing by. It is possible for the blacklegged tick to survive exposure to air temperatures as low as -10°C. Ticks can weather the elements by hiding under leaf litter, other ground cover or snow cover, to protect themselves from extreme temperatures. The percentage of tick populations that will die off can vary from year to year depending on whether it was a cold, dry winter or a milder, snowier winter.
How Close To Home Is It ?
Within 100km of our hospital location (621 Hespeler Rd, Cambridge, Ontario), there were 219 lyme positive dogs detected in 2017 ( as noted by Idexx). Keep in mind the count could be higher if you factor in the number of dogs who never get tested.
# of Lyme Positive Dogs within 100 KM of Animal Hospital of Cambridge
What Can You Do To Keep Your Pet Healthy ?
I use tick prevention !
Generally it takes a tick up to 48 hours to transmit Lyme Disease after the bite. Preventive medication should kill the tick within a few hours. If you can remove a tick before it bites, that is even better !
1. Make sure to test your dog annually.
Animal Hospital Of Cambridge recommends pets should be tested every spring, in combination with testing for heartworm exposure (passed on via mosquitos) to make sure they are negative. ( Each spring we offer lab tests at a reduced rate March 30- Aug 31st)
2. Use Safe Preventive Medication.
Prevention medication for ticks and fleas should be started as soon as temperatures reach 4 degrees Celsius and Heartworm prevention should be started by June 1st. All prevention should be used as directed on the label until November. Be sure to discuss your pets lifestyle and travel plans for a proper risk assessment.
Oral medication and topical formulations are available depending on your preference. Ask your Veterinarian which product they recommend. Please note, for people who own cats – NEVER use dog products on your cat. Products containing pyrethrin are toxic to cats. ( click here for more info)
3. Daily Tick Checks After All Outdoor Activities
Have a feel over your pet when you get back from a walk. If you feel a lump that wasn't there before - investigate the area. Give your dog a good brushing.
Be sure to also check over yourself. After an outdoor activity, take a shower as soon as you can to wash off any possible ticks that may not be attached through a bite. Put your clothes into a dryer on high heat for at least 60 minutes to kill any possible ticks.
4. Lyme Vaccination
Vaccination, is recommended if there is a significant risk of exposure because you live in an established Lyme disease area, or you may be travelling to or through a risk area.
How Would I know If My Dog Had Lyme Disease?
The signs and symptoms of Lyme disease can be subtle or may not show in animals. Animals do not develop the bullseye rash (erythema migrant) seen at the site of a tick bite as in humans. Common signs can include fever, joint swelling or pain, shifting leg lameness or stiffness. Dogs who are affected may also be lethargic and anorexic.
Since the signs and symptoms of Lyme disease can be subtle and difficult to recognize, if your pet has been exposed to ticks, make sure to speak with your veterinarian to find out if screening tests are appropriate.
For information on Lyme disease in humans, visit the Canadian Lyme Disease Foundation website. Click here.
What Happens If My Dog Tests Positive?
Fortunately Lyme disease is a treatable. If your pet has Lyme disease, don’t panic! Lyme disease is treated with antibiotics (typically doxycycline for 4 weeks) as prescribed by your veterinarian.
Hopefully by taking the necessary steps to help keep ticks away from your dog we can work together to prevent Lyme disease.
To book an appointment please call us @
519-624-9760 We are open 7 days a week from 8am to 10 pm