Pets are cherished family members and keeping them safe and healthy is important. Black-legged ticks are becoming more prevalent in Ontario. Pets can come in contact with ticks during walks in grassy or wooded areas. Ticks are active in warmer weather so it is important to check your pet for ticks during the spring and summer months.
What is a Tick?
A tick is a small, blood sucking parasite closely related to a spider. Ticks cannot fly and move very slowly. They can be as small as the head of a pin and therefore difficult to detect on your pet. Ticks attach by inserting their mouth into the skin causing a painless bite. As the tick feeds their body gradually enlarges or becomes engorged, making them more visible.
There are many varieties of ticks and some can carry disease. One such tick is the black-legged tick which can carry Lyme disease, a disease known to cause serious harm to humans and animals. Not all black-legged ticks carry the bacteria that cause Lyme disease and the majority of bites will not result in disease.
Protecting Your Pet from Ticks and Lyme Disease
The best way to protect your pet is to avoid areas known to have high tick populations. Speak to your veterinarian about parasite prevention. In addition, walking your dog on a 6 foot leash in heavily wooded or natural areas will minimize contact with ticks.
Remember to check your pet for ticks during camping trips or after walks in the woods or areas with thick vegetation or tall grass. Early detection and prompt removal of the tick is key. Experts report that it can take up to 24 hours for a tick to transmit Lyme disease after the initial bite occurs. Ticks become easier to detect as they become engorged so check your pet frequently over the next several days.
Guide to Checking Your Pet for Ticks
Visually and physically examine your pet. Spread the fur and slowly run your hands over your pet’s entire body, paying attention to the head, ears, neck and feet, feeling for any unusual lumps or bumps. Remember ticks may be very difficult to detect so check repeatedly and carefully.
Removal of a Tick
Ticks should be removed carefully. It is recommended that you wear protective gloves to avoid contact with the tick. Using fine tipped tweezers, grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible. Do not put anything on the tick and do not squeeze the tick as this may cause it to accidentally introduce the Lyme disease agent. Pull straight out, gently but firmly. Place the tick in a screw top bottle such as a pill vial or a glass bottle. Cleanse the site with rubbing alcohol and/or soap and water. Take the tick to your veterinarian and request that it be tested.
What is the Risk in Mississauga?
Peel Public Health has a collection program and does tick surveillance in areas where black-legged ticks have been found. To-date there is no evidence of established populations of black-legged ticks in Mississauga. In 2015, 34 ticks were submitted to Peel Public Health, nine of the ticks were black-legged ticks and three tested positive for Lyme disease, two of which came from Mississauga.
Health experts report that tick populations are on the rise and you do not have to be in a high-risk area to come into contact with ticks and Lyme disease. Environmental factors such as warmer climates and migratory birds can also affect tick populations. It is important to check with your veterinarian and the Peel Public Health for information on current tick populations and risk factors in your area. For more information on high risk areas of black-legged ticks in Ontario, visit Public Health Ontario.
Reporting of Ticks
Lyme disease is a reportable disease in Ontario and Peel Public Health reports on Lyme disease in Peel Region. In 2015 there were 2 confirmed human cases of Lyme disease in Peel Region.
If you find a tick on your pet take the tick to your veterinarian and request that it be tested. If you find a tick on yourself or a family member, take the tick to Peel Public Health for testing. – CINEWS/City of Mississauga.