Pets and Pet Health

VetWrap: Tick Talk

I was about to say, “It’s that time of year again.” But while spring is the time that many of us start thinking about tick prevention, in Kingsville the reality is that we should be thinking about it all year round.

Although March is National Tick Awareness Month (#ticktalk), as Canada’s Most Southern Town we enjoy milder weather and get above-freezing temperatures every month of the year. With that comes the increased risk of parasites and the diseases they transmit.

Anytime it is over 4°C, ticks are out and active (unlike mosquitos that need 10-14 days of double-digit weather to have the opportunity to spread disease). Global warming and migratory bird patterns have attributed to the tick population increasingly migrating northward.

With Point Pelee being the local hot bed for sightings, Kingsvillians are no strangers to ticks. But, as we add tick populations to the ever-growing list of ecological changes, we can only expect their numbers and our subsequent exposure to rise. 

Typically, ticks exist in tall grasses, but it is particularly important to remember that the Black Legged Tick (Ixodes Scapularis, the one that transmits Lyme disease) has an affinity for leaf litter — so the forest floor is where it’s at for them!

In our area, I would recommend being vigilant regardless of any recent excursions. We have removed ticks from hunting dogs out all day in the bush, as we have equally removed them from lap dogs that don’t venture far from the backyard.

Some tips to help reduce the risk of tick-borne disease for your pet:

1. Avoid densely populated tick areas (not always possible!)

2. Remove ticks as soon as you see them: it can take up to 36 to 48 hours for a tick to transmit Lyme disease, so if we remove them as soon as we see them, we can significantly decrease this risk

a) See how to do a tick check on your dog here: Tick Removal | Pets and Ticks 

b) See how to remove a tick here: How to safely remove a tick from your pet – YouTube

3. Have a reliable tick preventative product on board when it is over 4°C

4. Consider vaccination for Lyme if tick exposure is high. Talk to your veterinarian to determine if Lyme vaccination is right for your pet

For both canine and human health, it is important that dogs are regularly screened for tick-borne disease with a reliable test such as a 4dx snap test

What’s particularly important to remember, is that if your dog is at risk, then so are YOU.

Lyme disease in people is a far more serious concern than Lyme disease in dogs. If you are pulling ticks off your dog after your walks, ensure you are doing a tick check yourself. Your furry companion may have brought the creepy crawlers into the car or into the house, and you would have been traversing the same terrain regardless.

Pre-COVID, I heard that Pfizer was working on a human Lyme vaccine, using the technology they used for the development of the canine one. Pfizer has been a bit busy the last few years, developing and mass producing a vaccine for a virus you may have heard of … I can’t say if that played into the delay or the fact that I haven’t heard anything since, but I might hedge a bet on it.

I did recently come across a current study in the US so perhaps it will now gain some more momentum. We can only hope.

Indirectly, vet medicine’s goal is to keep PEOPLE safe. We want our interactions between people and their pets to be safe.

So, similar to how my discussion about raw food leads to the risk presented to human health, how vaccinating your indoor cat for rabies is a public health must, and how vaccinating for leptospirosis or deworming keeps your children safe, so tick prevention starts to bleed into this realm.

Consider tick awareness for your health as well as your pet’s!

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