What are ticks?
Ticks are external parasites that feed on the blood of a host which can be human or animal. Ticks are in the arachnid family (spider, scorpion, mite, etc). There are over 40 different species of ticks across North America and several that can be encountered in BC. Two species of tick are known to transmit Lyme disease in BC, these are:
Western Black-Legged Tick (Ixodes Pacificus) Ixodes Angustus (no common name)
These and other species of ticks in BC can also produce salivary neurotoxins that can cause tick paralysis which can be fatal for animals and people!
The long and short… ticks can be the source of serious disease problems and must be treated with respect!
What is the lifecycle of a tick?
(Lifecycle length and duration of each stage may vary depending on species and environment)
1. EGG: 3000-6000 eggs are laid daily by a female adult tick. These eggs are laid on the ground.
2. LARVAE: They emerge and find an appropriate host to feed on; primarily on small mammals and birds. After feedings, they detach from their host and moult (develop) into nymphs, typically on the ground.
3. NYMPH: They find a much larger host and feed to moult into adults.
4. ADULT: Female adults attach to larger hosts, feed, mate and then drop off the host to lay eggs.
How does my pet get a tick?
We live in a temperate, forest region that is densely populated with wild and domestic animals. This gives ticks lots of opportunity to reproduce which increases the risk of exposure for our pets. Ticks are found in wooded areas with shrubs and tall grasses. They have heat sensors which allow them to detect approaching animals or people. Ticks will wait for a host to pass by and then crawl on board (ticks do not fly or jump). They burrow down in the coat of pets to the skin and attach with their mouth parts (they do not burrow under the skin). Ticks will inject the area where they bite with a local anaesthetic so that the host will be unaware of their presence! Ticks become active at 4 degrees Celsius.With our typically mild winters, this means that ticks are a year-round concern. We therefore recommend year-round protection against ticks for pets that go outside. Despite our “colder than normal” winter this year, we have seen ticks in January and February.
What do I do if I find a tick on my pet?
After you have been outside, in the bush, on trails, wooded or grassed areas, ensure you do a full body ‘tick check’ of yourself and your pet. The best way to check a pet is to firmly rub or pat all body surfaces (including the armpits, between the toes etc.) If you feel something under the fur, part the hair to have a look. If you find a tick, proper and complete removal is of utmost importance to minimize the risk of transmission of Lyme Disease and to prevent tick paralysis. We do not know precisely how long it takes for Lyme disease to be transmitted from an attached tick to the host which is why we recommend checking your pet daily after it’s walk. The tick must be removed completely to ensure that disease transmission does not occur. We can show you the proper technique to do so. If you are uncertain as to how long the tick has been present on your pet, we should evaluate to determine if Lyme Disease may already have been transmitted. There are a number of indicators that we can pick up on with a thorough history and physical examination.
How can I prevent ticks on my pet?
There are a number of strategies and safe medications that can be employed to reduce your pet’s risk of contracting ticks and being exposed to Lyme Disease or tick paralysis. Call us at 604-898-9089 or book on-line to discuss the best strategy for your pet’s protection with Dr. Honey or Dr.’s Kirkham.
Here at Garibaldi Veterinary Hospital, we are very passionate about preventive health care. This includes parasite control as parasites in our area can pose a threat to our pets and to us! If you would like to discuss an overall parasite control strategy or have any questions, don’t hesitate to call us at 604-898-9089 or book an appointment on-line.
Article by Jessica Rumm, VA