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Ticks and When They Bite

Have you ever been petting your dog and suddenly felt a small bump on their skin; on further investigation you discover it is a tick – gross!

Once you have identified this ugly little creature, you will be tempted to try and pull it directly off your pet’s skin. There are several ways to remove a tick; the easiest way is to use a tick twister but if you don’t have one handy then a pair of tweezers can work just as effectively. Grab the tick as close to the skin surface as possible and without squeezing-gently twist until the mouth part releases. The goal is to remove the entire tick without leaving the mouth part behind.

Ticks are related to spiders and start their life cycle as very small larvae which develop into a nymph and then an adult. All 3 stages feed on blood and their size varies from 1-5mm long up to 12mm long when fully engorged.  The tick inserts its mouthparts into the skin of the host and slowly feeds on blood – the entire process of feeding can take from 3 to 7 days and often you will not notice them on your pet until they are fully engorged.

Black-legged ticks – also known as the Deer Tick (Ixodes Scapularis) is the tick responsible for the transmission of Lyme disease in Ontario. These ticks can lay 4000-8000 eggs at one time and are adaptable at finding the perfect host, be it a deer, dog or human. While searching for a host they climb up onto tall grass or bushes and wait for the host to walk by. Heat and carbon dioxide that the unsuspecting victim emits is the trigger that alerts them that a meal is close by. They stand up on their hind legs with their front legs extended –in a behaviour that is called ‘questing’ and it is the tick’s way of catching a ride and their next snack.

Common areas to encounter ticks are along trails, playgrounds, wooded areas, parks and grassy regions. Deer ticks are known to feed on migratory birds which allow them to be easily spread throughout Ontario. Currently in Southern Ontario the most endemic areas for Lyme disease are Long Point, Turkey Point, Point Pelee and Rondeau Park. Ticks are an emerging threat  in Ontario for not only the pet population  but for their human companions also – we are going to discuss Ticks in our blogs throughout the next few months as tick borne diseases are on the rise and we need to keep up-to-date on ways to keep them at bay.

If you have any questions about ticks and the effects they can have on your pet, please call us at the clinic, one of our knowledgeable staff will be happy to address your questions. If you have personally been bitten by a tick, please obtain medical advice as soon as possible.  Obtain a tick twister to keep on hand in your pet first aid kit, because you never know when one of these little creatures will come for a visit.

Written by: Laurie Box RVT


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