If you are active with your dog outside in Saskatoon, you have likely noticed an increasing seasonal trend that comes with the warmer weather: TICKS!!! Here are some of the FAQ’s we get regarding ticks in Saskatoon:
What are ticks? What does a tick look like?
Ticks are external parasites that feed on the blood of host animals. A tick is like a spider in that its adult form has eight legs. This is a picture of an engorged adult tick.
- When do we see ticks in Saskatoon?
Ticks in Saskatoon will actively feed in the spring, summer, and fall months. In the winter they typically hibernate. (Although there are a few exceptions based on species) Ticks require moisture to complete their life cycle. Hence, ticks are less common in dry areas or during a particularly dry year.
- Do I have to go near the river for my dog to pick up a tick?
Ticks typically like to live in tall brush and grass. That said, they also travel on migratory birds and can drop off. I have seen the very occasional tick on a dog that was confined only to the back yard in the city. You are much more likely to encounter them if your dog wanders into grassy areas.
- How can I tell if my dog has a tick?
Ticks are visible with the naked eye. They prefer to stay on the neck, head, ear, and feet area; but they do move all over. As a veterinarian, I find most ticks on the head at the base of the ears. Check your dog thoroughly following walks. If you do find a tick don’t hesitate to contact us at Cumberland Veterinary Clinic.
- I just found a tick on my dog!! Is this an emergency?
No. Step one is to breathe!! Though it can be scary to see an engorged tick on your pet, the situation can be quickly remedied. Step one is to remove the tick. We can provide advice on how to do this (and have really great tick lasso’s to make it easier!). Some dogs will have a local reaction to the bite, similar to a bee sting or a spider bite. In most situations this is minor and can be easily treated.
- Do all ticks carry Lyme disease?
No. Lyme disease is carried by the deer tick (Ixodes Scapularis). Luckily, here in Saskatoon, greater than 95% (and more likely closer to 99%) of ticks that we see are a Dermacentor species which is not associated with Lyme disease.
- What are the chances that my dog will get sick with Lyme disease?
Very, very, very low. Lyme disease captures a lot of media attention, but the reality is that in Saskatoon, it is very rarely seen. Consider that, of all the ticks we see, less than 5% of those are the type that actually carries Lyme disease. Then, of those, less than 5% are actually infected with the agent (Borrelia burgdorferi) that causes Lyme disease. Add to this some tick preventive measures and regularly checking your dog for ticks when you’ve been out in possible tick areas; and your dog’s risk of contracting Lyme disease is extraordinarily low!!
- What are the symptoms of Lyme disease? What should I do if I think my dog has it?
The most notable signs of Lyme disease that you as an owner will see are depression, lethargy, and swollen painful joints resulting in lameness. It is important to note that the clinical signs may occur for a few days, seem to disappear, and reoccur several days later. If you are concerned that your dog has Lyme disease, contact us at Cumberland Veterinary Clinic to discuss further.
- How can I prevent tick bites and Lyme disease?
Prevention and tick control are key. Be mindful of areas that are home to tick populations. Obviously your dog is most likely to have ticks attach if they are running thru tall grassy areas. Avoiding these areas will lower your dogs tick burden. Also, there are many preventive products that are available for your pet. These include liquids that you apply along the back and medication they can take orally. Depending on the type of medication, it may work to kill ticks after they have engorged, or repel them before they even bite. Feel free to contact us at Cumberland Vet Clinic to discuss the best fit for your needs.
Written by: Dr. Mike Bugg