These parasites aren’t just a nuisance; they can cause serious—and sometimes deadly—diseases.
Let’s talk ticks. Or have a tick talk, if you will. Don't worry, this tick talk won’t involve any dance moves, but it will tell you all about an arachnid that survives off blood and could be big trouble for your beloved dogs.
Ticks need blood to survive. Because of this, they choose to live in habitats frequented by potential mammal hosts. A tick will hang onto the grass and wait for its next unsuspecting victim to stroll by. Unlike fleas or mosquitos, ticks do not jump or fly; but instead, they crawl upward.
How big are they?
Seeing them can be tricky as ticks are generally tiny. Young ticks can be barely visible, while adult ticks, especially when engorged with blood, are more noticeable but still only reach about 0.5 cm. 1 When they aren’t full of blood, an adult tick is about 3-4 millimetres. 2
Where are they found?
Over 40 different species of ticks can be found across the country. 4 However, eastern Canada reports the highest rate of tick-related infection. 3 The most common ticks Canadian dogs might encounter are from the Dermacentor or Ixodes groups which include the American Dog Tick (also known as the Wood Tick) and the Blacklegged Tick (also known as the Deer Tick). 5
Ticks generally prefer to live in wooded areas, tall grass, and leaf litter, but they can also be found in urban areas, including parks and green spaces. Different ticks tend to like different environments. The Blacklegged Tick prefers a moist environment like leaf litter, while the American Dog Tick prefers drier conditions. 6
In addition to environmental conditions, there's a major contributing factor to why Canada's east side has so many ticks; the population of White-Tailed deer – a tick’s preferred host. 7 Eastern and Central Canada also share borders with American Lyme hotspots and are within flying distance for ticks who catch a free ride on migratory birds. 8
You may have noticed ticks getting a lot more press lately. That’s because tick populations in Canada have increased due to bird migration, warmer winters (thanks to climate change), and increased deer populations. 9
When are Ticks most active?
As soon as the thermometer hits 4 degrees Celsius, ticks will start looking for a person or an animal to feed on and continue until the temperature remains under 4 degrees consistently. 10 Young ticks are at their most active during the spring.11
American dog ticks are usually not expected during the fall and winter seasons, but Black-legged ticks remain active in the autumn. 12 The winter tick, commonly found on moose in Canada's Northeastern region, can remain active in the colder months. 13
How dangerous are they?
Ticks carry bacteria and viruses that can cause serious illness in both humans and animals.
The most commonly known illness that ticks can transfer is Lyme disease. Lyme disease causes fatigue and severe problems with the central nervous system, potentially leading to tick paralysis and the loss of muscle function. 14
While over 80% of the population in Eastern and Central Canada could be living in higher-risk areas for Lyme disease, Lyme disease awareness remains relatively low.15
American dog ticks are also carriers of diseases like Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and Tularemia. 16 Tularemia is a severe infectious bacterial condition with symptoms that include fever, weight loss, and ulcers at the site of infection. 17 Tularemia can be fatal. 18
How to check your dog for Ticks
To check your dog for ticks, start at the head and run your fingers over their body, checking for lumps or bumps that did not previously exist. Be sure to check inside and outside of the ears and under their collar, their stomach area, under their front legs, and all-around their paws.
If you come across a tick, remove it as soon as possible using a tick key, or specifically designed implement. Call your veterinarian if you are unsure and/or need help.
Speak with your dog’s veterinary team for tick prevention information and to set up a control program that will work best for you and your dog - based on the area you live in and frequent.
Regular tick prevention and grooming are the best ways to combat both ticks and Lyme disease in dogs. Treating your dogs with a preventative will help control ticks, which can attach themselves to your dogs and be carried indoors, putting you and your family at risk of being bitten. 21 Even indoor-only pets (like cats) are at risk because ticks can ride inside via clothing or shoes. 22 There are a wide variety of tick preventives that have been proven safe and effective at controlling ticks. 23 Working with your veterinary team will help you determine which one is best for your dog(s) based on your location and needs. Ticks can hide easily under your dog’s coat, so as an added measure of protection, experts recommend checking your dog for ticks every time they come inside. 24
Ticks are becoming more prevalent in North America, and they're now found in areas where we hadn’t previously encountered ticks. Ticks aren’t just a nuisance; they can cause serious—and sometimes deadly—diseases, including Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever. 25 Canines often don’t show signs of Lyme disease immediately. 26 Contact your dog’s veterinary team immediately if your pet starts coughing, experiences new pain in their joints, has difficulty breathing, a fever, show muscle weakness, or has a sudden loss of energy, appetite, weight, or coordination. 27
Ticks are small but can mean big problems for both you and your dog. Luckily, with some knowledge, the help of your dog's veterinary team, and preventative measures, you can keep your dog much safer from these parasites.
1 Tick Talk Canada, https://ticktalkcanada.com/tick-facts/
2 Ibid., Tick Talk Canada
3 Brockville Animal Hospital, https://brockvilleanimalhospital.net/tick-awareness-month/
4 Ibid., Tick Talk Canada
5 Ibid., Tick Talk Canada
6 Ibid., Tick Talk Canada
7 Ibid., Brockville Animal Hospital
8 Ibid., Brockville Animal Hospital
9 Ibid., Brockville Animal Hospital
10 Ibid., Tick Talk Canada
11 Ibid., Brockville Animal Hospital
12 Ibid., Brockville Animal Hospital
13 Ibid., Brockville Animal Hospital
14 Orkin Canada, https://www.orkincanada.ca/pests/other/ticks/
15 Ibid., Brockville Animal Hospital
16 Ibid., Orkin Canada
17 Ibid., Orkin Canada
18 Ibid., Orkin Canada
19 Ibid., Tick Talk Canada
20 Ibid., Tick Talk Canada
21 Ibid., Brockville Animal Hospital
22 Ibid., Brockville Animal Hospital
23 Ibid., Brockville Animal Hospital
24 Ibid., Brockville Animal Hospital
25 Ibid., Brockville Animal Hospital
26 Ibid., Brockville Animal Hospital
27 Ibid., Brockville Animal Hospitals