Probably, the majority of people in the Edmonton area that watch the news on a regular basis are aware of the increasing risk of ticks, and the risk of Lyme disease that goes with them. Based on the calls to Morinville Vet Clinic, a lot of people are concerned about the risk of their dogs picking up these pesky parasites and their diseases.

For those who have not gotten this information, here is a little background:
Lyme disease is a bacteria that is transmitted from small mammals (like mice) to dogs and people, using ticks as an intermediate host. The tick that spreads the disease, the black-legged tick, is sometimes known as the deer tick because it is deer that seem to transport the ticks to new areas. Ticks get onto a host by climbing up a bush or tall grass by a trail and waiting with their front legs hanging out. When something brushes past (a person, a dog, a cat, a deer) the tick grabs hold and climbs up as far as it can. Once it finishes its climb, it mates with other ticks and then attaches to the host to feed.

The process of feeding on host blood takes days, and the tick produces a glue to keep its mouth parts bound and a saliva that keeps the blood from clotting. This saliva is the source of the bacteria that produces Lyme disease. A tick has to be biting for at least 48 hours to infect the host. The province of Alberta has been testing ticks that have been found. 15% of these were black-legged ticks, and 20% of those ticks carried Lyme disease.

That does not mean that the other ticks were harmless. The other ticks found in Alberta can carry Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Ehrlichia (a blood parasite) or Cytauxzoon (which affects cats). None of these are common, but they are all possible.

The question we get at Morinville Vet Clinic is…”How do we prevent our pet from getting the ticks?” If your cat or dog is out in long grass or low bushes, they likely will come in contact with ticks. You need to check them when they come inside. Since ticks grab on and climb up, most ticks will be on the chest, neck or head. Remove any ticks with tweezers or a tick puller and put them in a jar, so they do not crawl away. There are two products available in Morinville that will kill ticks within 48 hours of getting on the pet, but only one of them is safe for cats. Advantix is a monthly treatment for dogs, but it is toxic to cats. Revolution is also monthly, and is safe for both dogs and cats.

If you have any questions about tick control, the staff at MVC would be happy to answer them!

Written by Dr. Michael High