What is Lyme disease?
Lyme disease is a bacterial infection, caused by Borrelia burgdorferi (B. burgdorferi) that may develop when an animal or person is bitten by an infected tick. This bacteria in Canada is almost exclusively transmitted by Ixodes scapularis and Ixodes pacificus, the eastern and western black-legged ticks (aka Deer ticks). Carrier ticks transmit the bacteria into the host’s bloodstream while feeding, it takes 24–48 hours (or more) for the bacteria to be transmitted to the host – you or your pet.
Already in 2020 at least 25 dogs tested positive for Lyme disease here in Ontario and the number is only expected to go up as the warmer weather hits and more ticks are out moving around. Last year there was 799 reported positive cases in Ontario – which doesn’t sound like much but that only covers the clinics that report their findings and not all animals are tested. We suspect more cases exist, but have not been reported as the dogs have not been tested.
What are the symptoms of a dog with Lyme disease?
It can cause a wide range of problems, and luckily most dogs that are exposed to the bacteria never get sick.
When disease does occur in a dog, it typically happens a few months after being infected via a tick bite. Fever, lameness, stiffness and swollen joints are common in dogs with Lyme disease. Enlarged lymph nodes, lethargy and decreased appetite may also develop. Not all dogs who have these symptoms have Lyme disease though! That is why the annual blood test is so important as well as discussing any mobility changes with the doctor at your annual checkup.
My dog tested positive for Lyme disease on the screening test. What do I do?
Our annual heartworm and tick disease screening test checks for Lyme disease as well as 4 other tick borne diseases and heartworm. When we receive a Lyme positive result, our doctor will discuss next steps with you.
Typically we do a second blood test that isolates and calculates the active B. burgdorferi antibodies in your pet’s system. Then based on a number of corresponding factors, together with the doctor you make a treatment plan that works best for your dog’s individual needs.
How can I prevent my dog from getting Lyme disease?
Here at IVS, we use a multi-prong approach to prevention. We vaccinate as well as prescribe treatment and control medication during the tick’s active times of the year. We have many different brands and types of prevention medications that can be given depending on your lifestyle.
Give us a call to order your pet’s prevention. We will be sending out our annual e-mail blast about the testing soon, so if we don’t already have your e-mail give us a call so you can get on the list!
When we say ‘tick’, we are actually referring to over 900 distinct species. The majority of these species are found in tropical and subtropical areas, but a subset are well-adapted to temperate areas (that means us!). Each tick species can differ significantly in regard to anatomy, the host species on which it feeds on, the habitat and climatic conditions suitable for survival, the seasonal activity patterns (when they are most active) and the pathogens which it can transmit (some transmit none).
Ticks have three active life stages (or in stars): larvae, nymphs and adult male or female. Larvae have only 6 legs, while nymphs and adults have 8 legs. Adults range in size from 1 to 5 mm unfed to up to 20 mm fed.
Pathogens transmitted from ticks can spread disease in animals. Most commonly talked about and referenced is Lyme disease (see next week's Tuesday Tip), but they also can transmit other diseases as well. The annual blood test we strongly suggest for all dogs checks for 5 of the most commonly seen of these diseases as well as Heartworm - more on that test in a later tip!
The ticks usually found in our area are the Blacklegged Tick and American Dog tick. Of course others are around, but these two are the most commonly found by researchers.
Blacklegged (Deer) Tick aka Ixodes scapularis
Blacklegged ticks have been found and studied along Long Point since 1995, and their numbers have only grown during that time. Adult males and females are active October-May, as long as the daytime temperature remains above 0 degrees Celsius though they are most active in April and October.
Adult blacklegged ticks can be found questing about knee-high on the tips of branches of low growing shrubs. Adult females aren't above a snack on your or your pet though!
Nymphs are most commonly found in moist leaf litter in wooded areas, or at the edge of wooded areas.
These guys often carry the pathogens that transmit Lyme Disease as well as other diseases.
American Dog Tick aka Dermacentor variabilis
American Dog tick adult males and females are active April- early August, peaking in May and June.
Adults are mostly found questing in tall grass and low lying brush and twigs - ditches, meadows etc. Adult American dog ticks are usually found on medium sized animals such as their namesake- dogs and raccoons, they are also found preying on humans. Nymphs prefer smaller animals, mice, voles etc in the same habitat.
These ticks often carry the pathogens that transmit Ehrlichiosis (which are part of the annual blood test) and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever.
What to Do
If you find a tick on your pet, don't panic! (We say that a lot, but it's an important step)
1. Get a friend or another adult to help you remove the tick if it is imbedded in your pet. If you see the tick just walking on your pet you can carefully brush it off, ensuring you do not get it on yourself.
2. Use a tick key or tick twister (we provide these free of charge at the clinic) to fully remove the tick - follow the directions that came with your tool.
3. Place the removed tick into a sealed container of some sort - plastic bag etc. Write down the date and location you removed it from for future reference.
4. Clean the tool you used as well as your hands with soap and water.
5. Call the clinic to update us that you removed a tick. We will discuss with you next steps and prevention.
6. Go to the website www.petsandticks.com or www.etick.ca to identify which species of tick you have, and you can enter it into their tick tracker survey. If you wish and we have the time, you can bring it in the sealed container to be identified by our technician- you can discuss that with us when you call to update.
All of the prevention products we keep in stock provide protection against both the Blacklegged and American dog tick, and most cover a few others as well. If you are concerned about the upcoming tick season and what that means for your pet, give us a call. We can discuss tick prevention and what would work best for your pet.
In Canada, flea populations usually peak early August to early October, but warm temperatures and high moisture can generate an ideal environment for fleas year-round.
Fleas are small (about 3 mm long), brown or reddish brown insects that have flat bodies and feed by sucking blood from animals and humans, causing itchy bites. Although fleas are tiny, they can make your dog or cat’s life miserable. These nasty little parasites can jump up to 30 cm high, which allows them to jump from the ground and onto pets with ease. Once on your pet, fleas can bite up to once every 5 minutes leaving your cat or dog itchy, sore and uncomfortable. Flea bites look like small red spots that often appear in clusters or lines.
Flea Allergy Dermatitis (FAD), an allergy to flea saliva that creates a rash, is the most common skin disease of dogs and cats. Fleas also spread disease, they can transmit tapeworms. Pets can become infected with tapeworm if they accidentally ingest a flea while they are grooming.
There are four life stages of the flea. For effective flea control, it is important to know how to break this life cycle in more than one stage.
The flea life cycle consists of egg, larval, pupal, and adult stages. Eggs are laid in the hair coat and are designed to fall off your pet and into your home. Larvae hatch from the eggs and develop in a pet’s environment by feeding on adult flea feces (i.e. digested blood) that fall out of the hair coat of the pet. Larvae eventually spin cocoons, often within carpet fibers, for pupation. Pupae are resistant to freezing, drying, and insecticides, and can lie dormant for many months! New fleas develop from pupae and can begin feeding within hours of finding a dog or cat. The entire flea life cycle can be completed in as little as three weeks!
How to Tell if your Pet has Fleas
- Little dark spots that move in the fur
- Small black particles (flea droppings) or white specks (flea eggs) on the pet or bedding
- Reddened patches and irritation on your pet’s skin
- Excessive licking or scratching
- Hair loss
If you are not sure you have a flea problem, use a flea comb on your pet’s back, tail and haunches. The flea comb may catch fleas or flea dirt (feces). To distinguish flea dirt from other dirt, wet it with a little water. Flea dirt will dissolve into a red-brown colour.
What Can I Do?!
Treating your pet with a flea prevention monthly, according to the product label, can effectively kill fleas and treat a flea infestation. Always read and follow the label on any product you use.
While treatment of the environment is not needed when some topical products are used, you can put pet beds in the dryer on high heat to kill developing fleas. Vacuuming can encourage developing fleas to hatch. Pay attention to low traffic areas that pets may not frequent in your cleaning regime.
If you think your cat/ dog may be suffering from fleas, give us a call. We would be happy to discuss prevention options and set you up with a medication. If you are concerned about hair loss, a rash, and excessive licking we can schedule you in for a full exam with our doctor and she can then discuss with you all the options available.
You're not alone!
March and April begins the breeding season for many animals. Local skunks are moving around and are more likely to be seen out and about even during the day, looking for a mate or snooping around for a den.
Skunks are not an aggressive animal and will always try to retreat from a human or other large enemy (dog/ cat). An angry skunk will growl or hiss, stamp its front feet rapidly, or even walk a short distance on its front feet with its tail high in the air. The striped skunk cannot spray from this position, and will always try to scare you away before spraying!
In the event your dog/cat HAS been sprayed by a skunk - DON'T PANIC!
1. Keep your pet outside, to not spread the oil the skunk sprayed.
2. Rinse/ wipe off the excess spray as much as possible.
3. Use a safe odour eliminator to clean your pet.
- A common myth is to use tomato juice or vinegar - this will mask the smell but not completely eliminate it or clean your pet's fur
- The safest way to eliminate the smell is to use a specially formulated product such as the Skunk-Off we at IVS carry. These can be safely used around the face, where most dogs/ cats get sprayed. Put an e-collar (cone) on cats so they don't lick it off if leaving the product on. The Skunk-Off can also be used on household items such as carpets, couches, bedding etc
- Another commonly used method is to mix 1 litre of 3% hydrogen peroxide + 1/2 cup of Baking Soda and 1 tsp of liquid dish soap to form a paste. Sponge onto your pet's fur and let soak for 5 minutes. Beware, the "peroxide method" commonly dyes pet's fur in a similar way to bleaching hair and can cause skin irritation if not fully rinsed out.
Use any product with discretion, always read and follow the label for any product you use with your pets
We are lucky here in Oxford County to be host to two wonderful wildlife rehabs. Neither organization receives ministry funding, relying solely on donations and the owner's own pockets to help the animals.
Wayward Paws is the most known, and Shirley has done an amazing job at helping the local wildlife for over 15 years. For more information they can be contacted via her Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/WaywardPawsOntario/ .
Three Brown Ducks is a newly licensed rehab, specializing in waterfowl. They can be contacted via their Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/threebrownducks/ .