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.