Ticks and Fleas: More Than Just Irritating Pests
This time of year, we start thinking more about parasites like ticks and fleas infesting our pets. These parasites become a greater threat as the weather starts to warm up or if you travel to areas where they’re common, but fleas and ticks may remain active year-round in and around Unionville and Markham.
So what should you know about ticks and fleas? And how can you help keep your pet protected against them?
A Look at Ticks
Related to mites and spiders, ticks are small arachnids that live off the blood of people, dogs, and cats, as well as birds and other animals like deer, horses, rabbits, and rodents.
Ticks love wooded and grassy areas, like fields and parks. Ticks can be found around here in both rural and urban areas, including Toogood Pond Park, Bob Hunter Memorial Park, and Rouge National Urban Park. If you walk or hike with your pet in these areas, you and your pet may pick up ticks. Depending on where you live, you might even find ticks in your own backyard, especially under leaf litter, in the shade, and around the edges of the yard.
Some ticks are quite tiny, so you may not see them, even if you’re looking for them. Ticks tend to hide under fur, in ears, in skin folds, and in between paw pads.
Nymphs (immature ticks) are about the size of a poppy seed, and adult deer ticks are only about as big as a sesame seed!
Ticks are moving farther north and into new areas every year, so although we didn’t have much of a problem with disease-transmitting ticks even just a few years ago, they are becoming more and more common in Ontario.
Ticks do more than just feed on blood: They can transmit serious diseases to pets and people, which may lead to heart and kidney complications, joint damage, and even neurological issues, especially if not caught and treated early. Not all ticks are infected with disease-causing agents, but those that are can transmit Lyme disease, ehrlichiosis, anaplasmosis, and other diseases to dogs and cats (and people).
Signs & Symptoms of Tick Diseases
Let your Bridle Trail veterinarian know right away if you notice any signs of tick-transmitted diseases in your pet, including:
· Breathing difficulty
· Lameness (potentially shifting from leg to leg)
· Sensitivity to touch
· Stiff, swollen, or painful joints
· Vomiting or diarrhea
· Weakness or fatigue
· Weight or appetite loss
Canine Lyme disease cases in Ontario have been steadily increasing. More than 5,200 dogs (1 in 30) tested positive in 2020.*
What If You Find a Tick on Your Pet? Give us a call. We provide complimentary tick removal for our patients.
If you spend time outside with your pet, especially in risk areas, it can be difficult to avoid ticks. Do a tick check on yourself and your pet afterward. Removing ticks quickly is always a good first step toward keeping you and your pet protected.
Click on the links below to learn more about how to prevent tick bites and create a tick-safe yard: · Government of Ontario: Lyme Disease · Health Canada: Lyme Disease · TickEncounter: Protect Your Pets—Containment · Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): Preventing Ticks in the Yard
What Are Fleas?
Fleas are tiny, reddish-brown, wingless parasites that feed on mammals and birds. In fact, these blood-sucking creatures are the most common external parasite of dogs and cats.** Once fleas find a host like your pet and start feeding, they’ll stay on your pet and lay eggs.
Fleas tend to be more common in the warmer, wetter months, but they can survive throughout the year in the right conditions, with your home being a perfect place for them to thrive. Once they’re inside, fleas can multiply quickly and be frustrating and difficult to get rid of. Preventing flea infestations is far better than having to treat them.
There is no “flea season.” Fleas can infest your pet and your home at any time of year.
Fleas can make dogs and cats miserable:
· When fleas bite, they can cause flea allergy dermatitis (FAD) in dogs and cats, an allergic reaction to certain components in flea saliva.
· Not only can fleas cause intense itching and skin inflammation, but when infested pets scratch, they can damage their skin and cause skin infections.
· Fleas can lead to life-threatening blood loss (anemia) in puppies and kittens.
· Fleas can also transmit tapeworms to both pets and people.
Signs & Symptoms of Fleas in Pets
Itching is often the main symptom of fleas, causing pets to:
· Rub against furniture
· Shake their head
· Frequently lick, chew, bite, or groom themselves, sometimes to the point where they cause hair loss or hot spots (painful, raw, inflamed areas on the skin that may bleed)
Preventing Ticks and Fleas Is Key
Ticks and fleas are a problem in and around Unionville. Don’t wait until you see them on your pet to take action! We can help prevent these parasites and the problems they cause by keeping pets on flea and tick control products. Call us to make sure your pet’s protected or to refill your pet’s parasite preventive prescription.
*Companion Animal Parasite Council (CAPC). Parasite prevalence maps. Canada, Ontario: 2020—Tick borne disease agents/Lyme disease/dog. https://capcvet.org/maps. Accessed March 10, 2021. **CAPC. CAPC parasite guidelines: fleas. https://capcvet.org/guidelines/fleas. Accessed March 10, 2021.