Ticks pose a risk to pets and people in Hamilton and throughout much of southern Ontario. Besides feeding on blood, ticks can also transmit serious diseases, some of which can potentially lead to lasting health issues. That’s why we want to make sure you’re aware of the problems these small parasites can cause—and how to help keep your pet protected.
What Are Ticks?
Around 900 tick species exist in the world, but fortunately just a handful pose a danger to pets and people in our area. The main ticks we have around here are blacklegged (deer) ticks, American dog ticks, and brown dog ticks.
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 our area.
What Diseases Can Ticks Transmit to Dogs?
The ticks we have in Hamilton and the surrounding area can transmit several diseases to dogs, with Lyme disease currently being the most concerning.
Only blacklegged ticks infected with Borrelia burgdorferi (a type of bacteria) can transmit Lyme disease, and many ticks in our area remain uninfected—for now. However, the risk is real, and infection can result in serious symptoms.
Signs of Lyme disease in dogs include:
- Fatigue or weakness
- Lameness (possibly affecting different legs on different days—this is referred to as “shifting leg lameness”)
- Sensitivity to touch
- Stiff, swollen, or painful joints
- Stiff walk with an arched back
- Trouble breathing
- Vomiting or diarrhea
- Weight or appetite loss
If you find a tick attached to your pet (or even if you don’t), let us know right away if you notice any signs of tick-transmitted diseases.
More than 3,000 cases of canine Lyme disease were diagnosed in Ontario in 2019, and we expect that there will be more this year. The number of Lyme disease cases in both pets and people in Canada have been steadily increasing over the past decade.
Ticks can also cause tick paralysis, a serious, potentially deadly condition in which the nervous system is attacked by a toxin in the tick’s saliva. In addition, they can transmit other diseases to dogs, including ehrlichiosis, anaplasmosis, babesiosis, and Rocky Mountain spotted fever.
What Diseases Can Cats Get From Ticks?
Cats aren’t immune from ticks. The parasites can cause tick paralysis and several diseases in cats, including Lyme disease. Other tick-bourne diseases, such as cytauxzoonosis and tularemia, although rare, can be deadly in cats.
Found a Tick on Your Pet?
Let us know. We provide complimentary tick removal and tick identification for pets in our community.
If you want to remove a tick yourself, here’s the right way to do it:
- Using a tick removal tool such as a Tick Twister,* grasp the tick as close as possible to the skin where the tick is attached.
- Pull the tick out following the manufacturer’s instructions for the specific tool.
- Place the tick into a sealed baggie or container (such as a used pill bottle).
- If you’d like us to identify the type of tick for you, bring it into the veterinary clinic.
- If you’d rather dispose of the tick straight away, you can simply throw the baggie or container into the trash.
- Clean the tool with isopropyl alcohol.
- Wash your hands with soap and water.
*We also have Tick Twisters available for purchase in our retail section.
Some additional tips if you choose to remove the tick on your own:
- Use gloves, if possible. Don’t touch the tick with your bare hands. Disease-causing pathogens can be transmitted through cuts or scratches in the skin.
- If the skin around the bite wound remains red or becomes more irritated or swollen, call us.
- Don’t worry if the head remains embedded. It can no longer transmit disease, and the head usually falls out on its own within a few days. If it doesn’t or if the area becomes irritated, let us know.
- Avoid attempting any debunked “home remedies” to remove ticks, such as trying to suffocate the tick by smothering it in petroleum jelly, nail polish, or liquid soap. Burning or freezing a tick is also ineffective and could harm your pet. Ticks are hardy creatures, and these methods do not work.
What Do We Recommend to Help Keep Our Patients Protected?
Ticks are becoming a bigger risk in Hamilton and the surrounding area. Although the risk of Lyme disease in Hamilton remains fairly low, the best ways to help protect against Lyme disease transmission are to prevent tick bites in the first place and, if ticks are found attached, remove them quickly.
Lyme disease and other tick-bourne illnesses may cause health issues before they’re detected, which is why tick prevention, including use of tick control products, is essential.
At Watzin Veterinary Clinic, we want to help keep our patients protected against these parasites. For many pets, we recommend starting tick preventives as early as March. By this time of year, we’ve usually already removed several ticks from off our patients.
Parasiticides, when used regularly as recommended and per label instructions, are extremely effective at controlling ticks on your pet. Safe and easy to administer, these parasite preventive products are your best bet for keeping ticks at bay—often killing ticks within 2 hours and, more importantly, before they have the opportunity to transmit disease.
Call us today to discuss parasiticide options. Together, we will ensure that your pet is protected!