Protect your pet against ticks

Ticks have been reported in large numbers throughout Quebec in recent years. They are a threat not only to us, but to our animals. If you don’t take the necessary precautions, a tiny mite measuring just a few millimeters in length can wreak havoc on your trusty companion. Infected ticks can transmit a number of illnesses. The most worrisome species of tick (Ixodes scapularis) can transmit Lyme disease  (Borrelia burgdorferi), which is occurring more frequently in dogs in Quebec.

Where can ticks be found?

Ticks usually live in forests and wooded areas, but can also be found in hedges, bushes, gardens, tall grass and other urban areas. Since they cannot fly or jump, ticks travel on animals. They simply wait for their prey to walk past and then attach themselves firmly to them.

Where can ticks be found?

Prevention and treatment

There are a number of ways to protect your pet against tick-borne diseases.

A number of antiparasitic medicines can be administered preventively. Some are available as drops that can be applied to the skin, causing the tick to die on contact with your pet. Other products are available as chewable pills. The tick must feast on your pet’s blood for the treatment to be effective.

Since ticks are extremely resistant, only certified products with a proven track record can be considered effective. Although some essential oils and other natural products can have a certain degree of effectiveness, they do not provide full protection.

Treatment generally begins in April and continues until November, since ticks become active as soon as temperatures exceed 4°C. Talk to your veterinarian to get the best advice for your pet.

A tick’s bite

If your pet is bitten by a tick, it is important that you exercise caution. Did you know tick bites are painless? When ticks bite, they remain attached to the skin and feast on blood. They can triple in size in just a few hours after feasting, thus becoming increasingly visible.

It is important that you follow certain precautions when pulling ticks out, since they tend to bury their mouths in the flesh. You can buy hook-shaped tweezers to help remove ticks, being sure to meticulously follow these steps:

  1. Grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible.
  2. Twist the tick around in a circular motion until it releases its hold. Be sure NOT to pull upward, since the tick’s mouthparts can remain in the skin and lead to possible infection.
  3. Be sure to grasp the entire tick and inspect your pet’s skin. Keep the tick in an airtight container so that it can be sent for analysis, based on your veterinarian’s recommendations.
  4. Regularly check the tick’s attachment site in the first days following removal. If there is redness or swelling, consult your veterinarian.

Removing a tick

Possible signs and symptoms of Lyme disease

Only 5% of infected animals show symptoms of Lyme disease, while 95% present no symptoms whatsoever.

Some signs to watch for:

  • Reddening and swelling of the skin around the bite
  • Fever, weight loss and anorexia
  • Muscular and joint pain, limping
  • In severe cases, cardiac, neurological or renal problems

If you notice these symptoms, consult your veterinarian immediately.

Important to note

  • When a tick bites and feasts, it can increase its original weight by up to ten times.
  • No matter how close you are to your pet, Lyme disease cannot be transmitted from pets to humans.
  • Infected ticks can transmit Lyme disease only if they remain attached to the skin for a minimum of six to eight hours.
  • Your veterinarian can take a blood sample to test for Lyme disease several weeks after the bite occurs. If your pet shows signs of the disease, treatment can be administered.

For your own protection, it is wise to wear long-sleeved shirts and pants when out on your walks. Also, be sure to take a shower when you return so that you can examine your entire body.

After an outdoor activity, make a habit of examining your pet from the tip of its nose to the end of its tail. In addition to preventing potential problems, your light massages will be a source of great pleasure for your pet.

Virginie Roger, TSAc, CCRP, M.Sc. Kinesiology

Virginie Roger, AHT, CCRP, M.Sc. Kinesiology

Certified Animal health technician,
Certified canine rehabilitation practitioner,
Master in kinesiology