With warmer weather comes sun, smiles, and the return of everyone’s least favourite arachnids: the tick.
A tick is a tiny parasite that feeds on animal and human blood. Although ticks are more likely to be found on dogs, cats can also have ticks.
Ticks crawl—they don’t jump, fly, or drop from trees—and they can be very tough to see because they’re around half a millimeter in size (about the size of a poppy seed). Ticks can grow to be as big as 20 millimeters (about the size of a sesame seed) once they’ve been fed. Check out this video by Tick Talk Canada to watch an animated clip about ticks in Canada.
Ticks can be found in many areas across Canada, but they prefer to live in wooded areas, in tall grasses, and under leaf litter. They can also be found in urban areas—such as city parks and green spaces.
The main tick-borne disease concern in Canada is Lyme disease. Ticks are expanding their range in parts of Canada at a rate of 46 km per year. The risk of pets and people being exposed to ticks and the diseases they can carry—like Lyme disease—is growing.
Starting at your pet’s head, use your fingers like a comb and run your hands over your pet’s body. You are feeling for lumps or bumps you previously did not notice. Make sure to check under your pet’s collar, inside the groin area, and under your pet’s front legs. It’s also important to examine under your pet’s tail, between the toes, and thoroughly inside and outside of the ears.
Remember that ticks vary in size—some may look as small as a seed!
First, don’t panic. Get a good view of the tick by parting the hair down to the skin. Once you find the tick, you have two options: you can use a tick remover, or you can use a small pair of forceps.
If you are using forceps, try to avoid the very sharp and thin ones. Instead try to use thicker, broader based forceps as these are better for gripping the tick’s mouth. Once you find the tick, use the forceps as close to the skin as you can so you can grip the mouth of the tick. Try not to grab it by the middle, as this may leave the mouth part in the animal’s skin. Once you have them by the mouth, gently pull up.
If you are using tick removers, place the device under the mouth part of the tick, twist up, and it will come out.
Once you have removed the tick, your initial reaction might be to discard it. However, it is important that you save the tick to bring to your veterinarian for identification because certain ticks carry certain diseases. Once your vet knows what kind of tick it is, they’ll know what it might have been carrying. They will then provide you with preventative medication to kill off any remaining ticks your pet may have.
Finally, make tick checking a part of your daily routine.
Talk to your veterinarian about tick prevention for your pet. You can also book an appointment through Toronto Humane Society’s Public Veterinary Services. We offer prevention medications that cover all ticks found in Ontario. We’re able to offer accessible veterinary care options like this thanks to a grant from PetSmart Charities of Canada.
Visit Tick Talk Canada or Pets and Ticks to learn all about ticks and tick prevention for animals. Visit Canada.ca for tick prevention tips for humans.
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