Ticks are a growing preoccupation in Quebec and a new challenge for health professionals and pet owners alike. Ticks themselves are not dangerous but they carry a wide variety of diseases which can have serious health effects.
So how do we protect our pets?
The key lies in understanding how ticks work and how they transmit diseases. Ticks will overwinter quite well, hiding in ‘insulated’ environments underneath the foliage and snow cover. They like thick brush, and are mostly found in fields and woods. They will emerge when the climate is right, preferring cool, moderately humid temperatures. It is known in our climate that adult ticks are most active from approximately mid April to end of May, then again in October and November depending on the year.
Nymphs appear mostly in June and July and larvae in August and September (they usually overwinter and develop into nymphs the following summer). It is the nymphs and adults which are generally responsible for disease transmission.
Once the tick has located a host, usually in thick brush such as woods or fields, it will stay on the host for up to 24h before attaching. Disease transmission will occur about 24h after attachment, although this can vary. Once a tick is attached, it will feed for about 3 to 7 days before falling off the animal into the environment and progressing into its next life stage. A tick, no matter what life stage, will not seek another host if it has completed a full feeding.
How to prevent ticks?
Integrated management is essential to minimising potential for disease. This means we address several elements together.
- Repel and kill: there are a few products that work in different ways to repeal and or kill ticks. Each has its advantages and disadvantages and your veterinarian can help you decide what is best for your pet. Given that ticks are around from April until end of November, we need to prevent a minimum of 9 months of the year.
- Time and place: ticks do not like hot and dry, nor do they like windy conditions. There are also geographical regions where ticks are more common. This may influence how you plan your excursions, by choosing low prevalence areas and times of the year.
- Check your pet: after any outing, it is good practice to check your pet for any ticks. These may not even be attached yet! You can comb through the fur with a flea comb to be as precise as possible.
Given that more and more disease are emerging and various tick populations are spreading to new regions, it is essential to follow this closely as we can only expect the number of infected dogs to go up. We encourage you to have your pet tested for tick-borne disease every year, using the same blood test that detects heartworm, and allow us to catch any health concerns early, and make sure we minimise your family’s exposure to this new challenge.