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Everything Dog Owners Need to Know About Ticks

Even though it may be winter, summer always just around the corner in Canada, and that means sunshine, heat, long walks with your dog, and ticks. No matter where you live, chances are you’re concerned, and you should be. Before they arrive, we’ve got everything you need to know about these little parasites, the diseases they cause, and what you can do to keep your dog safe.

Types of Ticks in Canada

We call them all ticks, and they’re all annoying, potentially dangerous parasites, but the truth is, there are a wide variety of ticks that are found in various parts of Canada:

  1. Deer Tick – in spite of the name, this common tick has no preferences when it comes to hosts, and it will happily suck both your dogs’ and your blood if it gets the chance.
  2. Ixodes angustus – a known carrier of Lyme disease as well as other potentially serious conditions. Being bitten by this tick demands an immediate medical intervention in humans and animals.
  3. Western Black-Legged Tick – you probably won’t look too closely at its legs, but if this is the tick that takes a bite out of you or your dog, it might well pass on a Borrelia infection. It’s common on the Pacific coast.
  4. American Dog Tick – the name is misleading. This is very common in Canada, from Saskatchewan all the way to Atlantic Canada. It transmits both Tularemia and Rocky Mountain Spotted fever.
  5. Brown Dog Tick – carries both Rocky Mountain Spotted fever and Borrelia.
  6. The Lone Star Tick – not just at Texan tick! These are found in Canada, and can transmit Borrelia andersonii and Borrelia Americana, as well as Tularemia and Ehrlichia.
  7. Rocky Mountain Wood Tick – last, but not least. Transmits Colorado Tick Fever, Tularemia, and Rocky Mountain Spotted fever, and causes tick paralysis.

In most cases, you won’t be able to tell which tick has bitten you, so the best advice is to try to take it along with you, and seek medical advice for you or your dog, as soon as you become aware of a bite.

Tick Borne Diseases in Dogs

Ticks are tiny, but they can cause serious health problems. Some of the diseases ticks can expose your dog to include:

  1. Lyme disease, which is a zoonotic disease which affects dogs and humans. In humans, it usually presents with a telltale bullseye rash, but there’s no such rash in dogs. The main symptoms re fatigue, lameness, lethargy, lack of appetite and depression. Left untreated, Lyme disease symptoms can vary from mild to severe, and can include kidney failure and death.
  2. Tularemia in dogs is another bacterial infection caused by ticks that is zoonotic, and can affect dogs and their owners. It’s not common in dogs, but it does cause a long list of symptoms, including sudden onset fever, lethargy, dehydration, lack of appetite, swollen lymph nodes, enlarged spleen or liver, tender abdomen, white patches on the tongue and jaundice, often characterized by yellow eyes.
  3. Canine ehrlichiosis is an infection of the white blood cells that may go undiagnosed for a long time, by which time it may have infected and affected the bone marrow. Symptoms develop slowly, and can include loss of appetite, depression and lethargy, nasal discharge, and runny eyes, sometimes causes nosebleeds and gum bruising. May cause bruising on belly, joint pain, or lameness.
  4. Rocky Mountain Spotted fever is another zoonotic infection that can affect dogs and humans. Unlike the preceding diseases, it is acute onset, and progresses quickly, and in a matter of two weeks, can result in death. Rocky Mountain Spotted fever causes neurological symptoms and stiffness that may mimic arthritis.
  5. Canine anaplasmosis, which comes in two forms, both of which affect particular cells in the blood. Symptoms include neck pain and neurological symptoms, lethargy, lack of appetite and lameness. It is zoonotic, and can be a very serious health issue for you or your dog.
  6. Babesiosis, another zoonotic disease affecting blood cells, causes vomiting, weight loss and lack of appetite, lethargy, and weakness.
    Diagnosing Tick Borne Diseases

One of the biggest problems with tick borne diseases is that they do tend to share so many common symptoms. The other is that they are all very serious.

The only way to effectively treat a suspected tick borne disease is to visit your veterinarian as soon as possible after you suspect that ticks may be the cause. If you spot a tick on your dog, watch them very carefully for symptoms, and if you have the slightest inkling that something may be off, visit your vet sooner rather than later.

Diagnosis will probably involve bloodwork, which will identify the type of infection, and the sooner the disease is identified, the sooner treatment can start. Since tick borne diseases sometimes progress quickly, you should always treat this as a matter of urgency.

Protecting Your Dog from Ticks

While swift treatment is always advised if your dog is already infected with a tick-borne disease, prevention is always better than cure. Here’s what you can do to help keep your furry best bud safe:

  1. Avoid walking through long grass and bushes, where ticks like to live. Brushing past these plants can be all it takes for a tick to get onto your dog.
    Keep your yard neat and tidy. Ticks favor overgrown areas, not landscaped yards!
  2. If you do live in an area that is prone to ticks in summer, consider trimming your dog’s fur. Ticks are easier to spot on short, sleek coats.
  3. Check your dog for ticks after any long walks. Look in hard to reach places, like behind and inside ears, between the pads of their feed, and in the creases under their legs. Finding a tick that has already bitten your dog won’t protect them from infections, but can alert you to look out for symptoms.
  4. Ask your veterinarian for an oral treatment to protect your dog from ticks and fleas.
  5. Use topical products to add another layer of protection.
  6. Most importantly, if you feel that your dog is showing odd symptoms at any time, visit your vet. Always trust your gut if your pal looks off color. It can be the difference between life and death, and it’s always better to be safe than sorry.

Hopefully, this crash course in ticks and dogs in Canada has alerted you to some of the dangers, and some of the things you can do to prevent and treat tick borne diseases. Keep keeping your dog safe!

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