While we may not be taking our dogs out on the adventures that they are used to during these difficult times, it is still extremely important to have your pet on a flea, tick and heartworm preventive and to have them tested for prior exposure to heartworm or other tick-bourne diseases.
Unfortunately for our pets, both ticks and mosquitoes can carry potentially fatal diseases that can be passed on. Ticks for example, can carry Lyme disease, ehrlichiosis, babesiosis, or anaplasmosis; mosquitoes can carry heartworms and fleas can carry tapeworms
When do we test for heartworm and tick-bourne diseases?
We begin testing for heartworm and tick-bourne diseases after April 15th. To understand why we test in the spring, it is important to know a bit about the heartworm life cycle, which can be seen below.
There are some wonderful products available for our pets to make sure that these diseases aren't transferred from said insect to your pet.
We have both chewable and topical medications to help control insects on your pet. The topicals we carry produce what is called a "hot-foot" effect. When a tick, flea or mosquito touches your pet's skin, it causes a burning sensation on the bottom of the insect's feet causing them to hop off of your pet and not even have a chance to feed. This medication is then distributed through their body and kills them. The chewables work by traveling through your pet's bloodstream and when an insect feeds, it is automatically ingesting this medication causing them to die. Both products work exceptionally well at controlling fleas and ticks. With regards to heartworm, transferred by mosquitoes, you do need a different medication.
Blood testing is strongly encouraged yearly for tick-borne diseases and mandatory for heartworm prevention. Many tick-borne diseases can be treated with a short course of antibiotics if detected early. Commonly symptoms of tick-borne diseases appear vague and often go unnoticed for long periods of time. Often many pet owners don't know their dog is suffering from a debilitating tick disease until it is too late.
Here at Snelgrove Vet, we offer our clients a broad spectrum test called the 4DX. This test requires a small blood sample from your dog, which is then checked for the heartworm antigen as well as any antibodies to one of the five tick-borne diseases. We are especially concerned about the presence of lyme disease at this time, as there has been a surge in black-legged tick activity over the past few years. These are the ticks we are seeing most often, and they are the vectors of transmission for lyme disease, which can infect not only your pets, but also yourself and can become a very serious disease.
Long-term exposure to ticks that may be attached to the body for a period of 12-24 hours may be enough time to transmit the bacteria that cause Anaplasmosis in humans. If left untreated, these bacteria may spread from people to people, causing headaches, chills and fever.
A tick that carries the Lyme disease bacteria is capable of carrying the other related infections including Babesiosis, Ehrlichiosis, and Anaplasmosis, as all are spread by bacteria that the tick ingests and passes on from a victim to other humans. These ticks can remain active all year round.
Lyme Disease is transmitted to pets by the bite of an infected backlegged tick. This is not an ideal scenario for your pet and indeed for yourself, as this bacterial infection can be passed along to humans as well, causing headaches, fever, rashes and fatigue.
Symptoms of progressive tick-borne diseases can include but are not limited to:
Joint pain and inflammation
Low-grade persistent fever
Swelling at bite site
Loss of appetite
Spontaneous and shifting lameness
Reluctant to move
Weight loss, may or may not include muscle wasting
Bruising on gums or belly
Discharge from eyes
Where Do Ticks Live?
Ticks are typically found in forested areas and any overgrown areas including our own backyards. They don't typically like sunny short-grassed areas but that's not to say they can't be there.
Keep your lawn and outdoor play areas safe. Keep shrubs and grass trimmed. Clean up any leaves or debris, especially underneath bushes. Limit shrubs and plants from areas your children and/or pets frequent, i.e. swing-sets, outdoor dining areas, etc. Keep areas around sheds and other buildings free of debris, especially in shady areas. For more information and a map of tick disease in our area, visit the Parasite Prevalence Map.
Many people already know that fleas can live in our households, but did you know so can the brown dog tick? These ticks will live and reproduce in our houses just like fleas and typically need an exterminator to get rid of. Topical preventives and checking your pet's skin will help prevent these pesky creatures from moving into your home. We have also seen an increase of deer ticks in the Brampton area. These ticks are the carriers of Lyme disease.
View your available heartworm preventive options:
We feature the following flea and tick preventatives: