Along with the warmer weather, comes the arrival of everyone’s least favourite pet pest – ticks! Check out the what, where, how and why of these pesky arachnids and how to get through the spring tick season safely with your pet
What are ticks?
A tick is a tiny parasite that feeds on animal and human blood. While they can be found on cats, our dogs are more susceptible because we take them out more on walks through parks, fields and wooded areas. Ticks are usually quite small and therefore difficult to detect, with some being as small as a poppy seed, but will grow much larger once they are engorged with blood, often to the size of a small jellybean.
Where can ticks be found?
Ticks reside just about everywhere in Saskatchewan, including urban parks and green spaces. They prefer to live in wooded areas, tall grasses and under leaf and other organic debris.
Why should you be concerned about ticks?
While most tick encounters end with little or no discomfort for your pet, ticks are notorious carriers of Lyme disease. Because ticks are so widespread, the odds of people or pets encountering them are strong, especially during the spring when they are very active. According to a study published by the Government of Canada in 2017, human cases of Lyme disease have been increasing over the past number of years, and it only stands to reason that the risk to our pets is also on the rise. Lyme disease can cause joint pain, fever and liver complications in your pet, which can be severe and require veterinary care.
How to check for ticks.
Starting at your pet’s head, run your fingers through their fur, feeling for any lumps or bumps that you had not noticed before. Be sure to check under their collar or harness, in their groin area, under their front legs and in and around their ears – these are favourite hiding places for ticks.
If you find a tick, here’s how to remove it.
While ticks are not fun, there is no need to panic. Part your pet’s fur so you can get a good look at the tick. Your goal is to remove the entire tick, including the head and mouth. This is best-done with fingernails or tweezers so you can get as close to the skin as possible when gripping the tick’s mouth. Once you have a good grip, gently pull the tick out of the skin. Ideally, you should do a ‘tick check’ after each outing, particularly if your route included wooded or bushy areas or tall grass.
Help prevent the spread of ticks
While ticks are not about to go away, you can take some preventative measures to reduce the risk to your pet. Consult with your family veterinarian to explore your options.