How to Protect Your Pets from Ticks

Sur la photo, une tique sur le doigt d’une personne devant son chien.

Pet owners should be aware of the potential harm caused by ticks. If you don’t already know, ticks are part of the arachnid family (such as spiders and scorpions). Adult ticks can range in size from 3 – 5 mm and they survive by feeding on the blood of animals and humans.

These tick bites can cause serious harm to your pets (and you!); and due to their size, they can be hard to detect. However, our partners at Pet Plus Us provides tips to protect your pets from ticks.

When is Tick Season?

When temperatures rise above 4-5 degrees Celsius, ticks become active. Which means tick season typically begins around early spring.

Where Can You Find Ticks?

Ticks can be found in many areas across Canada; and often prefer tall grasses, bush, leaf litter and even sandy beaches. That’s why it’s recommended that after every walk with your dog (when you’re not walking on a paved walkway) you check them for ticks.

What do Ticks Look Like?

Ticks are usually black or brown in colour and can turn a shade of greyish white once they’ve been feeding for about 24 hours.

What to Know About Your Pets and Ticks

What Do Ticks Look Like on Dogs and Cats?

When a tick bites its victim, they burrow their head in leaving only their hindside exposed. At a glance, they might look like a wart or mole on your pet, but if you look closer, you’ll be able to spot the tick’s legs.

How to Inspect Your Dog or Cat for Ticks?

Whether you’re taking your dog on a walk or have an outdoor cat, whenever they come home, you need to check them for ticks.

Ticks can be found hiding on your pet’s head, neck, in between their toes, inside their ears and on their legs. In cats, the most common areas ticks like to latch onto are the head, ears, cheeks, eyelids, and under the collar.

Dr. Jennifer Sperry, DVM, recommends running your fingers through your pet’s fur with a gentle pressure to feel for any small lumps. If you feel one, take a closer look to examine the area for the tick’s legs.

How to Remove a Tick From a Dog or Cat?

If you spot a tick, they must be removed as soon as possible. The longer a tick stays on your pet, the greater the chance of transmitting an infection.

To remove the tick, use a good set of tweezers or a tick fork. Be sure to pull straight outward —perpendicular to your pet’s skin. Avoid squeezing the tick’s body while removing the parasite and ensure that the entire tick is removed (including its head).

Afterwards, the tick can be disposed of by flushing it down the toilet.

If your pet is receiving a vet-recommended preventive medication, most species of ticks will die before any diseases can be transmitted.

How Can I Prevent Ticks from Biting my Dog or Cat?

There are many preventive products on the market that can help keep your pet safe. These include tick collars that protect the head and neck, topical spot treatments, medicated shampoos, sprays, and prescription medications. Your veterinarian will recommend the safest, and most effective preventative program for your pet, and your area.

If you live in a region that is known for a high concentration of Black-Legged Deer Ticks, your vet may also recommend a Lyme disease vaccine.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends the following preventive measures that can help make your garden less hospitable to ticks:

  • Remove fallen leaves regularly from your yard and dispose of debris
  • Mow your lawn regularly to keep it relatively short
  • Remove tall weeds
  • Try to restrict your pet’s play area to keep them away from shrubs and bushes

Note: Cats are extremely sensitive to some insecticides used in canine tick repellants. It’s very important not to use tick products meant for dogs on your cat.

These preventive procedures are not a substitute for your pet’s annual check-up at your local animal hospital and preventive medications from your vet. It’s important to get your pet tested for tick related illnesses, especially if you live in an area that is inhabited by ticks.

Lastly, regularly checking your pet every time they come back inside can stop a tick from fully embedding itself into your pet and causing health problems.

Tick Bite Symptoms in Dogs

Tick bites themselves are often asymptomatic or may only cause minor skin irritation.  However, ticks can spread dangerous bacteria that lead to serious health conditions, like Lyme disease. Without preventative medication for your dog, a tick-bite may cause one of these infections, which can cause vomiting, fever, swelling around joints, lameness, and lethargy.

Tick Bite Symptoms in Cats

If your cat was bitten by a tick and does not have preventative medication, they can also contract a tick-borne infection. Symptoms may include fever, lack of appetite, lameness, weight loss, lethargy, and itching.

Tick Treatment for Dogs and Cats

If your dog or cat is not on a preventative medication, you can take the tick to your veterinarian for identification. This will allow your veterinarian to determine you if your pet is at risk for tick-borne diseases. If you find a tick on your pet, and you are unsure of what to do, consult your veterinarian for more advice.

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