March is National Tick Awareness Month (NTAM). It is an initiative introduced in 2016 by the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA) in partnership with Merck Animal Health. Because of this initiative, pet owners are now aware of the risks of ticks and are learning how to protect their pets and families from these parasites and the diseases they can carry. Together, we can start to control ticks. Tick populations are growing and are becoming an increasing concern for pets and their owners. We spend a lot of time outdoors as pet owners and people whether we are out on walks, enjoying the mountains, or spending time around a campfire.

The vets at Happy Paws have been seeing more ticks in the past two years in Airdrie. This is likely due to habitat, weather changes, and wildlife movement into the city, such as coyotes and deer.

Companion Animal Parasite Council recommends that all dogs should be treated year-round, every year with tick control products. These products limit infestations on the pet, in the environment around the home, and prevents ticks from establishing themselves in the home. Once there is a home infestation, it may take several months to control the population and it may be necessary to hire an exterminator to eliminate the ticks from your home.

Ticks transmit a variety of diseases to both pets and people, and they are active throughout the year. Since they are active year-round, tick control and prevention should be practiced consistently to protect everyone in your home. Tick populations are dynamic and always changing, so it is imperative that you stay up to date on tick population trends and threats in your area.

There are many different species of ticks that can affect animals and humans and they have different and distinct life cycles. The types of ticks that affect dogs and cats are hard ticks (Ixodidae) and soft ticks (Argasidae).

Hard Ticks are the most common ticks found on dogs throughout North America. Hard ticks are all “three-host” ticks. This means that each mobile stage of the tick (larva, nymph, and adult) will molt off of the host and feed on a different host after molting to the subsequent stage. Female hard ticks deposit a sing, large group of eggs in the environment and within weeks or months (depending on the conditions of the environment), larva will hatch from the eggs. The larva will find a host to feed on for a few days and drop off when molting into a nymph. The nymph then finds a host to feed on for a few days and drops off and morphs into the adult, which then finds a third host. Female ticks will die after depositing their eggs.

Soft ticks are less common on pets. The life cycle of these ticks includes a larva stage and multiple nymph stages. The important soft tick to dogs in North America is the spinose ear tick (Otobius megnini). These ticks establish long-term infestations in the ear canal of its host, staying through the larva and nymph stages and leaving the host as an adult. Only the larva and nymphs are parasitic, the adults are non-feeding and free-living in the environment.

Direct Diseases caused by ticks:

  • Irritation and pruritus around the attachment site
  • Anemia from blood loss
  • Secondary infections leading to sepsis
  • Tick-borne toxicosis – localized inflammation, allergic hypersensitivity, or severe toxic reactions
  • Tick paralysis – a form of tick toxicosis – produced by female ticks of many species.

Did you know that dogs and cats can get Lyme Disease from ticks too? You can prevent it with care and vaccines!

  • Transmission of a given pathogen is often restricted to a particular tick species. For example, Lyme Disease is only transmitted from the genus Ixodes.
  • Hard ticks should all be considered potential vectors (an organism that transmits a disease or parasite from one animal or plant to another)
  • Transmission can vary depending on the feeding time required for the tick. Some can transmit within 3-6 hours of tick attachment, and some can require 24-48 hours of feeding before the host is infected.
  • Most transmitted diseases are from larva or nymphs. Adult ticks will pick up the pathogen from feeding on the same host.
  • Some pathogens are passed from an infected adult female tick through her eggs, so the eggs hatch already infected.

Where to find ticks?

  • Prevalence and range of individual ticks differ. Although, they are found throughout North America.
  • Brown Dog Ticks (Rhipicephalus sanginueus) live inside and around homes and kennels, anywhere dogs are.
  • Some ticks (Amblyomma americanum, Ixodes scapularis, and I. pacificus) live under leaf litter associated with natural wooded areas with wildlife.
  • Dermacentor spp. and Amblyomma maculatum are found in tall, grassy meadows, open wood along trails, and in open fields in agricultural areas.
  • Otobius megnini are often found in arid climates, west of the Mississippi river, particularly southcentral, southwestern United States.

In the past few years, ticks have expanded their range and seasonal tick activity varies by geographic region and climate.

If you have questions about specific ticks or what to do when you can’t reach the vet, don’t hesitate to ask our veterinarians at Happy Paws! Although, remember, prevention is the best medicine.