With the new regulations in place, we would like to inform you that we are now able to schedule vaccines and surgical procedures.
It may take longer than normal to schedule you in as we will be continuing to implement our COVID 19 social distancing protocols and we have a back log to work through.
During COVID 19 – Our Opening Hours will be
Mon – Fri 8am – 5pm
Sat9am – 12pm
If you would like to schedule an appointment or order product, you may do so by either clicking on the link and fill out the form or by calling us directly.
We are still not allowing clients into the building. When you come to the clinic, please go to the back door and ring the doorbell. We ask that you step back 6 feet. A staff member will come to greet and assist you.
A friendly reminder that it is now June 1st and your pets are due for their first dose of Heartworm prevention medication.
If you need a product, please click on the form link above. Once we process your order, we will contact you to let you know it’s ready.
We ask for payment prior to pickup to help expedite the process.
For Pet Food & Supplies: All your pets food and supplies can be ordered through our online store and delivered straight to your door or picked up at the clinic. You can also call the clinic and we will prepare your order. We ask that you pay for the order over the phone prior to coming for pickup so that we can practice proper social distancing.
Please click on image to link to our ONLINE store
Click Image to read Dr. Brian Laing’s blog
For additional information on COVID – 19, please visit these credible sources from our government health units
Your dog could be bringing a hidden danger into your home – Let me explain.
As a veterinarian my focus had always been on preventing Lyme disease in dogs. I had always thought that when a tick crawls onto a dog it posed little risk to the owner, just the dog. How wrong I was. Here is the real-life scenario that I witnessed that I think all people should be aware of as it opened my eyes to a hidden danger.
A mother and her adult daughter went for a one-hour walk in the Rouge Valley with their dog Scruffy. They then got into their car and drove home. While having coffee in their kitchen the daughter noticed a bug crawling on a chair, then another on the wall. They were ticks! m“Where did the ticks come from? What are they doing in our house, don’t they live in the woods?” they wondered. Then it came to them, “The dog!”They checked Scruffy and found another two ticks embedded in the skin behind his ears.
This is when we got involved. I removed the ticks. They were Deer Ticks, the kind that carry Lyme disease. Worse, the ravine that they had been walking in was known to have ticks carrying Lyme disease. This was a real danger. This both puzzled and concerned me. I had always assumed that a tick, once it grabbed hold of a dog’s fur and climbed aboard, would waste no time in latching on; but two ticks had spent part of the walk and the car ride home wandering over the dog and had fallen off in their home. Why had they not attached to the dog?
Researching this I found the answer. Ticks are programmed to try and attach around the head, neck, and ears where the skin is thinner and the dog has more trouble grooming so that there is less chance of them being removed. They cement themselves in place once they attach so, unlike a flea who bites and moves, a tick is committed to the spot it selects. It wants to make sure that it is a good one. This means that after a weekend walk in the woods or long grass, a dog could pick up ticks and drop them in the owner’s car or home.
These ticks or nymphs (immature stages the size or a grain of sand to a poppy seed) would then be free to attach themselves to the unsuspecting people or children in the home or be waiting in the car for the husband or wife to set out Monday morning for work.
They could then crawl up the unsuspecting driver’s neck and attach in their hairline where they would be difficult to detect especially if they were the tiny nymphs. Undetected they could pass Lyme disease onto the owner without treatment being initiated.
This frightened me. This is a huge extra risk for owners that many are not aware of. My focus had always been on protecting the dog and we can do this with vaccines and topical or oral tick medications, but this illustrated that your dog can actually bring ticks into your car and house that are still looking for a host.
Avril Lavigne contracted Lyme disease and has no idea when or how she was bitten. Could a tick have hitched a ride to her home on her dog?
So what can we do?
One solution is to apply a tick treatment to the dog that repels ticks and kills ticks on contact so that they do not climb aboard the dog to be transported into the car, or if they do climb on the dog they come in contact with a pesticide and even if they drop off in the house they will die and not pose a danger to the home owners. The topical we recommend will kill a tick in under three hours if it spends just 10 minutes on the dog. Another is to carry a lint roller in the glove compartment and run it over the dog before getting into the car. This will pick up the tiny nymphs and adults.
Lyme disease is spreading, ticks don’t care who or what they bite so it is important that we do all we can to prevent our families from being bitten. Lyme disease is real, it is not just something we read about. Here is a list of some famous people who have contracted Lyme Disease: Avril Lavigne, Yolanda Foster, former President George Bush, Amy Tan, Aleck Baldwin, Jamie Lynn Sigler, and Rebecca Wells. Make sure you know the danger and how to protect yourself and your pets.
Things to know about ticks:
Only the black legged tick or ‘Deer tick’ carries Lyme disease.
Deer ticks come in three sizes. Larvae, the size of a grain of sand, nymphs, the size of a poppy seed and adults, the size of a sesame seed. This means that they can be difficult to find especially as they crawl under clothing and latch on in hard-to-see places.
Ticks crawl up, they don’t jump or fly or fall from trees.
You have 24 hours to find and remove a deer tick before it can transmit Lyme disease so early detection is key.
Ticks can be active even in winter. We have had owners find ticks on their pets in January or February on warm sunny days where the temperature hovers around 0°Celsius.
Health officials recommend that Canadians be aware of the risks of Lyme disease and take precautions.
Here is a list of 9 precautions that you can take:
Cover up with light-colored clothing to spot ticks more easily.
Wear closed-toed shoes.
Tuck your pant legs in to your socks to prevent ticks from crawling up your legs.
Tuck your shirt in to prevent ticks from getting on to your skin.
Use insect repellents that contain DEET or Icaridin.
Shower or bathe within two hours of being outdoors to wash away loose ticks.
Do daily “full body” checks for ticks on yourself, your children and your pets. Use a lint roller.
If you find a tick on your skin, remove it within 24 to 36 hours.
Apply a tick repellent to your dog so that he/she isn’t a source of entry into your home for the ticks. Tick Life Cycle
Update April 2019:
I first wrote this in 2016. Since then I have had 4 more owners tell me that they have seen ticks fall off their dogs in their homes. In September 2018 a new client told me about an incident that confirmed my worst fear. His dog was on an ‘internal’ tick preventative. When his dog came in from outside he had hopped up on the couch for a nap with the owner. When he awoke, he discovered that he had a deer tick imbedded in his neck. The owner had not been outside. This tick had come inside on his dog! Fortunately it was in an area where he noticed it and was treated by his doctor. If it had been in his hairline he might not have noticed it and potentially contracted lyme disease without ever knowing that he had been at risk. This is important to understand: “Without a product that repels or kills ticks on contact, your dog could be bringing a danger into your home.” While ‘internal’ and topical tick preventatives do an equally efficient job at protecting your dog. Only a topical can prevent a tick from being transported into your house by your dog, falling off, and potentially biting you or your family. If your dog frequents areas with a high risk of ticks, it is my recommendation that you use a topical tick preventative.
When it comes to taking care of their pets, most owners think about vaccination, diet, and exercise. Most, underestimate the importance of dental care. Shockingly, 4 out of 5 dogs and cats over the age of three develop periodontal disease.
Like us, every time your pet eats, food particles adhere to their teeth – and where there’s food, there’s bacteria. If not adequately removed, saliva and bacteria combine to form plaque. This plaque then calcifies and hardens into tartar, which provides a safe haven for bacteria to multiply. The accumulation of bacteria laden plaque and tartar will lead to oral health issues, most commonly, periodontal disease. Our pets are also at risk for broken teeth, orthodontic problems, and even cavities. All of these issues can affect our pet’s oral health, obviously, but studies have shown that there is a correlation between oral health issues and systemic general health issues affecting the kidneys, heart, and metabolic systems. In other words, bad breath and tartar can lead to a sick pet.
Now you may be asking yourself is there anything we can be doing to prevent and reverse dental disease? Absolutely! It all starts with preventative dental care. Here are some tips on how to practice good dental care that will extend your pets life.
The best thing we can do for our pets teeth is brush them, and I mean daily. We don’t brush our teeth once a week or once a month. The same principles apply to our pets. I know this isn’t for most owners, I’m one of them. For those select few of you who are willing to brush your pet’s teeth I commend you.
AHAA, the American Animal Hospital Association , has put together an informative article on how to brush your pet’s teeth. Below is a condensed version of their 5 step approach.
To clean the inside surfaces of your pet’s teeth:
1. Place your hand over your pet’s muzzle from the top 2. Gently squeeze and push their lips on one side between the back teeth 3. Pull their head back gently so their mouth opens 4. Brush their teeth on the opposite side 5. Repeat this process for the other side
Daily brushing of your pet’s teeth is the gold standard for preventative dental care but there are other alternatives that can help. When we brush our teeth it’s not the toothpaste that is doing the majority of the work, but rather the mechanical action of the toothbrush. There are now diets on the market that leverage this knowledge and that have been designed to simulate the action of toothbrushes. Most kibbles out there are small and brittle. So when, or in some cases if, our pets chew their kibble it crumbles apart and does nothing for their teeth. Dental diets are formulated so that their teeth sink into the kibble which in turn scrub them clean.
In addition to dental diets there are now dental treats. Some work on the same principles as dental diets whereas others have enzymes in them to help dissolve plaque. There is a plethora of options on the market and finding the right ones can be daunting. A helpful guideline is to look for foods and treats with a specific seal of approval from the VOHC – the Veterinary Oral Health Council. Products with their seal of approval have undergone additional testing to prove that they help retard plaque and tartar buildup.
Daily oral care is vital but doesn’t replace the need for routine dental exams and cleanings by your veterinarian. Dental exams should be a routine part of your pet’s physical exams. They can help identify dental disease early, and appropriate treatment plans can be discussed.
With proper daily oral care, routine veterinary exams, and a healthy diet, you will make a positive difference in the overall health of your pets.
To promote dental care, during the month of February & March, our technicians are available for a free dental exam and tooth cleaning demonstrations . Furthermore, we our offering a 15% discount on all dental cleaning.
With the warm weather comes the return of parasites attempting to prey on our pets. How do we choose what to use to protect our pets and family with the plethora of products on the market? I personally believe in tailoring preventive care, both vaccines and anti-parasitics, to your family and pet’s lifestyle and situation. As an example, a pet with a town or city lifestyle will have different risks with regard to parasites than a pet with a country or cottage lifestyle. Similarly a family with very young children who are constantly putting their hands in their mouths will have different concerns than a retired couple. Parasite Facts:
Ticks are a relatively new risk in this area (York and Durham Regions, Ontario) . Aside from the obvious unappealing prospect of being bit by a tick, ticks can carry a number of diseases, the most dangerous being Ly me disease. Lyme disease is Lyme disease has been reported in the Rouge Valley so it is now a risk in this area if your dog frequents long grassy or bushy areas. The first symptoms your dog develops if it contracts Lyme disease is arthritis and it starts weeks to months after the bite. The most serious long-term effects are heart disease, neurologic signs and kidney disease. Humans are much more susceptible to Lyme disease and the symptoms develop rapidly after infection. 80% of people develop a rash and/or flu like symptoms. In the next few weeks 15% of people develop neurologic signs and 5% of people developing heart problems. All of these symptoms develop in humans before a similarly affected dog develops its first signs. Are ticks attached to my dog a danger to me? No, once a tick attaches and starts feeding it does not change hosts. However, your dog can transport unattached ticks that can drop off and pose a risk to owners. Due to this potential risk, if you are in a high risk area a topical tick preventative on your dog may be the best option. This is what I do for my Golden Retriever Orion.
Ticks survive our winter and are out ‘questing’ when temperatures are above 4o C so now is the time to start with your tick preventatives. We are already finding ticks on clients’ pets. Unfortunately, with the changing climate the ‘tick season’ is getting longer, now becoming 8-9 months depending on when it gets cold. Also, it is harder to decide if a dog is at low or ‘no risk’ as we are finding ticks on dogs that frequent areas where we would not expect to find ticks. For instance the tick pictured below was found on a Cairn terrier whose only area of ‘risk’ was the long grass surrounding a baseball diamond.
Unlike the start of tick prevention which is highly dependant on outside temperatures and is hard to predict with our changing climate, heartworm prevention is still predictable and doesn’t need to start until June 1st. This is because when you use your heartworm prevention it kills any ‘baby heartworm’, called icrofilaria, injected into your dog in the last 50 days which is April 10th.
It takes a heartworm larva 10 days under warm conditions to migrate from the mosquito’s stomach to its mouthparts where is can infect the next dog that the mosquito bites. This means that for your dog to require starting heartworm medication before June 1st there has to have been 10 days of 280C (820F) before April 10th, something that as of yet does not happen. An average mosquito harbours about 12 heartworm larvae. Once injected into a dog, it takes the heartworm 6 months to reach the heart and produce baby heartworm. At this point they can be detected by a blood test. Adult heartworms are said to live 5-7 years in a dog.
Cats are more resistant to heartworm infection than dogs and only 5-10% of larvae injected into a cat develop into adults whereas close to 100% of injected larvae develop into adults in dogs.Consequently an infected cat has on average 1-3 adults in its heart whereas an infected dog can have over 100. Cats are also poorer at transmitting heartworm.
Summer has finally arrived and winter is now a distant memory. With the warmer weather, it is important to remember that heat exhaustion is a common occurrence even here in Ontario. Every summer, patients are presented to veterinarians for treatments of heat stroke. Cases of heat stroke can be mild, but unfortunately can be severe and even prove to be fatal to some pets. At Town & Country Animal Hospital, we have already treated heat exhaustion this year!
As the summer heat and humidity continue, modifying our pets routines accordingly becomes increasingly important. It’s a well known fact that on a sunny day, temperatures inside a car can quickly become intolerable. What many people fail to realize however, is that even outside in non-shaded areas, the heat can quickly affect our pets and cause serious problems.
The reason this occurs is because dogs do not sweat the way we do. In fact, the only sweat glands they have are on the pads of their feet. Additionally, dogs pant to cool down. If a dog cannot effectively cool down, their internal body temperature begins to rise. Heat stroke occurs when their internal body temperature reaches (41oC or 106oF). At these temperatures, multi-organ failure can quickly develop. Tragically, every year thousands of dogs suffer from and die from heat stroke. The good news is that you can learn to recognize signs of heat stroke and prevent it from happening to your dog.
What are the signs of heat stroke?
Signs of heat exhaustion – the last step before heat stroke – include
Bright red tongue
Red or pale gums
Thick, sticky saliva
How to Prevent Heat Stroke?
Once heat exhaustion develops, cooling them down is of the utmost importance. If you believe your dog is suffering from heat exhaustion, remove them from the heat, calm them down and douse them in cool water. Run cold water over them until the signs of heat exhaustion subside. If they are vomiting and/or are weak and dizzy head to the nearest veterinarian immediately. Even a few minutes can make all the difference in the world.
Provide access to ample water
Ensure dogs outside have access to shade
Restrict exercise – excessive exercise on hot days can be very dangerous
Avoid concrete or asphalted area where heat is reflected
Do not leave you pet in a parked car, even in the shade – temperatures inside a parked car can quickly reach 60oC or 140oF Check out this great video by Dr. Ernie Ward that shows how quickly things can change for a pet when left in a hot car.
Be extra careful with pets that are more at risk of overheating – even normal activity can be dangerous for these pets
○ Pets with heart disease
○ Obese animals
○ Older pets
○ Brachycephalic dogs – short nosed breeds
Wet your dog with cool water or allow them to swim to help maintain normal body temperature
Prevention is the best way to avoid heat exhaustion. Be mindful of your pet’s tolerance to the heat and allow them free access to water, plenty of shade and never leave them in a car – even for a minute.
By Dr. Brendon Laing Last year in Southern Ontario ticks received a great deal of media attention due to their involvement in the transmission of Lyme disease. Unfortunately, this disease cannot only affects our pets, but us humans as well. In pets, clinical signs include: fever, loss of appetite, joint disease and, in severe cases kidney failure. In humans, symptoms may include fever, headache, swollen lymph nodes, cognitive dysfunction and nervous systemdisorders.
Many people are unaware that ticks emerged as a threat in Ontario back in 2009 and the government of Canada has been monitoring their progress ever since. Ticks have migrated from the eastern seaboard of the United States and colonized two areas of Canada – Kingston and Turkey Point. Since this time, they have spread approximately 43 kilometers a year surrounding Toronto. In the spring of 2015, the Rouge Valley near the Toronto Zoo, became classified as a ‘Lyme Hot Spot’, soon anticipated to be endemic. Unfortunately, Health Canada predicts Lyme disease will spread across all of Ontario by 2020.
So what are Ticks? Ticks are small bug-like parasites that spend most of their days living in forests and long grass. They lie awaiting a host (deer, dog, cat, human) to walk by at which point they grab hold of fur or skin. They do not jump as fleas do and, unlike fleas, who can bite up to 400 times a day, ticks only bite once. For the first 24 hours, ticks adhere themselves to their host. They burrow their heads into the skin and produce a numbing agent.
The good news is that there are steps that you can take to protect you and your furry loved ones. When hiking in the woods wear closed-toe shoes, long-sleeved shirts and pants, pull your socks over your pant legs. The use of an insect repellent containing DEET and doing a full-body check for adult ticks may aid in tick prevention.
Your veterinarian has topical and oral products that can help protect your pets. In addition, a Lyme vaccine is available for dogs who frequent forests known to have Lyme disease carrying ticks.
For even more detailed info on Ticks, we suggest reading Dr. Brian Laing’s ‘Tick Talk’ Blog. The page also contains a video of a live fully feed tick that he removed from a patient. Futhermore there is a video of his interview on Rogers Cable TV.
This may be the most wonderful of the year; however it can also be some of
the most dangerous to our beloved pets. From deliciously rich holiday treats to enticing shiny decorations, the holiday season brings plenty of risks and temptations for our pets. Even the most vigilant of owners can become distracted with the extra responsibilities of additional people coming and going during this season. Even though we love seeing your pets, we want to avoid making an emergency visit to a veterinarian part of your holiday festivities. Follow our advice to help keep your pets safe this holiday season.
Festive event mean delicious edible treats – and lots of them. Unfortunately for our pets, a number of the most popular holiday goodies can be extremely toxic and fatal. Chocolate and coffee are among the worst culprits. Depending on the amount ingested they can cause signs of vomiting and diarrhea or hyperactivity, heart arrhythmias and seizures.
Guests & Holiday Foods
As friends and family inundate our homes, some may feel the desire to share
these holiday meals with your pets. Feeding rich holiday foods can very quickly
lead to a trip to the hospital. Fatty foods lead to pancreatitis, a painful and
potentially life-threatening condition. Furthermore, guests may feel that giving
leftover bones is not harmful but this certainly is not the case. Apart from being a
choking hazard, bones can shatter, splinter and perforate the intestines or cause
intestinal blockage. Educating visitors about the detrimental health issues that
feeding table scraps can help minimize these risks. In addition, providing them
with pet friendly snacks can reduce all potential scenarios listed above.
Christmas Tree & Decorations
A bountiful Christmas tree is always a pleasant sight and an integral part of my
Christmas. However, they can pose a danger to our fury little friends. Firstly,
mischievous cats loving playing in and around Christmas trees. Securing your tree
to the ceiling using a fishing line can prevent it and kitty from coming crashing
down. Ornaments and tinsel often adorn our Christmas trees and can become
prime candidates for causing lacerations or foreign bodies. Place glass, aluminum,
and paper ornaments higher up on the tree to avoid accidental ingestion.
It’s not just what’s on the tree that can pose an issue. Be mindful of what is
placed underneath your tree as well. Just because wrapping paper keeps presents
a mystery to us, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it will to our pets. Cats and dogs
have very keen sense of smell. Depending on the breed, their sense of smell is 1,000 to 10,000,000 times more sensitive than ours. Therefore, they are quite adept at seeking out that decadent box of chocolates.
Holiday plants, milestone, lilies, poinsetias, amaryllis and holly, are hidden
dangers that we don’t commonly think of. These plants may get you into the holiday spirits but they can be toxic to pets. If you suspect ingested a poisonous plant, call your local veterinarian or the clinicASPCA’sPetPoisonControlHotline
Do you have a brother-in-law that is diffcult to handle? An aunt that is hard to
listen to after a couple of wobbly-pops? There are families that fight like cats and
dogs, so is it any surprise that forcing pets to interact together can also be a
contentious experience? Take caution when introducing new pets to each other.
Consider separating pets in closed rooms before leaving them at home
Preparedness is the key to a successful holiday season. Understanding the risks
that come with the festivities is the first step. Remember to be conscious of
friends, family, loved-ones as well as our furry little friends. From all of us at Town
and Country Animal Hospital, we wish you Happy Holidays and a Happy New
1 Trick-or-treat candies are not for pets. All forms of chocolate — especially baking or dark chocolate — can be dangerous, even lethal, for dogs and cats. Symptoms of chocolate poisoning may include vomiting, diarrhea, rapid breathing, increased heart rate, and seizures. Halloween candies containing the artificial sweetener xylitol can also be poisonous to dogs. Even small amounts of xylitol can cause a sudden drop in blood sugar and subsequent loss of coordination and seizures. And while xylitol toxicity in cats has yet to be established, it’s better to be safe than sorry. If you do suspect your pet has ingested something toxic, please call the clinic. As always, your Stouffville vets at TCAH are there for you 24/7.
2 Don’t leave pets out in the yard on Halloween. Surprisingly, vicious pranksters have been known to tease, injure, steal, and even kill pets on Halloween night. Inexcusable? Yes! But preventable nonetheless.
3 Keep pets confined and away from the door. Not only will your door be constantly opening and closing on Halloween, but strangers will be dressed in unusual costumes and yelling loudly for their candy. This, of course, is scary for our furry friends. Dogs are especially territorial and may become anxious and growl at innocent trick-or-treaters. Putting your dog or cat in a secure room away from the front door will also prevent them from darting outside into the night … a night when no one wants to be searching for a lost loved one.
4 Keep your outdoor cats inside several days before and several days after Halloween. Black cats are especially at risk from pranks or other cruelty-related incidents. In fact, many shelters do not adopt out black cats during the month of October as a safety precaution.
5 Keep Halloween plants such as pumpkins and corn out of reach. Although they are relatively nontoxic, such plants can induce gastrointestinal upset should your pets ingest them in large quantities. Intestinal blockage can even occur if large pieces are swallowed. And speaking of pumpkins …
6 Don’t keep lit pumpkins around pets. Should they get too close, they run the risk of burning themselves or knocking it over and causing a fire.
7 Keep wires and electric light cords out of reach. If chewed, your pet could cut himself or herself on shards of glass or plastic, or receive a possibly life-threatening electrical shock.
8 Don’t dress your pet in a costume unless you know they’ll love it. If you do decide to dress your pet in a costume, make sure it isn’t annoying or unsafe. It should not constrict movement, hearing, or the ability to breathe or bark and meow.
9 Try on pet costumes before the big night. If they seem distressed, allergic, or show abnormal behavior, consider letting them go in their “birthday suit”. Festive bandanas usually work for party poopers, too.
10 IDs, please! If your dog or cat should escape and become lost, having the proper identification will increase the chances that they will be returned. Just make sure the information is up-to-date, even if your pet does have one of those fancy-schmancy embedded microchips.
Have a Safe & Happy Halloween from The doctors and staff at Town & Country Animal Hospital
Imagine a world in which rabies is nothing more than a distant memory. According to the World Health Organization, eradication of rabies is possible – simply by vaccinating dogs.
Everyone has heard of rabies, but there are a lot of myths surrounding this disease. The Global Alliance for Rabies Control has declared September 28 of each year to be World Rabies Day to help spread the word that we can put an end to rabies in pets and humans.
Here are some facts about rabies:
– Rabies is a zoonotic disease, which means it can be transmitted from animals to humans. – It is a virus that is transmitted through saliva or tissues from the nervous system – it is most commonly transmitted through a bite. – Every year, approximately 59,000 people die of this disease, and up to 40% of them are children under the age of 15. – Each year, more than 15 million people around the world receive a post-exposure vaccine. – Once symptoms develop, rabies is nearly always fatal. – In North America, rabies is most commonly transmitted by bats. Since bats with rabies often don’t fly well, people may pick them up, thinking they are helping an injured animal. If you find a bat in your garden or home, don’t touch it. And since bats have tiny teeth, you may not even feel a bite, so if you ever wake up in a room with a bat, or find a child or any person who can’t tell you what happened in a room with a bat, seek health care assistance immediately.
An ounce of prevention:
-The best way to prevent rabies is to vaccinate all of your pets – particularly your dogs. – If you have any questions about your dog’s immunizations, contact our clinic. -Keep children and pets away from wild animals and pets you don’t know. -Keep garbage secure and don’t leave food outdoors that could attract wildlife. -Bat-proof your home. -Contact animal control to report stray or ill animals.
Rabies is a horrifying disease that results in tens of thousands of unnecessary human deaths, and countless deaths in dogs, too. Spread the word that together we can put an end to rabies.
Unfortunately ticks are becoming more prevalent in Ontario, and with them, the risk of contracting Lyme Disease.
Ticks are skin parasites that feed on the blood of their hosts. They are attracted to motion, warm temperatures from body heat, and the carbon dioxide exhaled by mammals.
The bite itself is not usually painful, but the parasite remains attached for 5-7 days and can transmit diseases such as Lyme Disease and cause tick paralysis, which is why tick control is so important.
Tick Life Cycle Ticks have four life stages: egg, larva, nymph, and adult. Each stage requires a blood meal before it can molt into the next stage.
When eggs hatch, the larva attach to a mouse or bird for their first blood meal then detach and molt. Nymphs then repeat the cycle, detaching and becoming adults. Once mice become infected with lyme, they serve as a reservoir for the disease, infecting new larvae or nymphs. Adult ticks attach to mammals or birds for up to 12 days then detach and lay up to 3000 eggs each.
Ticks do not jump onto their victims, but climb up on long grass or bushes and sit with arms extended waiting to grab on to a passing mammal, bird or human. This is called ‘questing’.
Both adult ticks and nymphs can overwinter and are out looking for a blood meal first thing in the spring. This results in two danger periods for ticks in Ontario. The first runs from April to the end of June. This period consists of adults or nymphs that have overwintered searching for blood meals. By the end of June most adults looking for blood meals have found one and dropped off to lay their eggs.
July and August therefore have fewer ticks on the prowl until the eggs hatch, giving rise to the second danger period lasting from August until November.
Where do I find ticks? Ticks do not jump but climb up on long grass or bushes and sit with arms extended waiting to grab on to a passing mammal, bird or human.
For this reason, ticks are found in forests or in long grass bordering bushy areas. Unfortunately both ticks and lyme disease are spreading in Ontario.
The map below shows the prevalence of Lyme Disease in Ontario in 2013 as detected by one veterinary lab.
Ticks can crawl on birds and hence travel long distances.
What to do if I find a tick on my pet? The safest way to remove a tick is to use rubbing alcohol and a pair of tweezers. Dab rubbing alcohol on the tick, and then use the tweezers to take hold of the tick as close to the dog’s skin as you can; pull slowly and steadily. Try not to leave the tick’s head embedded in the dog’s skin. Don’t squeeze the tick because it might inject some disease-causing organisms, such as bacteria, viruses, protozoa, or other agents, into your pet during the process.
There are special tick removing instruments you can purchase which are easier to use, or, you can bring your pet to your veterinarian to safely remove the tick.
Next, save the tick and bring it to your local veterinarian. He or she can send the tick to the lab to identify and test it to see if it carries lyme disease. Ticks require 48 hours on your pet to transmit the disease so the sooner the tick is detected and removed the better. Your veterinarian will then be able to advise you whether treatment is required. Having the tick tested to see if it carries lyme disease is a good idea because your dog goes where you do and if ticks in your area carry lyme disease it is good to know about it for your family’s safety.
What should I look for in my pet if I suspect Lyme disease? Clinical signs in dogs include not eating, lethargy, pain in the musculoskeletal system and joints [especially the carpus (wrist)], lameness, joint swelling, fever, enlarged lymph nodes, heart infection, complete heart block, glomerulonephritis (kidney infection), aggression, and seizures. Most cases are seen in May-August when the nymphs are feeding or in September-November when the adults are feeding.
What are the symptoms if I am infected? In humans many case of lyme disease are transmitted by nymphs which are very small and hard to detect.
The initial primary symptom is a red rash. This progresses to flu-like symptoms and eventually inflammation of the nervous system, heart and joints.
Some people may develop post-Lyme disease syndrome (PLDS). A condition also known as chronic Lyme disease includes PLDS, but also other syndromes. Usually, these are characterized by persistent musculoskeletal and peripheral nerve pain, fatigue, and memory impairment.
In dogs we are fortunate that we have two products that help deal with ticks and prevent lyme disease.
First, we can products that address ticks. We have a topical, Advantix which is a topical that kills ticks and prevents them from grabbing hold of hairs to climb on your pet. This means that your dog will not be bringing any ticks or nymphs into the car or home. It also means that ticks won’t be able to bit and transfer lyme disease to your dog. This year we also have a pill that last 9 weeks and kills ticks that attach themselves to your dog.
The second tool we have is a vaccine for lyme disease that helps prevent your dog from developing the disease. This is important because dogs have long hair and it is often hard to detect a tick which means that they can feed and detach without you ever being aware your dog had a tick and the possibility of picking up lyme disease.
Another helpful trick is to wipe down both yourself and your dog with a lint roller when you exit the forest before getting into your car. The lint roller will pick up any ticks crawling on your clothing or your dog’s coat looking to attach themselves.
Our forests are wonderful this time of year and can be enjoyed safely if you take the proper precautions. Don’t stay away from them out of fear, but don’t ignore the ever-increasing threat of ticks. Protect your family and your pet.
Watch Dr. Brian Laing discussing Lyme Disease on Daytime