It’s Time! Test & Protect Your Dogs and Outdoor Cats
Spring is here. The daily temperatures are routinely climbing above 3ºC. The parasites that seek out your pets are waking up and questing for food in the form of your pet’s blood. Now is the time to test and protect your pets from the dangers of ticks and the diseases they carry.
Ticks, Disease, and Your Dog
The three most dangerous diseases that ticks carry are Lyme Disease, Anaplasmosis and Ehrlichia.
Lyme disease can cause severe lameness, moving between your dog’s joints. It can also cause severe, possibly deadly kidney disease. Once a dog or person gets Lyme disease they have it for life, and any repeat infection can make the disease much, much worse. This is one of the reasons we need to test your dog for Lyme annually using the 4DX test. If we know your dog has already been infected we can take extra measures to prevent any re-infection. Infected dogs cannot directly pass Lyme to a person or other dog. The bacteria must pass through a tick to be transmitted to another host.
Ehrlichia & Anaplasmosis
Lyme isn’t the only serious disease ticks carry. Anaplasmosis and Ehrlichia are also increasing. Ehrlichia can prevent your dog’s blood from clotting. Anaplasmosis organisms invade red blood cells and cause severe anemia.
How Can I Protect My Dog?
- Have a 4DX blood test done, to be sure your dog doesn’t have an existing infection.
- Start your dog on a tick preventative medication as soon as the temperature is over 3C, which means starting now. Keep them on the preventive until the temperature no longer goes above 3C, which is usually late November or December.
- We can discuss Lyme vaccination for dogs in our care that are going to the most high-risk area such as the Rouge valley or Long Point.
- Even with these precautions check your dog all over every day.
- If you find a tick remove it with a Tick Twister as soon as you can. The longer the tick is attached, the more likely it is to infect your pet. Ticks have evolved some clever tricks to become such successful parasites. They have local anesthetic in their saliva so we don’t feel them bite, and they have an adhesive that cements them in after they do bite. We recommend using a Tick Twister to remove the tick. Twisting the tick out with this little tool will help you get the head parts out. It is possible to use tweezers and pull straight out, but you need to get under the head and make sure you get the whole tick, which can be difficult with fur. Done wrong, the tick will regurgitate as you pull on it and potentially deposit infection into your pet’s bloodstream.
The 4DX Test
The 4DX test tests your dog for Lyme Disease, Anaplasmosis, and Ehrlichia and Heartworm. We recommend all dogs, even ones that had a 4DX test last year and were on preventives have a 4DX test done this year and every year.
When we draw the blood for 4DX test, it’s a great idea to also have some additional blood tests done to check your dog’s general health. Until July 31st, we are offering savings on wellness blood tests done at the same time as the 4DX test.
- For younger dogs below the age of 7 add a Mini Wellness test and save $20. This gives us information on kidney and liver function as well as diabetes and blood protein levels and a complete blood count.
- For dogs over 7, we recommend Wellness Complete with t4. This test gives us all the above information plus a look at thyroid and pancreatic function as well as electrolytes, cholesterol, and triglycerides. Until July 31st, you can save $30 on a combined 4DX plus Complete Wellness test.
If your dog has had a wellness exam within the last year, you can drop in any time to have your 4DX test done and pick up your preventives. If we haven’t seen your dog within the last 12 months, you will need to book an appointment.
But What About Heartworm?
Heartworm continues to be a risk for Toronto dogs. It is established in the resident coyote population, giving it a local source. Also, there are rescue groups bringing dogs to Toronto from parts of the world where Heartworm is endemic. It only takes one mosquito biting an infected coyote or dog and then your dog to pass on the parasite. As always we recommend testing and prevention. The test we now recommend for Heartworm is the same one we use to test for tick-borne diseases: the 4DX Test.
Preventive Medication For Dogs
Finally, we have a single oral product for dogs that protects against Heartworm, Fleas, Ticks and Intestinal parasites all in one tasty chew. Ask us about Spectra for your dog.
For the summer months of 2019, Spectra is our recommended preventive. We will prescribe Spectra from June 1 to November 1 during mosquito season when heartworm is spread, and prescribe Nexgard (the tick and flea preventative) for April, May, and December.
If you prefer, we can still prescribe Advantix or Nexgard with Heartgard. Extreme care must be used with Advantix if your dog has a cat friend. Advantix is extremely toxic to cats. If you have a cat in the house, you must keep the dog and the cat separated for 24 hours after you administer Advantix to your dog.
Please remember that we are not only worrying about ticks and your pets. People can also contract Lyme disease, and it is a debilitating chronic illness. Check yourself and your family from head to toe whenever you’ve been grass or wooded areas.
Ticks & Your Cat
Even though cats are fastidious groomers they can still have ticks attach and feed. Black-Legged Ticks, the ones spreading Lyme disease, tend to attach around cats’ head and neck. American Dog Ticks tend to like cats’ ears.
It is not clear whether cats get Lyme disease but they can be infected with the bacteria that causes it. Cats also are susceptible to other tick-borne diseases. Cytauxzoon felis is spread by the Brown Dog Tick. This disease causes fever, enlarged lymph nodes, anorexia, jaundice and in some cases can be fatal. The disease is not established in Canada yet, but it is in the US and likely to spread north into any tick-infested areas.
If your cat goes outside, even if it’s just in the backyard, check them all over when they come in. If you find a tick, remove it with a Tick Twister as described above.
Just as with our dogs, preventing ticks from feeding on our cats helps protect people too. There is less likelihood of inadvertent tick exposure from your pet if they are on a preventative.
For our cats that go outdoors, we now have Bravecto to ward off TICKS and fleas. One dose is applied to the cat’s skin every 2 months for tick protection.
If your cat has had a wellness exam within the last year, you can call and order Bravecto, and we will call you when it comes in. If we have not seen your kitty within the last year, they will need to have a check-up before we can prescribe Bravecto for them.
2019 Tick Data
Populations of various species of ticks continue to climb in Toronto and all of southern Ontario. The most problematic is the Black-Legged Tick because it spreads Lyme Disease.
Our lab (Idexx) tracks the number of positive test results they get for various tick-borne diseases. The map below shows positive Lyme disease results in pets for 2018. Note that each dot may represent multiple cases and that these are the positive results from just one lab company. In the GTA and cottage country, ticks are a significant health problem for both pets and people. In Toronto, the first positive results for 2019 have already been reported.
You can see an interactive version of this map at Real-Time Pet Disease Reporting
The Ontario and Canadian governments also track the spread of the ticks and Lyme Disease. The map below, produced by Public Health Ontario, shows the areas where the risk of encountering Black-Legged ticks is the highest. As you can see, Toronto and other areas in southern Ontario are hotspots.
You can download this map, and learn more about Lyme Disease in Ontario at Public Health Ontario
As ticks spread out along the Great Lakes and up the St Lawrence River and into the Maritimes they are transported on migratory birds and infest deer populations along the way. The Black-Legged Tick is also known as the Deer Tick. Where there are deer, there are deer ticks and where there are deer ticks there is a high risk of Lyme disease. There aren’t many deer in downtown Toronto, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have to worry about ticks. Ticks can attach to almost any warm-blooded animal and be carried into your backyard or neighborhood park.For a truly creep-crawly look at a tick questing and biting, watch this video by KQED Science.