It’s that time of year. The spring flowers are out, and so are the parasites. The news isn’t good, and we strongly urge you to test and protect your pets from Ticks and Heartworm.
The pet parasite situation in Toronto continues to change for the worse. Your pet is increasingly at risk from parasites and the diseases that they carry. Heartworm is likely established in the Toronto coyote population, providing a local source for the disease, and Lyme Disease has become established in the tick population in Southern Ontario.
Ticks: The Danger Continues to Climb
The number of confirmed Lyme cases in dogs increased from 92 in 2012, to 900 in 2015, to 1474 in 2016 at our lab company alone. Ticks arrive on migrating birds and with our warm city winters, the living is easy. Usually seen between March and December frosts, ticks are active anytime we get sustained temperatures over 3 degrees Celcius. Ticks are out questing for a blood meal – we have already removed ticks from pets this season. The number of confirmed Lyme cases in dogs increased from 92 in 2012, to 900 in 2015, to 1474 in 2016 at our lab company alone.
The number of confirmed Lyme cases in dogs increased from 92 in 2012, to 900 in 2015, to 1474 in 2016 at our lab company alone.
There are at least three species of ticks common in Toronto: the Brown Dog tick, the American Dog tick and the Deer tick (also known as the Black Legged tick). The Deer tick is the one that carries and spreads Lyme disease to both pets and people.
Lyme is the most well known of the tick borne diseases but there are others such as Ehrlichia and Anaplasmosis. With the increasing prevalence of ticks there is a sharp increase in disease risk for our dogs. Annual testing for these diseases is an essential part of your dog’s health care.
Heartworm: a Local Source
Coyotes have been identified as a significant reservoir host for Heartworm. While little testing has been done specific to Toronto, the sizeable coyote population in our ravines and wild areas likely provides a large local pool of Heartworm infection. As well, rescue groups are bringing dogs to the Toronto area in significant numbers from parts of the world where Heartworm is endemic. The work these groups do is laudable, and the rescued dogs get a chance at a great life, but there is always the possibility that they are bringing in some unwelcome passengers. It only takes one mosquito biting one infected coyote or dog before biting your pet to infect them.
About Lyme Disease
Lyme disease can cause severe lameness, shifting 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. It is important that we know whether a dog is infected because repeat infections can make the disease signs much, much worse. 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.
About Ehrlichia & Anaplasmosis
Ehrlichia can prevent your dog’s blood from clotting. Anaplasmosis organisms invade red blood cells and cause severe anemia.
Heartworm and Tick-borne Disease 4DX Testing
As you know we have been advocating heartworm testing and prevention for thirty years. In the past few years we have added tick preventives to our routine care for our dogs. As we’ve described above, the situation has been changing, and we now recommend the 4DX test, which tests for Lyme, Ehrlichia and Anaplasmosis as well as Heartworm. We are recommending all dogs, even ones that had a 4DX test last year 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. This give 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 gives us all the above information plus a look at thyroid and pancreatic function as well as electrolytes, cholesterol and triglycerides.
As always, all dogs should start on Heartworm prevention on June 1.
Tick-borne Disease Prevention
Advantix is a topical that stops most ticks from biting and also kills fleas. Advantix should be used with extreme caution around cats.
Nexgard is an oral chew that kills fleas and ticks when they bite.
NOTE Ticks have both a local anesthetic (which prevents the bite from being felt) and a cement in their saliva. Once they have cemented in place they will not fall off even if they are dead and not feeding. Remove the tick with a Tick Twister.
Be extremely careful handling any tick as there is potential for disease organisms infecting a person through a break in their skin.
Best Care for Dogs
Have the 4DX test done annually to test for exposure.
Use a tick preventive–either Advantix topical or Nexgard oral. Don’t be surprised if in the coming years, as our winters get milder, we start recommending year round tick prevention.
Check your dog daily and remove any ticks with a Tick Twister. Ticks have to feed for at least 48 hours to transmit disease.
There is a vaccine for Lyme disease that at the moment we are considering on a case by case basis.
Best Care for Cats
At this time there are no tests for cats and they cannot use the preventives we put on or give dogs as they are toxic. The best tick-borne disease prevention in cats is to check your cats daily. Stroke them all over, and remove the ticks as soon as you see them. Use a Tick Twister device so the head is not left in.
Tick Prevention is just as important for people. Lyme disease ruins lives. We are never rid of it once we are infected. Check yourself and your family from head to toe EVERY TIME you go walking in long grass or under trees.