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Ticks: Is Your Pet Protected From These Parasites?

By Moose Tracks No Comments

Finding ticks in and around Kitchener-Waterloo and surrounding areas is becoming more common, especially as these parasites are spreading farther into Ontario and other parts of Canada. Be aware that ticks like to hang out in wooded or grassy areas, tall grasses, and ground cover such as leaves. In addition, other locations you might visit, such as Hamilton, Turkey Point, and Long Point, are considered to be risk areas.

Ticks are scary because they do more than just feed on blood: they can transmit serious diseases to pets (and people), which may lead to heart and kidney complications, joint damage, and even neurological issues, especially if not caught and treated early. We want to arm you with an understanding of the damage ticks can cause, as well as how to help keep you and your pets protected.

A Look at Ticks

Related to mites and spiders, ticks are small arachnids that live off the blood of people, dogs, and cats, in addition to birds and other animals such as coyotes, deer, horses, rabbits, and rodents.

Of the 900 or so tick species worldwide, just a handful can cause disease in pets and people in our area. The main ticks we have in Kitchener and the surrounding area are blacklegged (deer) ticks and American dog ticks. We occasionally find brown dog ticks as well. Although the lone star tick isn’t a concern in our area yet, this species is being monitored.

Did you know? Nymphs (immature ticks) are about the size of a pinhead or poppy seed, and adult deer ticks are only about as big as a sesame seed!

Tick-bourne Diseases

Not all ticks are infected with disease-causing agents (pathogens), but those that are can transmit Lyme disease, ehrlichiosis, and other diseases to dogs and cats.

Ticks can also cause tick paralysis, a serious, potentially deadly condition in which the nervous system is attacked by a toxin in the tick’s saliva.

Symptoms of Tick-bourne Diseases

Let us know right away if you notice any of these signs of tick-transmitted diseases:

  • Breathing difficulty
  • Fever
  • Lameness (potentially shifting from leg to leg, referred to as “shifting leg lameness”)
  • Sensitivity to touch
  • Stiff, swollen, or painful joints
  • Vomiting or diarrhea
  • Weakness or fatigue
  • Weight or appetite loss

Canine Lyme disease cases in Ontario have been steadily increasing. More than 5,200 dogs tested positive last year.

Ticks Environments

Ticks love wooded and grassy areas, including fields and parks. If you walk, hike, or camp with your pet in these areas, you may come across ticks. Ticks are also being found in urban areas, such as gardens in the city. Depending on where you live, ticks may even live in your own backyard. Ticks will actively look for a blood meal as soon as the temperature reaches is 4 C .

Many ticks search for hosts by “questing”—they climb up onto a low shrub or blade of grass and reach out with their front legs, waiting to grab a pet or person who walks by.

If you spend time outside with your pet, especially in risk areas, it can be difficult to avoid ticks, which is why protecting yourself and your pet against ticks is your best bet.

Preventing Ticks

You can take several important steps to help protect your pet and yourself from ticks:

  • Keep your pet on a veterinary tick preventive, as recommended by your Westmount veterinarian. We have topical and oral products to protect your pet.
  • Use insect repellents with 25% to 30% DEET or 20% icaridin (picaridin) on yourself. DEET-containing products can also be used on children who are at least 12 years of age, and icaridin can be used on those 6 months of age and up. DO NOT use these products on your dog or cat. DEET is especially toxic to both cats and dogs.
  • Avoid areas known for being infested with ticks.
  • Try to stay out of tall grass and heavily wooded areas. This tactic won’t prevent you from coming in contact with ticks, but it can help limit the number of ticks you encounter.
  • If you’re planning to hike or camp, ask us which areas are high risk for ticks.
  • Check yourself and your pet for ticks after you’ve spent time outside, especially if you’ve been in risk areas.

Learn more about how to prevent tick bites and create a tick-safe yard at these sites:

The temperature in the Kitchener-Waterloo and surrounding areas doesn’t tend to stay cold enough for ticks to die off, so they may remain active year-round.

How to Properly Remove a Tick

If you or your pet does end up with an attached tick, here’s how to safely remove it:

  1. Grasp the tick with fine-tipped tweezers or a tick removal tool right by the skin (near the tick’s mouth).
  2. Pull the tick straight out, steadily but gently, without twisting, or follow the instructions provided by the tick removal tool manufacturer.
  3. Place the tick into a sealed baggie or container (like an old pill bottle), and bring the tick into the clinic for identification.
  4. Clean the bite wound with a mild antiseptic.
  5. Use isopropyl alcohol to clean the tweezers or tick removal tool.
  6. Thoroughly wash your hands with soap and water.

A few other things to keep in mind:

  • Avoid squashing the tick’s body.
  • Use gloves, especially if you don’t have tweezers or a tick removal tool. Do not touch the tick with your bare hands, which could potentially allow disease-causing pathogens to get through cuts or scratches in your skin.
  • Don’t try to remove the tick’s head if it remains embedded. It will typically fall out on its own within a few days. If the skin around the bite wound remains red or becomes more swollen or irritated, give us a call.

Smothering ticks in petroleum jelly, nail polish, or liquid soap doesn’t work. Burning or freezing a tick is also ineffective and could harm your pet.

How We Can Help

Ticks and tick-bourne diseases are becoming more common in and around Kitchener. At Westmount Animal Hospital, we want to help keep our patients as safe as possible from these parasites.

Call us today to make sure your pet is protected, and feel free to ask any questions you might have about the ticks in our area.

Wellness Exams: How Preventive Care Visits Benefit You and Your Pet

By Moose Tracks No Comments

Regular veterinary visits are essential for cats and dogs throughout their lives. We typically recommend wellness exams once a year for healthy adult dogs and cats and more frequently for young pets, senior pets, and those with chronic medical conditions. We also recommend bringing in any newly adopted pet for a wellness exam.

Many pets don’t tend to show signs of disease, especially in the early stages. That’s where regular checkups play a crucial role: They give us a chance to catch potential diseases or conditions as soon as possible. Early diagnosis can provide us with more options for treatment and may also give pets a better quality of life.

By being proactive, we can sometimes even prevent certain conditions or illnesses.

Regular testing of pets, including blood work, urinalysis, and fecal screening, helps us identify any hidden diseases or health conditions. Because certain diseases may have similar symptoms, we use screening tests to figure out what’s wrong and how to properly treat pets.

What to Expect During Your Pet’s Checkup

Puppies and Kittens

When dogs and cats are young, we need to see them frequently to make sure they’re adequately protected against common contagious diseases through the puppy or kitten series of vaccines. We also want to see kittens and puppies several times over that first year to make sure they’re gaining weight and body mass as expected, their teeth and bones are developing normally, and their heart, lungs, and other organs are healthy. In addition, we’ll look inside your young pet’s ears, examine the eyes, and record temperature and weight.

This is also when your Westmount veterinarian will typically perform a spay or neuter procedure. Spaying/neutering can help reduce some undesirable behaviours, protect your pet against certain cancers, and protect female pets against a potentially life-threatening type of uterine infection called pyometra.

We’ll deworm your puppy or kitten several times to get rid of any intestinal parasites, such as roundworms, hookworms, whipworms, and tapeworms. We’ll also recommend parasite control to help protect your pet against ticks, heartworm disease, fleas, and intestinal worms.

Making sure pets receive the right nutrition throughout their lives can help keep them healthy. We can recommend a high-quality food that meets your pet’s specific nutritional needs. Our technicians will also provide nutritional consult to assist your pet in meeting the required calories he or she needs. We will also assist in helping overweight/obese pets stay on track to lose weight.

Adult Pets

As pets move into their adult years, we want to see them at least once a year for a regular checkup. During these visits, we’ll:

  • Perform a thorough physical exam of your pet
  • Give your pet needed vaccine boosters to help provide continued protection against serious, highly contagious, and potentially deadly diseases
  • Recommend additional vaccines to help protect against diseases that your individual pet may be at risk for because of lifestyle, exposure risk, and other factors
  • Check blood work for heartworm disease, tick-borne diseases, and breed-specific conditions, such as heart disease or joint issues, as appropriate for your individual pet
  • Make sure your pet remains free of fleas and ticks
  • Check for intestinal parasites by recommending yearly fecal testing
  • Examine your pet’s mouth and teeth and recommend any dental care that’s needed
  • Perform a nutritional assessment to help ensure that your pet is continuing to get the right nutrition for his or her breed, life stage, health, and lifestyle

Senior Pets

Once pets have reached senior status, we like to see them more frequently. So when does that change tend to happen?

  • We consider most dogs to be seniors between 7 and 8 years of age (a bit younger for larger dogs).
  • Most cats move into their senior years between 7 and 11 years of age.

Remember that pets age far faster than we do—unfortunately, this is why we have less time with them than we’d like!

Senior checkups help us detect any potential diseases or conditions, like arthritis, cancer, diabetes, dental disease, thyroid issues, and heart, kidney, and liver disease, which may become more common as pets age. The earlier we can catch any changes, the better. More frequent veterinary exams may even give you more quality time with your pet.

At Westmount Animal Hospital, we don’t want to wait until something’s wrong if we can catch diseases early, when they may be easier to treat or manage.

Ideally, we like to begin senior screening (blood and urine tests) at 7 years of age or earlier, so we can get a baseline of what’s normal for your individual pet.

How Wellness Exams Help You

In addition to playing a crucial role in helping to keep your pets healthy throughout life, regular checkups give you the opportunity to:

  • Ask us about any questions or concerns you might have
  • Bring up anything you’ve noticed that seems different with your pet, like a behaviour that’s new or a lump or bump you hadn’t noticed before

And screening tests can not only give us an early start on treatment, but if they come back negative, the results will give you peace of mind and provide us with a baseline that is normal for your pet that can be used for referencing in the future.

Practicing Preventive Care

Contact us to schedule your pet’s wellness exam, or make an appointment today.

If anything changes in your pet’s health or behaviour in between regularly scheduled exams, or if something just doesn’t seem right, get in touch with us quickly. When possible, we want to catch anything that isn’t normal early on.

Anxious Pet?

Stress can make pets more prone to other health issues. At Westmount Animal Hospital, we aim to create stress-free veterinary visits for pets and their owners. Ask us how we help keep pets calm and comfortable during exams.

If your pet tends to be anxious at other times, we’ll work with you to come up with a personalized solution to help relieve your pet’s anxiety.