You are brushing your furry pal, and you notice what you think is a small lump. You immediately jump to a worst-case conclusion. However, on closer inspection, you realize the lump is not a tumor—it’s an eight-legged, blood-filled tick. Worried about the potential hazards, you quickly grasp the tick’s body and pull it out of your pet. Fortunately, you removed the tick in one piece, head included. But, was the tick attached to your pet long enough to transmit potentially deadly illnesses? If a tick has had time to become bloated from its blood meal, it may have transmitted one or more tick-borne diseases to your pet. Brush up on your tick trivia and learn which ticks will most likely transmit disease to your pet.

What do ticks look like?

Although ticks come in hundreds of species, two found commonly in Canada are notorious for transmitting multiple diseases to pets.

  • American dog tick — Also known as the wood tick, the American dog tick lurks in wooded areas, heading to trail edges and roadsides when it scents an animal. The American dog tick normally has silver-grey markings on its back, but can turn a light shade of brown when fully engorged after feeding.
  • Black-legged tick — Especially hardy, the black-legged, or deer, tick can feed almost any time of year. Tick activity is seen whenever the temperature rises above freezing, so these ticks can pop up on a warm day during the winter, although they are most commonly seen during the spring, summer, and fall. Adult black-legged ticks are brown, and may change to rust or brown-red after feeding.

What diseases can ticks give my pet?

Ticks are notorious for transmitting many serious diseases to pets and people. Some common diseases a tick bite can cause include:

  • Lyme disease 
  • Rocky Mountain spotted fever
  • Babesiosis
  • Anaplasmosis
  • Ehrlichiosis

However, do not panic if you notice a tick crawling through your pet’s fur, because they must remain attached to your furry pal for some time to transmit disease. For example, a tick generally must be attached for 48 hours to pass Lyme disease to your pet. After disease transmission, illness signs may take months to appear. 

If your pet has been infected with a tick-borne illness, you may notice any combination of the following signs:

  • Fever
  • Shifting leg lameness
  • Lethargy
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Loss of appetite
  • Abnormal bruising and bleeding
  • Chronic eye inflammation
  • Neurologic abnormalities

Tick-borne illness signs can be vague and associated with many other diseases, which makes an accurate diagnosis critical for effective treatment. 

How can I protect my pet from ticks?

While Waterloo temperatures are downright frigid in the winter, brief periods of above-freezing conditions when the hungry tick population can emerge from hibernation do occur. Ideally, all pets should be covered by heartworm, flea, and tick prevention year-round, but start your pet’s prevention regimen no later than March 1, to ensure they are protected against the spring tick surge. 

Be your pet’s hero by protecting them from potentially deadly tick-transmitted diseases with a multimodal treatment plan best-suited to your pet that your Carriage Crossing Animal Hospital veterinarian can recommend. You should also discuss vaccinating your pet for Lyme disease with your veterinarian. In addition, for your pet’s safety, always check them for ticks after they spend time outdoors.

If I find a tick on my pet, what should I do?

Simply remove any tick you discover crawling through your pet’s fur, and place in rubbing alcohol to kill it. However, if the tick has become attached to your pet, take special care with its removal. Using tweezers, grasp the tick’s head as close to your pet’s skin as possible. Pull upward with a slow, steady pressure, and avoid twisting or jerking, which can cause the mouth parts to break off and remain in your pet’s skin. After you have removed the tick, take a picture for identification purposes, and clean the area thoroughly with soap and water. Monitor the area closely for signs of a local reaction or infection, which may require treatment. 

Spring, which is a prime time for tick activity, is right around the corner. Protect your furry pal from these disease-transmitting bloodsuckers by stocking up on tick preventives. Contact our Carriage Crossing Animal Hospital team for help choosing the best prevention products for your pet.