by: Brianna Redlich
The snow has melted, the sun is shining and the ticks are questing! Unfortunately it is getting to be that time of year when the little vampires that hide in the grass start to appear.
What is a Tick?
Besides icky, ticks are a tiny, eight legged parasite with a small head and a large body. Ticks have 3 life stages. They hatch from an egg into a 6 legged larva, molt into an eight legged nymph, then molt again into an adult. After the larva and nymph stages take a blood meal they then molt into the next stage. After mated, adult females take a blood meal them drop off into the environment to lay eggs. The ticks we find in Saskatchewan are mainly found in tall grass and shrubs. There they stand on blades of grass waving their arms (questing) in hopes of getting picked up. Ticks can become active once the temperature is above 4 degrees Celsius.
Which Ticks Are Found in Saskatchewan?
The 2 main kinds of ticks we see in Saskatchewan are the Rocky Mountain Wood tick (demacentor andersoni) and American Dog tick (dermacentor variabilis). Ticks are migrating and expanding their territory. The Deer tick (Ixodes scapularis) that carries Lyme disease is starting to make its way into Saskatchewan.
What Diseases Can Ticks Carry?
The American Dog tick and Wood tick can transmit Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (Rickettsia rickettsia). It usually appears suddenly with severe illness lasting 2 weeks. The symptoms of the disease are vague, but can include fever, joint/muscle pain, depression and anorexia. Only about 5% of ticks in a given area are infected and need to feed for 5 to 20 hours. The infectious organism is passed through the salivary excretions.
Deer ticks are the ones that carry Lyme disease. Ticks become infected with the organism when the larva and nymph stages feed on infected mice. The tick is then able to pass on the organism to the next host. It needs to feed for 24 to 48 hours before the organism can be passed to the host through the tick’s salivary gland. This type of tick feeds mainly on deer and are starting to make an appearance in Saskatchewan (SK). There have been a few sporadic cases of Lyme in SK, but most are from dogs that have travelled to a place where Lyme is more common. Acute symptoms of Lyme include fever, lameness, swollen joints, lethargy and depression.
When Are Ticks Out?
Most of the time we notice a large bloom of ticks in spring to early summer. What you may not know it that ticks can be active from early spring to late fall. Below is a chart showing at what time different ticks and life stages are active.
|American Dog Tick||Mountain Wood Tick||Deer Tick|
|Larvae||Active April to September.
Feed on midsize animals.
|Active March to October.
Prefer to feed on rodents.
|Active July to September.
Preferred host is the white foot mouse. They molt and re-emerge in the spring as a nymph.
|Nymph||Active May to July.
Feed on midsize animals.
|Active March to October. Larvae and nymph stages rarely attach to humans and pets.||Active May to August. Commonly found in moist wooded areas.|
|Adult||Active April to early August.
Feed on medium size animals, humans and pets.
|Most common late spring/early summer. Activity goes down during the hot, dry months.||Active October to May as long as the temp. is above freezing. Females feed, hibernate, and then lay eggs in mid to late May.|
|Misc. Info||Adults can go 600 days without a blood meal.||Found in deciduous forests where deer can be found.
Can cause Lyme Disease.
How to Remove a Tick
If you or your pet are unfortunate enough to have one of these attached to you it is important to remove it as soon as possible. Here is a step by step guide on how to best remove a tick from your pet or yourself.
- First of all DO NOT apply anything to the tick such as alcohol or Vaseline before removing it. Also DO NOT try to burn it off with a lighter or a hot needle. Doing these will cause the tick to inject germs into the wound. Essentially you are causing the tick to vomit into your skin. Gross!
- Use a pair or tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible and pull upward with firm steady pressure. Do not jerk, yank or twist the tick. If the tick doesn’t come off easily, see your local vet to make sure it’s not a lump or something else.
- After removing the tick you can wash the area with an antiseptic.
- Contact your vet if you notice any signs of infection such as swelling and redness at the site the tick was attached.
How to Protect Your Pet
There are different products you can use to help protect your dog from ticks. There is a new topical* for cats that will be available this year. Luckily in the mean time if your cat is able to groom itself they usually lick most of the ticks off. There are 2 products that I would like to discuss and both are available at your veterinary clinic. One is a topical liquid that is applied to the skin and the other is a chewable tablet.
Advantix is a small tube of liquid that is applied to the skin and acts as a repellent for ticks and mosiquitos*. The liquid spreads across the body through the natural oils on the skin. When a tick comes into contact with the dog it absorbs the medication through their feet. This is painful for the tick and will cause them to drop off. Ticks that are still alive when they drop off will not reattach and will die within 1 to 12 hours. It is recommended to check your dog for ticks before application because ticks that are already feeding may not come into contact with the drug. Some dogs may have a reaction called paresthesia which can be described as a pins and needle sensation. This can occur within 1 to 2 hours after application. If this happens owners can put 3 drops of vitmain E on the spot of application. If that dosen’t solve the problem than you should bath your dog with Dawn soap. This product is toxic to cats so please do not apply it to them. If you do have cats at home they need to be separated from the dog for 12 hours. Lastly if your dog enjoys swimming or gets regular baths it may decrease the efficacy of the drug, so it may have to be applied every 3 weeks.*
Bravecto is a new product that is a chewable tablet that you give once and it lasts for 3 months. The tablet is flavored and most dogs take it as a treat. The drug stays in the blood stream, so the tick does need to take a blood meal before it dies. A feeding tick is a dead tick. The rare dog will vomit after being given Bravecto. Seeing how this medication is not on the skin you do not have to separate cats from the dog and the efficacy doesn’t decrease with bathing or swimming.
For more information about these products and others please contact your veterinarian.
Have fun in the sun and remember to stay safe out there.
UPDATE (April 7, 2016): Changes were made to the information for Advantix after a recent seminar with our Bayer Rep.
*UPDATE (April 10, 2017): Information was added for Advantix and there is a new topical treatment coming for cats – Bravecto Feline.