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Vet Tech Rounds: Ticks…ick!

Vet Talks 4 min read
Vet Tech Rounds: Ticks…ick!

The Icky Tick

Icky tick

Ticks are tiny parasitic arachnids, which means just like spiders, they have 8 legs. Many different species of ticks are found across the world. The diet of ticks is blood. In order to get a meal, the tick will bite and attach itself to the ‘host’, either a person or animal. When ticks have not had a recent meal, they are quite small and often go undetected on pets. Once they attach and begin to feed, their bodies become engorged and they can be found much more easily. Often pet parents will bring their pet in for an examination of a “new and fast-growing lump”, only to be told their pet has an uninvited guest hitching a free ride and meal.

Ticks most often hitch a ride on pets via long grasses and wooded areas.

Ticks most often hitch a ride on pets via long grasses and wooded areas. If you take your dog camping or on hikes through brush or grasses, be sure to check him thoroughly for ticks. I have seen ticks on pets who never left their backyard or local dog park, so it is possible for ticks to find a way to almost any dog.

Tick Removal

If you happen to find a tick on your pet, proper removal is essential. In my experience, the best way to remove a tick is with a “tick twister”. Your veterinarian may be able to provide you with one to have on hand should you find a tick. It is a simple device that does not squeeze or pinch the body of the tick and ensures you remove the entire tick. After removing a tick it is important to closely monitor the area for a few days. The tick bite can become inflamed and infected if the tick is not removed properly and pieces of the tick are left behind. Should you notice any unusual swelling or uncomfortable at the site a few days after removal, you should see your vet.


What Now?

So, what do you do with the tick once you remove it? There are some services offered which allow for testing of the tick for any tick-borne diseases. TickEncounter will start by analyzing a picture of the tick to identify the species and know whether there is any risk of disease transmission. The tick can then be submitted for disease testing at a cost. In Canada, ticks can be submitted to your Provincial Health laboratory for testing, often at no charge (see more info here) Most tick testing facilities require that the tick be sent to them alive for testing.  If you do not wish to submit the tick for testing, the easiest way to dispose of it is by flushing it down the toilet.

How you can help

NHV Target Spray can help to deter ticks. Spray a light mist on your pet before an outside adventure to help keep the ticks at bay.

If your pet does come down with a tick-borne infection, some supplements which can be helpful are BK Detox for blood detoxification, Natures Immuno for immune support, and helping the body fight the infection.

And Old Timer, since many tick-borne diseases present with sore muscles and joints.

In North America the most common species of ticks are:

  • Deer Tick (Ixodes scapularis)
  • American Dog Tick (Dermacentor variabilis)
  • Lone Star Tick (Amblyomma americamm)
  • Brown Dog Tick (Rhipicephalus sanguineus)
  • Wood Tick (Dermacentor andersoni)

The prevalence of these ticks varies based on geographical location.

Because ticks feed on blood, they can transmit diseases between hosts, some common tick-borne diseases are:

  • Anaplasmosis
    • A blood infection which causes joint discomfort, lethargy, fever, and inappetence
    • Most often transmitted by the Deer Tick and Brown Dog Tick
    • Treated with antibiotics with an excellent prognosis
  • Ehrlichiosis
    • A blood infection that causes fever, lethargy, enlarged lymph nodes, bleeding, and bruising and neurological symptoms.
    • Transmitted by the Brown Dog Tick
    • Treated with antibiotics with a good prognosis if caught early.
  • Lyme disease
    • A blood infection caused by the Borrelia bacteria.
    • Transmitted by the Deer tick.
    • Transmission occurs after the tick has been attached for 48 hours
    • Symptoms include stiff joints, inappetence, fever, touch sensitivity
    • Treated with antibiotics, however, treatment may not completely eliminate the bacteria and it may become a chronic condition
    • There is a vaccine for Lyme disease, however, it does not protect against all strains.
  • Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever
    • A Rickettsia infection transmitted by the American Dog tick, Wood tick, and Brown Dog tick
    • Symptoms include joint and muscle discomfort, fever, coughing, abdominal discomfort, vomiting, and diarrhea
    • A tick must feed on your dog for 5-20 hours before the disease can be transmitted
    • Treated with antibiotics
    • Prognosis is good if caught early.
Tick ID

Johanna RVT

Johanna RVT

Johanna is NHV’s in house Registered Veterinary Technician. Technicians are the veterinary equivalent of a human nurse. Johanna has over 10 years of experience in different types of veterinary clinics and hospitals. She has seen and assisted in the treatment of a variety of medical conditions and injuries. She will share her experiences in her monthly blog series “Vet Tech Rounds” to help our extended NHV family learn about common preventable medical cases and other interesting stories of vet clinic life.

Published: July 20, 2018

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