Ticks pose a risk to pets and people in London, River Bend, and throughout Ontario. These parasites are scary because they do more than just feed on blood: They can transmit serious diseases to pets and people, which can lead to lasting health issues, especially if not caught and treated early. That’s why we want to make you aware of the big problems these small parasites can cause—and provide advice on how to help keep your pet (and yourself) protected.
Related to mites and spiders, ticks are small arachnids that live off the blood of people, dogs, and cats, as well as birds and other animals such as coyotes, deer, horses, rabbits, and rodents.
Ticks like to hang out in wooded or grassy areas, like parks and fields. Ticks can be found around London in both urban and rural areas, and if you walk or hike with your pet, you may both pick up ticks. Depending on where you live, you might even find ticks in your own backyard, especially under leaf litter, in the shade, and around the edges of the yard. Other locations you might visit may also be considered risk areas.
Some ticks are quite tiny, so you may not see them, even if you’re looking for them. Ticks tend to hide on pets under fur, in ears, in skin folds, and in between paw pads.
Ticks can be tricky to spot, especially in your pet’s fur. Adult deer ticks are about the size of a sesame seed, and nymphs (immature ticks) are only about the size of a poppy seed!
Ticks in London, Ontario
There are around 900 tick species in the world, with just a few that pose a danger to pets and people in our area. The main ticks we have in and around London are blacklegged (deer) ticks, American dog ticks, brown dog ticks, and lone star ticks.
In fact, our clinic was the first in the area to find a lone star tick on a pet. Lone star ticks, which until recently were found largely in the southern United States, can now be spotted up into eastern Canada. We discovered this particular lone star tick on a cat that’s local to the Medway Creek area and had no travel history.
Tick Diseases in Dogs
The ticks we have in the London area can transmit several diseases to dogs, including:
- Lyme disease
So far in 2021, 1 in 30 dogs has tested positive for Lyme disease in Ontario. Last year, more than 5,200 dogs tested positive for the disease in our province.*
Tick Diseases in Cats
Cats aren’t immune from ticks either. The parasites can cause several diseases in cats, including Lyme disease, ehrlichiosis, and babesiosis. Other tick-borne diseases, such as cytauxzoonosis and tularemia, although rare, can be deadly in cats.
Even indoor-only cats can get ticks if the parasites hitch a ride inside on you or another pet.
Symptoms of Tick-borne Diseases in Pets
If you find a tick attached to your pet (or even if you don’t), let us know right away if you notice any of these signs of tick-transmitted diseases in your pet:
- Breathing difficulty
- Fatigue or weakness
- Lameness (which may shift from one leg to another)
- Pale gums
- Sensitivity to touch
- Stiff, swollen, or painful joints
- Walking stiffly with an arched back
- Weight or appetite loss
- Vomiting or diarrhea
Pets with Lyme disease rarely get the characteristic bull’s-eye rash seen in some people.
Prevention of Ticks and Tick Diseases
You can take several important steps to help protect your pet and yourself from ticks and the diseases they can spread, starting with keeping your pet on a tick preventive. Ticks can remain active year-round in London, River Bend, and the surrounding areas. In fact, the risk of ticks exists as long as the temperature remains above 1 degree Celsius.
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 vet.
- 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 practice 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 high-risk areas.
The best way to prevent ticks on your pet is to keep your pet on a tick control medication.
Ticks are expanding the areas they call home and becoming a bigger threat in London and the surrounding area. We want to help keep pets safe from these parasites, so if you find a tick on your pet, let us know. We provide complimentary tick removal and tick identification for our canine and feline patients. And call us today to make sure your pet is protected through tick preventives!
*Companion Animal Parasite Council (CAPC). Parasite prevalence maps. Tick borne disease agents, Lyme disease, dog. capcvet.org/maps. Accessed March 16, 2021.