Tick bite tips for pets

Above: One-year-old English Bulldog, Fynn, was bitten by a tick earlier this year. Fynn’s owner, Morinville resident Jenna Schriver, says she’s not exactly sure where in Alberta the dog was bitten, but it had been there for a few days before she noticed it by his ear.

by Jennifer Lavallee
Morinville News Correspondent

Most of us would agree that ticks are nasty—they’re small, sesame seed-sized arachnids that bite and bury their heads into the skin of their victims. As they feast, their little bodies get fatter and fatter, bigger and bigger.

Some ticks carry a bacteria called Borrelia Burgdorferi which causes Lyme disease.

It’s important to note, not all ticks carry this bacteria, in fact, according to Alberta Health Services (AHS), most do not carry it; however, getting a tick bite can be scary nonetheless. The tick population in Alberta appears to be on the rise, some citing animal migration and a milder climate as two possible reasons for the increase.

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People should be aware of this trend and know what do to if they get a bite. This goes for bites to humans and to pets, as well.

Unfortunately for our furry friends, it can be hard to notice if they’ve been bitten by a tick since it’s way easier for them to hide on a furry, four-legged body.

Jenna Schriver, a Morinville resident, experienced just this with her one-year-old English Bulldog, Fynn, this spring. Schriver says she and her dogs were sitting in her yard when Fynn came up for his usually ear scratch. “I was just petting him and noticed the tick right beside his ear,” noted Schriver.

Having travelled around a bit the week earlier, to Hardisty and Vimy (both are located in Alberta), the pet owner can not be sure where Fynn picked up the pest. “I was very surprised when I noticed it. I had never actually seen [a tick] before but I knew it was one from reading about them in the past. I could see the brown shell and it was quite large so clearly it had been there for a few days already,” she said.

Schriver says she killed the tick and flushed it down the toilet, realizing afterwards she should have taken it to the vet and had it tested for the Borrelia Burgdorferi bacteria.
Elyse Prince, the Practise Manager at Morinville Vet Clinic (MVC), confirms clinics do want to see any ticks that pet owners find on their dogs, cats, or livestock.

“If you’ve found a tick on your pet, remove it entirely (sometimes the head can remain embedded) and bring the specimen into your local vet clinic. Alberta has a tick surveillance program; your vet clinic will send it away to be tested for Lyme and other tick-borne diseases at no charge,” remarked Prince in an interview on July 19.

Prince says the cases of tick bites seen at her vet clinic is certainly on the rise.
“We have seen at least four cases in 2016, which has increased significantly over 2014 and 2015. One of the ticks found this summer tested positive for Borrelia Burgdorferi (Lyme disease).”

The Practice Manager explains prevention is key when it comes to protecting your pets. “Monthly tick treatments are available at your veterinary clinic for our canine friends. These products are usually applied topically and create a protective barrier that kills ticks on contact–meaning they won’t get a chance to bite. Currently, there is no tick prevention treatment for felines.”

Tall grass and heavily wooded areas are spots where ticks like to hide. Therefore, MVC suggests, if your pets are spending time outdoors in these types of locations, inspect them thoroughly afterwards.

Though it is against Morinville’s pet bylaw to allow cats to roam freely outside, of course, some still do. Without being able to tell where those cats have been, remember to be diligent in looking them over when they get back to the house.

Schriver says she had treated her dogs in the past with a tick prevention medication; however, at the time Fynn was bitten a few months ago, she hadn’t used any yet this year. “I constantly check both my dogs for [ticks] now, though,” she emphasized.

Other pet owners are following suit. Another local resident, Sarah Segreto, says she treats her dog and, previously, her cat in hopes of preventing tick bites. Segreto, who also volunteers with the animal rescue society, Infinite Woofs, emphasizes treatments are easy and effective.
“[The tick prevention medication I use] is a squeeze-on you put it between their shoulder blades, I also have a flea and tick bath [that I use] called Doktor Doom.”

Spots on your pet to check for ticks included under the collar, around the tail and groin, between toes, under the front legs and along elbows. Ticks can attach themselves inside the ears and even on eyelids.

If you find a tick on your pet, carefully remove it using a pair of tweezers. Grab the pest by its head (not body since you do not want to crush it and cause toxins to enter the bloodstream) and pull directly outwards. Put the tick (still alive, if possible) into a baggie and bring it to your local vet clinic for (free) testing.

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