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What are ticks?

Ticks are eight-legged parasites that have highly developed mouthparts that can pierce through the skin of your pet and feed on their blood. Depending on the type of tick, they may be different colours, including: grey, brown, black, reddish-brown or yellow. Ticks feed on blood in order to survive and produce eggs. Eggs develop into larvae, further growing into nymphs, and finally become adult ticks. Tick larvae are usually the size of a grain of sand, nymphs are roughly the size of a sesame seed, and unfed adult ticks can be as small as an apple seed. Adult ticks are an oval shape before they have fed on blood. After attaching and feeding on your dog’s blood, they can increase in size and fully fed females will be round and can be as large as a grape.

Here are how some major species of ticks look at their different life stages:

Photos sourced from: URI TickEncounter Resource Center. Images may not be to scale.

It is important to use a product like K9 Advantix® II that protects your dog from all major species of ticks, not just one or two.

Can ticks harm my pet?

Aside from being disgusting pests, ticks can cause irritation to dogs if they bite, just as they would to humans. They become engorged as they feed on a dog’s blood – sometimes up to 10-14 days.

If an infected tick bites your dog, there is a risk of disease transmission. Some ticks can transmit disease in as little as 3 hours1. This is why it’s important to reduce tick biting as much as possible. K9 Advantix® II kills ticks and other parasites through contact, no biting required. Ticks that don’t bite can’t spread disease.

How diseases can be transmitted from ticks to dogs:

  • Questing tick piercing mouthpart into dog

    1 - The questing tick finds a dog, selects a feeding site, and pierces through the dog’s skin with its mouthpart.

  • Tick saliva facilitating feeding of dog's blood

    2- Tick saliva facilitates the feeding of the dog’s blood, and is also a medium for transferring disease.

  • Tick continuing to feed on dog's blood for days

    3- The tick may feed on the dog’s blood for 5-12 days, sharing bacteria (disease) it may be carrying.

  • Fully fed tick growing as it feeds

    4- The fully fed tick will grow as it feeds, and eventually detach and drop off the dog. The female tick is now ready to lay thousands of eggs in the environment.

Are ticks increasing in my area?

Ticks have not only been increasing in number, but also expanding across the country in the past five years. This is mainly due to warmer temperatures and the dispersion of ticks on animal hosts like mice, raccoons, deer, etc. With the expansion of ticks, there has also been an increase in reported cases of tick-borne diseases in dogs. Click here if you’d like to learn more about the diseases reported in your area.

Map of tick-borne disease prevalence in Canada

There are also tools available online to help you identify, report and track ticks found in Canada. Check out the following resources managed by Canadian Universities:

What diseases do ticks carry?

Tick-borne disease is a very serious problem, especially as infected ticks increase in number. The most common species of ticks in Canada include blacklegged (deer) ticks, American dog ticks, brown dog ticks, and lone star ticks. These ticks carry different diseases that can be transferred to your dog if they bite and feed long enough. The most concerning species is usually the deer tick, as it can carry Lyme disease. However, you should also be concerned about other diseases that can be transmitted much faster than Lyme disease. Here is an overview of common diseases carried by ticks and what symptoms to look for.

Lyme disease

Pathogen: Borrelia burgdorferi

Transmission time: as little as 24 hours

Tick Species:

  • Adult deer tickDeer tick

Description: Infection can lead to malaise, lameness, fever and sometimes more serious signs such as kidney or heart disease.

Symptoms: leg lameness, reluctance to move, fatigue

Ehrlichiosis

Pathogen: Ehrlichia sp.

Transmission time: as little as 3 hours

Tick Species:

  • Adult brown dog tickBrown dog tick
  • Adult lone star tickLone star tick
  • Adult american dog tickAmerican dog tick

Description: Infection of the blood, leading to illness.

Symptoms: fever, weight loss, bleeding disorders, anemia, immune disorders

Anaplasmosis

Pathogen: Anaplasma sp

Transmission time: as little as 4 hours

Tick Species:

  • Adult deer tickDeer tick
  • Adult brown dog tickBrown dog tick

Description: Infection of the blood leading to changes in blood cell numbers.

Symptoms: fever, lethargy, anemia

Rocky Mountain spotted fever

Pathogen: Rickettsia rickettsii

Transmission time: as little as 4 hours

Tick Species:

  • Adult american dog tickAmerican dog tick
  • Adult lone star tickLone star tick
  • Adult brown dog tickBrown dog tick

Description: Infection causing severe illness usually appearing within weeks of a tick bite. If left untreated, it can cause death.

Symptoms: Severe fever, lethargy, stiffness, swollen lymph nodes, bleeding disorders

A closer look at Lyme Disease

How is Lyme disease transmitted to dogs?

Lyme disease is caused by a microscopic organism called Borrelia burgdorferi. This bacteria lives inside the deer tick and is transmitted to dogs when an infected tick attaches and feeds on a dog’s blood, releasing the bacteria (disease) into the dog as it feeds. These ticks usually hide in shady, moist environments and live in leaf litter. Ticks climb onto vegetation to quest (wait for a host) and climb onto dogs as the dogs move through grass, shrub, or bushes.

What are the risks of Lyme disease?

Lyme disease is one of the most common diseases transmitted by ticks so it is important that you are aware of the risk associated with ticks and that your dog receives an appropriate tick treatment. Lyme disease can affect dogs of all ages, sizes, or breeds. It is especially important for your dog to be protected if it is spending more time outdoors. Ticks and tick bites are not always easy to spot on your dog, and symptoms of Lyme disease can sometimes be difficult to detect, so you want to be sure you are providing your dog with the best product to reduce tick biting and attachment.

What are the symptoms of Lyme disease in dogs?

Lyme disease can affect different systems within the body, so symptoms may vary. The most common symptoms in dogs are:

  • Reluctance to move
  • Fever
  • Leg or joint pain often lasting several days
  • Loss of appetite
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Fatigue

Can Lyme disease be transferred from pets to humans?

While Lyme disease can be seen occasionally in dogs, and much more frequently in people, it is very rare that cats become ill. Dogs cannot directly transmit the disease to humans. However, the same infected ticks that carry the bacteria that cause Lyme disease in dogs can also attach to and bite humans, leading to disease transmission. If you are spending time outdoors with your dog, it is also a good idea to check yourself for ticks and practice good tick avoidance strategies like protective clothing and insect repellent.

How can I prevent my dog from getting Lyme or other tick-borne diseases?

Prevention and early detection are the two best ways of protecting our pets from tick-borne disease. K9 Advantix® II works differently from other products to kill all major species of ticks through contact, no biting required. This easy-to-apply monthly topical also kills fleas, lice and mosquitoes, and reduces biting by mosquitoes and stable flies. Be sure to speak to your veterinarian about the health risks of ticks in your area and ask for K9 Advantix® II to make sure your dog is protected.

How do I know if my dog has ticks?

a dog running outdoors

Ticks can be encountered anywhere. While it is most common to find ticks outdoors in leaf litter, shrubs or bushes or shrubs, ticks also exist in non-wooded areas. Interestingly, ticks don’t fly but rather “quest” by stretching out their forelegs to grab and cling onto passing animals.

It is important to check your dog for ticks after you’ve spent any time outdoors. If you feel a small bump on your dog, be sure to part your dog’s fur and take a closer look. Unfortunately, it is not always easy to spot a tick in your dog’s fur. Some other signs that can indicate your dog has a tick include:

  • Finding a tick in your home – If you see a tick in your bed sheets, carpet, or on the floor, this is a sign that a member of your family or your dog may have brought a tick into the house. Be sure to do a closer examination of your dog’s fur.
  • Excessive head shaking – Ticks like to attach to moist environments, and are many times found around the ears of a dog. If your dog is shaking its head excessively, have a closer look at its head and inside its ears.
  • Tick bite symptoms – If your dog has a fever or experiences fatigue, loss of appetite, vomiting, lameness or other unusual symptoms this may indicate that your dog has been infected by a tick-transmitted disease. Be sure to visit your veterinarian if you notice any unusual symptoms.
  • Scabs – Ticks bite and feed on blood. If the tick detaches or is removed by your pet licking or scratching, a scab may form. Take a closer look at any unexplained scabs you notice on your dog’s body.

What to do if a tick bites your dog

If you find a tick on your dog, your first priority should be to get it removed.

To remove a tick, follow these steps:

  1. Wear gloves to avoid any direct skin contact to the tick
  2. Ensure your pet is relaxed and sitting quietly
  3. Use tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin surface as possible.
  4. Using the tweezers, pull firmly straight upwards to remove the tick. Be sure not to twist the tweezers to avoid leaving any tick mouthparts inside your dog.
  5. After removing the tick, kill it by placing it in a container with rubbing alcohol.
  6. Save the tick in a sealed container or plastic bag for your veterinarian to identify.
  7. Keep an eye on your dog for any unusual symptoms. In the event that any unusual symptoms are witnessed, be sure to make an appointment with your veterinarian to have your dog examined.