Bug Basics: Part One

With the warm weather starting, it’s an important time to consider the safety of our pets and the risks that are associated with the various parasites.



Ticks are an external parasite. They prefer warm, moist environments such as forested, wooded areas, piles of leaves and tall grasses.  Ticks do not jump, but rather wait on a blade of grass and grab onto a host as they walk by.  Once on the host, the tick will attached themselves for a blood meal.  Ticks can also be a threat for our pets as they may carry a bacterial disease that can make our pets very sick.  The main tick-borne diseases that we test for in Canada are Lyme disease, Ehrlichia canis and Anaplasma phagocytophilum. Tick-borne diseases are transmitted from tick to animal while the tick is attached and taking a blood meal.  Flu-like symptoms, (such as fever, tiredness or loss of appetite), as well as a rash, and/or lameness are often the first clues your pet has been infected with one of these tick-borne diseases.



Not only are mosquitoes annoying because their bites cause us to itch, but they also pose a significant risk to our pets, as they have the potential for passing on the heartworm parasite to our pets.  Heartworms typically reside in the heart, lungs and general circulatory system (blood vessels), where they mature into adults and begin to reproduce.  It can be difficult to tell if your pet is infected with the heartworm parasite, just by looking at them, because symptoms of the disease are tough to spot.  By the time your pet begins exhibiting noticeable symptoms, the infestation can be quite severe, potentially life-threatening, and even fatal.  All it takes is one bite from an infected mosquito to pass the parasite onto your pet!


Fortunately, with a little prevention, our spring and summer seasons can still be enjoyed, despite these dangerous parasites!  For dogs, it is recommended to do heartworm and tick testing on yearly basis. This involves taking a small sample of blood and checking for the presence of both the heartworm parasite and any of the tick-borne diseases. If the tests come back negative, preventative medication is dispensed, to be administered on a monthly basis throughout the season (April through November for ticks, and June through November for heartworm).

Preventative medication comes in two forms – either as a tablet that is taken orally, or as a liquid that is applied to their skin and absorbed.  Different medications will protect your pet to varying degrees, so ask your veterinarian which medication is right for your pet!

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