TIS THE SEASON FOR TICKS!
One of the consequences of global warming is the increasing presence of ticks in the Quebec environment. There are many species of ticks and they can carry many contagious diseases that affect both humans and cats. Perhaps the disease that we are most aware of is Lyme disease which is transmitted from the tick to mammals during a tick bite. The most common species in Quebec is the black legged or deer tick scientifically known as Ioxedes scapularis. They can be found in rural, suburban and high density urban areas. Wherever there is a patch of shade, these little guys hang out. As the warmer days approach, the immature form of the tick starts to wake up from their winter nap and the health risk begins.
Many people thought that our cold winter would kill off the overwintering ticks. Recent studies have shown us that with the right protection such as leaf litter and snow (yes, snow provides insulation) the baby form, known as a nymph, can and does survive our Quebec winters. In early spring when the temperature reaches up to as little as 4 degrees Celsius the nymphs become active. They are very small at this stage and can be hard to detect on you or your cat.
Once the baby ticks wake up they are very hungry. They begin searching for a blood meal. This process is known as “questing”. Ticks are really good at questing as they are able to detect movement, increase in the environmental temperature and carbon dioxide. Translate this into a cat or a human moving around outside warming the ambient air and giving off carbon dioxide. Once they have had their blood meal, they fall off and spread in the environment. They particularly like to hang around the leaf litter next to an exterior wall. First thing cats usually do when they go out in the spring is to do rolly-rolly in the leaf pile. Most cats will not get sick from Lyme disease but humans can and do become ill. We can see from the rising incidence of ticks in Quebec that we need to get better at killing off the nymphs. That is why we recommend starting tick prevention in early spring. If we have seen your cat in the last 12 months a simple phone call to 514-674-2428 or an email to firstname.lastname@example.org will allow us to get the medication ready for you to pick up. We will need your cat’s current weight, so we can provide the right dosage. If we have not seen your cat in the last 12 months, you can usually get an appointment the same week.
The medication is easy to use. We recommend a liquid medication which is applied monthly between the cat’s shoulder blades, so the cat can’t lick it off. You apply it yourself, no need to come to see us. Each pet in the household should be treated in order to prevent environmental contamination.
If you find a tick on either yourself or your cat, it is important to remove the entire tick including the head. There are small tools made just for tick removal. You can purchase them online or at your local pet store such as Yazoo Pet Supplies. Once you have removed the tick, put it into a small pill jar. If you would like to know if this tick is a carrier for Lyme disease, we do have a service available.
So what if your cat only goes outside on a harness or onto a balcony? Ticks survive in any shaded area where the vegetation is over six inches. We evaluate each cat’s risk factors and advise you on whether or not preventative treatment is necessary.
The Quebec government states that they have currently identified 12 species of ticks in Quebec. Their distribution pattern varies geographically. Across Canada there are about 40 species of ticks shown to live in Canada. Since they can be spread by migrating birds the distribution of ticks is constantly varying. Where they like to live varies between species.
Ticks actually belong in the same family as spiders so they are arthropods and not insects. They are also known as ectoparasites because they live outside of the host’s bodies and not inside like endoparasites.Ticks vary in size and shape depending on their life stage and how much blood they have ingested. So they swell as they eat. The Canadian Veterinarian Medical Association has an outstanding website at Home – Tick Talk (ticktalkcanada.com).
If you would like to know more about how ticks affect human health the Quebec government has more information at https://www.quebec.ca/en/health/health-issues/a-z/lyme-disease.
Many medications prescribed exclusively by veterinarians can also act to control other important diseases such as fleas, roundworm, tapeworms, heartworm and ear mites. So much protection in one little vial!
So let us all do our part to help protect our family members including our cats and humans. Together we can make a difference in stopping the progression of tick borne diseases.