Frequently Asked Questions
Although we’ve been a bit quiet on the blog front this year, it’s been anything but quiet for tick submissions!
Our most recent set of tick maps show submissions up to June 20th and include 380 submissions. So far, the majority of these submissions are from Ontario and eastern Canada and are blacklegged ticks and American dog ticks, with very few ‘exotic’ tick species reported (which is good!). We also have received thousands of ticks from participating veterinary clinics across Canada (including many from the west) through the Canadian Pet Tick Survey. Identification and testing of these samples is ongoing, and we hope to have some basic data available to share with you soon.
I wanted to take the opportunity to share some common questions I get through Pets and Ticks, so we can all learn together.
Q1. “What type of ‘tick year’ will it be?”
That’s always a hard question to answer. Each tick species and life stage has specific activity patterns, and these are further influenced by habitat and climatic factors on various time scales (day, week, month, year). Since it’s fairly common for the weather forecast to be less than accurate, it’s even harder to predict tick activity. What I can say is that based on rumbles from others in the tick world, and our own experiences here at Pets and Ticks, it seems to be a very active tick season so far. Last year, we felt the opposite. Keep checking back for the latest updates.
Q2. “Will you test my tick?”
This is probably the most common question. The short answer is no (unless you’re involved in our research studies). However, it’s good to know why. Dr. Weese provided a great blog last year. The messaging is still the same now.
Tick testing is not recommended for an individual animal to direct clinical care. If a tick is positive for a pathogen, it does not tell you if that animal will become sick and no treatment is recommended following a tick bite. For example, about 95% of dogs that show evidence of exposure to the bacteria that causes Lyme disease will never become sick. If a tick is negative, it creates a false sense of security, because maybe you found that tick but maybe missed another one (that could have been positive).
The best idea is that if you know your animal has been exposed to a tick / ticks, speak with your veterinarian. Get the tick identified (we can help with that!) so you know what species your pet is exposed to and therefore potential pathogens. If you pet appears unwell, make sure to bring up the fact that your pet has been exposed to ticks with your veterinarian. That can help them determine the best diagnostic tests to run.
Q3. (Follow-up) “Why then are you testing ticks from the Canadian Pet Tick Survey?”
Great question! Tick testing is helpful at the larger scale. It gives us an indication of what pathogen risks each tick species poses within a certain area. That way, if your pet is exposed to certain species of ticks, your veterinarian can determine the level of risk associated with that bite. For example, American dog ticks pose a very low risk of pathogen transmission in Canada. However, in the USA, their infection prevalence of pathogens is much higher, and the risk is different. Our aim is that through the Canadian Pet Tick Survey, we can provide up-to-date information on local tick and tick-borne disease risks for pets in all provinces.
Q4. “What is the best tick prevention for my dog or cat?”
Great that you are thinking about tick prevention. It’s one of the best things you can do for your pet in the battle against ticks and tick-borne diseases. We fortunately have many good products in Canada. However, we at Pets and Ticks cannot offer individual advice. That’s a great conversation to have with your veterinarian – they know your pet, their health history and their lifestyle and therefore are the best person to have a conversation with about ticks and your pet.
Please keep the questions coming. And if you have ideas for future blog posts, please send them our way!
FYI We’ve had some fun media opportunities the past month. If you’d like to learn more about Lyme disease, listen to "Ticked Off By Lyme" on the Super Awesome Science Show podcast. We’ll also be making an appearance on CTV Your Morning later this month!