It’s summertime and for most Canadians, that means we’re taking some time off work to enjoy a little rest and relaxation. Maybe that’s a week at the cottage, or an adventure in another county. And if it’s a family trip, there’s a good chance your furried friend is coming along, too.
Not to put a damper on the situation, but in your trip planning, it’s a good idea to think about ticks and more broadly, disease risks that your furried friend (and yourself) may be exposed to when away from home.
Over the last few months, we’ve had several submissions of ticks from pets with international travel history. In June, we received two submissions from a dog that had been in Texas. One tick was a Gulf Coast tick (Amblyomma maculatum) and the other a brown dog tick (Rhipicephalus sanguineus). More recently, we had a submission from a dog that was in Myrtle Beach. Thanks to a nice photo that accompanied the submission, this tick could be identified as a Gulf Coast tick.
Gulf coast ticks and brown dog ticks are rarely identified on dogs in Canada, and when they are, it is almost exclusively due to travel. In the case of the Gulf Coast tick, the risk posed is almost exclusively to the individual animal, as it is very unlikely for the tick to survive for a prolonged time in the environment. The brown dog tick on the other hand is a particularly nasty tick – it can survive and reproduce happily in a home or kennel and cause massive infestations!
With foreign species of ticks, comes different pathogen risks (and by pathogens, we mean bacteria, viruses, parasites). But it’s also important to remember that species of ticks that we commonly see here but have been picked up in a different county can transmit different pathogens. Take the example of the American dog tick, Dermacentor variabilis. We see this tick all the time in eastern Canada, but rarely do our resident American dog ticks carry pathogens (right now, anyways). The situation is completely different if you encounter this tick in the southern USA, where it transmits several pathogens, including Rickettsia rickettsii, the bacteria that causes Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever.
This story extends far beyond ticks and makes us think about other potential disease risks that our pets can encounter in different areas of the country, and the world.
So, what does this all mean if you want to travel with your furried friend? It’s as simple as being aware of the risks and taking the proper precautions (and in highly risky situations, leaving them at home).
It’s a smart idea to visit your veterinarian before travelling with your pet, whether this be local travel to the cottage or an international trip. That way you can make sure the preventative health care plan for your pet is appropriate. Parasite prevention and vaccinations are targeted towards the risks your pet may be exposed to on a regular basis, and adjustments can be made if your pet is going to be exposed to new health risks.