Should I be Worried about Ticks and Lyme Disease?

You love your pet, and so all the hoopla about Lyme disease leaves you feeling a bit bewildered. Is it a real threat? Can it kill your dog? And how can you prevent it? Read on to learn about the main thing you need to watch out for when it comes to your dog, ticks and Lyme disease.

Ticks in Ontario

Toronto veterinarians all agree that now, more than ever, pet owners should be taking the blacklegged tick—also known as the deer tick—very seriously. These parasites sometimes carry bacteria that can make dogs sick with Lyme disease, which can cause inflammation of the joints and lameness. Blacklegged ticks are now commonly found in Southwestern Ontario, and Toronto veterinary clinics are seeing more and more cases every year.

Which of my pets is at risk?
Dogs are the main at-risk pet species, especially dogs that play or walk outdoors in fields, cottage dogs and hunting dogs. Cats are rigorous self-groomers and so the likelihood of finding a tick on one is slim. Rabbits can be bitten by ticks as well, especially those kept in outside hutches or who live inside with cats and dogs. Tidy up outdoor hutches and check your rabbit often for ticks.

How to Identify a Blacklegged Tick
The deer tick has three life stages: larva, nymph and adult. They all need to feed on blood to move to the next stage. Larvae and nymphs are small, pale and harder to see. Adults are 3-5mm in length and brownish and red in colour. When engorged, they may look like a distended dark raisin. The smaller and more harmless American dog tick has whitish markings on its back.

How can I prevent Lyme disease?


  • Groom your dog every day to look for parasites.
  • Remove ticks with a pair of fine-tipped tweezers; pinch the tick as close to the dog’s skin as possible and pull upwards with even pressure. Don’t wiggle as you pull. Flush the tick down the toilet, put it in a plastic sealable bag or douse it with rubbing alcohol.
  • Make sure the tick’s head is still attached to its own body once it is pulled out. If the head is missing you need to bring the dog in as soon as possible to get it removed by a veterinarian. If not, the head of the tick can still transmit the bacteria.
  • about an annual Lyme disease vaccine and topical preventive products that are applied monthly.


So, what’s the big thing I need to watch out for?
If at any point you notice a tick on your dog or see an engorged tick fall off him, watch the dog’s behaviour in the next while. Keep in mind that an infected tick has to be latched on to your pet for at least 24 hours in order to transmit the bacteria. If your dog starts to limp or show signs of lethargy, call us at the Brimley-Lawrence Animal Clinic to see if you need to bring in your pet. Our animal clinic provides service to residents of Ajax, Scarborough and Markham, and we will provide attentive care to keep your pet healthy and well.

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