A Toronto veterinarian says there's no need for dog owners to "freak out" about ticks but it is important to learn about ways to prevent canines from getting bitten by the tiny black-legged bugs.
Dr. Ted Morris, a veterinarian at Bloor Animal Hospital, said vaccinating dogs against Lyme disease is not really necessary and concerns about the illness are "a little bit overblown."
"Everybody is freaking out about ticks," Morris told Metro Morning on Tuesday.
"It's something that I think everyone needs to be aware of and needs to talk about but not necessarily freak out about."
Morris said the animal hospital used to see one dog with a tick per year, but it has been seeing a dog with a tick on a weekly basis in the past two years. In 2016, the animal hospital had its first case of Lyme disease in a dog.
It's hard to find a tick bite on a dog and vets usually find the actual ticks on dogs instead, he said. If ticks have been feeding for a day or two, the ticks become engorged and are easier to locate. "People just want us to take them off," he said.
Morris said it's important for dog owners to keep in mind that 90 to 95 per cent of dogs that get infected with the Lyme disease bacterium from a tick bite do not get sick because they get rid of it on their own.
Treatment for Lyme disease in dogs is a common antibiotic and "fairly straightforward," he said. Symptoms include lameness.
"It is a concern but I think it's being a little bit overblown. People really need to be aware and have a conversation and then figure out if the vaccine makes sense for you and your dog and their lifestyle, or if good tick prevention is going to keep them healthy."
He said the vaccine is about "80 per cent effective."
With a disease, he said vets ask the following questions: "How serious is this illness? How challenging and expensive it is to treat? And is the vaccine going to make a big difference or are we really just doing it for peace of mind?"
Tick prevention measures include topical creams, tick collars, and medication taken every three months called Bravecto.
"There's a lot of options depending on where your dog goes in the world," he said.
"You want something that has broad spectrum coverage. You want something that will protect them."
Ticks are tiny arachnids that can spread Lyme disease through bites. They're often found in long grass near wooded areas. Vets tell dog owners to avoid tall grass or wooded areas where ticks usually hide to prevent dogs from getting bitten.
According to the city, the blacklegged tick (Ixodes scapularis), is the only type of tick in Ontario that can transmit Borrelia burgdorferi, the bacteria that causes Lyme disease.
A boarding stay can be a stressful experience for your dog. Even when you only have to put your dog in boarding for a short time, he will still be living in a strange place, being cared for by strangers, and staying near dogs that he doesn’t know.
Because of the stress involved with boarding, paired with the fact that your dog is in close quarters with other dogs, it’s possible for your dog to become sick during his stay. Luckily, there are a number of ways you can keep your dog happy and healthy.
#1 Vaccinate Your Dog Ahead of Time
Make sure that your dog is up to date on all of his vaccines well before his boarding stay. It is best to have your dog vaccinated at least a month before he will be going into boarding.
Most boarding facilities will provide you with a list of specific vaccinations that your dog will need to receive in order to stay at the facility. Be sure to also have your dog vaccinated against kennel cough, an illness which is common when dogs are kept in close quarters.
#2 Find a Top Quality Boarding Facility
The quality of the boarding facility that you use can really influence how healthy and happy your dog is during the stay. Look for a facility which is clean, well-staffed, and which provides the dogs with quality care.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions or visit the facility ahead of your dog’s stay.
#3 Prepare Your Dog With Brief Overnight Stays
If you will be leaving your dog in boarding for a period of more than a few days, then it’s a good idea to introduce your dog to boarding by having him spend a night in the kennel where he will be boarded during your longer trip.
Allowing your dog to get used to a facility can reduce his stress during his longer boarding stay.
#4 Provide Plenty of Food and Medicine for Your Dog
Don’t forget to leave your dog with plenty of his food from home. You should also provide any medicine that he needs.
Make sure that the food and medicine are clearly labeled, and include detailed instructions for feeding amounts and medication administration.
#5 Leave a Shirt or Blanket That Smells Like You
Leave your dog with a shirt or blanket that smells like you. This can be a reassuring item which can help to calm your dog.
#6 Ensure Your Dog will get Plenty of Attention
Before leaving your dog for boarding, you should talk with the kennel to make sure that your dog will receive plenty of attention during his stay. One-on-one attention from staff can help to reduce your dog’s stress.
You should also make sure that your dog will receive frequent walks and exercise opportunities throughout the day, which can help to keep him healthy.
#7 Monitor Your Dog's Health Once He's Home
Once your dog is home, keep a close eye on his health for a few weeks. Sometimes, despite our best efforts, dogs do pick up diseases while in boarding. If you notice that your dog seems under the weather, take him to your vet right away.
With a little planning, you can make your dog’s boarding stay as stress-free as possible. While spending time apart from your dog can be hard, you can be sure that he’ll be thrilled to see you when you pick him up after his stay.