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.