Tick and Heartworm Season
It’s that time of year again! The birds are singing, the rain is falling, the flowers are beginning to bloom. It’s also time for Edie’s annual veterinarian checkup that includes heartworm testing and flea and tick protection.
On this episode of Vet Chat, Dr.Ryan Llera discusses:
Ticks, lyme disease and heartworm
Do you know what time it is? Well, aside from longer walks, rain, Blue Jays games, and sunshine….it’s the season of bugs! Yes, April is known as Heartworm Awareness month and Lyme Disease Prevention month. That’s quite a bit to pack but they both are so incredibly important to our canine friends.
Ticks are icky, and being from the same family as spiders, I’m surprised more people aren’t terrified of them. The most obvious and pressing concern is for the spread of Lyme disease. But in large enough numbers, they could give Dracula a run for his money – once, my team and I removed over 100 ticks off a Yorkie and it needed a blood transfusion to survive. There are a few other diseases that may be seen in other parts of the country but as the years go on, may spread to our little corner of Ontario.
Anybody can remove a tick. But there is a right and a wrong way. The ticks have barbed little heads and when they bite they make a chemical seal to cement their place in the skin. Improper removal can lead to broken tick heads staying stuck which leads to irritation. While in many cases the head will fester out, dogs in the meantime may chew or scratch at the area and can create a bit of infection. Tweezers in general are not the best tool to remove a tick but if you must, use pointed tweezers as those with a wide grip might crush the head/tick attachment. A better tool is called a tick twister with is like a mini-crowbar that is safe & effective.
If you thought ticks were bad, then you don’t know heartworms! Imagine a clump of spaghetti noodles. Now, imagine them squirming around…in your dog’s heart. Pretty gross sounding isn’t it? What’s worse is that it can kill your best friend. Heartworms are transmitted by mosquitoes so naturally a warmer environment is going to have a higher risk but just like ticks, mosquitoes and disease can migrate. A crazier fact is that from the time your dog can be affected, it can still take 6 months for any potential signs or positive tests to occur.
While both Lyme disease and heartworm disease are treatable conditions, wouldn’t it be much easier to prevent? Fortunately, your veterinarian has the tools to help keep your pet safe. As most ways of preventing these diseases start in the springtime, many pet owners will arrange a time to meet with their pet’s veterinarian at the beginning of the season when it is also convenient to have an annual exam done as well as any vaccinations.
Because of advances in science, you can choose how you feel it is best to protect your pet. There are both topical (spot on) options and oral chews. Both types have their pros and cons which should discussed with your veterinarian to give the best coverage against disease. So take this first step in helping keep your pets healthy and be proactive in your discussions with your veterinarian. Your furry friend is counting on you!
Dr. Ryan Llera is a small animal veterinarian at the Kingston Veterinary Clinic in Kingston, Ontario. Though originally from Florida, he married a Canadian (who is also a vet!) and they share their home with 3 cats, 2 dogs, 2 horses, and a rabbit. Ryan is also a regular guest writer for the Ontario SPCA blog. You can find more of his writing at drryanllera.com or see what else he is up to on Facebook & Twitter.