The last few days of February were warmer than usual in Sudbury this year and it got us thinking about ticks. It seems hard to believe that you should be thinking about ticks in February but ticks can start questing when the temperature is 4°C. Questing is a term used to describe a behaviour that ticks exhibit when they are looking for an animal to feed on.
Ticks can’t jump or fly so they have to put themselves in an ideal place to find food. When a tick is questing, it attaches itself to branches, leaves or grass with it’s third and fourth pair of legs, while they stretch out their first pair of legs to grab an animal as it goes by. Sudbury has been fortunate in the past because ticks were not very prevalent in urban areas of the region. Unfortunately, that is no longer the case. Over the past few years, there has been a dramatic increase in the tick population in the Sudbury region.
Ticks need a blood meal to survive and they bury their heads under the skin of their victim. Some ticks attach very quickly to wherever they land on the animal and other ticks will wander around to find an area of thinner skin to latch onto. This means that ticks can be found almost anywhere on the body of an animal. All ticks can cause areas of irritation and inflammation at the site of attachment. Some tick bites can lead to more serious health concerns because they can transmit or cause serious illnesses (i.e. Lyme’s disease, tick paralysis). Ticks are very good at what they do because they’ve been around for so long. Ticks have been found fossilized in amber so they’ve had millions of years to adapt and refine their feeding techniques.
Once a tick has attached to an animal, it will feed over several days. Initially, ticks are very small but grow substantially during the feeding process. A tick’s weight can increase by 200-600 times during feeding! Most owners don’t notice when a tick lands on their pet because they are so small. Generally, it’s only after the tick has been feeding for awhile and becomes bigger that owners find the tick.
Stages of a tick after feeding based on number of days
Luckily, there are options to protect your pet in the battle against ticks. Prevention is always the best option. There is a variety prevention medications available ranging from sprays that have to be applied weekly, to once monthly topical applications or oral chewable tablets. Speak to us about which product will work best for you and your pet. We can help prevent your pet from getting ticked this year!
Written by Cambrian Animal Hospital