The change in our city’s climate is gradually increasing the parasite risk to pets in our community. Fleas are an age-old itchy and painful nuisance, but the tick risk in Toronto has been increasing every year. In addition to black-legged (deer) ticks that transmit Lyme Disease, other worrisome ticks include the Lone Star tick that can transmit the alpha gal (red meat) allergy to humans, and brown dog ticks, which can live indoors and cause home infestations. Heartworm is also a rising risk, due to high infection rates among the coyotes living in our parks and ravines, and the increasing numbers of globe-trotting dogs in Toronto.
It’s important to make sure that your dogs and cats (even indoor pets!) are protected from infection, so that you can both stay safe and healthy.
Fleas are usually are out in full force after only 3 days of warm weather, but when the winter weather is mild, we see dogs and cats with fleas all year long! Did you know that in a typical flea infection, only 5% of the fleas are on your dog or cat? The other 95% are in your home! Fortunately fleas are easier to prevent than they are to treat. Our flea preventives work with nearly flawless efficacy to prevent fleas from infecting your pet and infesting your home, and the best cat flea treatments now protect against ticks as well!
Ticks are becoming more prevalent each year as they gradually migrate further and further north. Tick species of concern in Toronto include the black-legged (deer) tick (which can carry the bacteria that causes Lyme Disease), the American dog tick, the brown dog tick, and the Lone Star tick. Many Toronto area parks (High Park, Trinity Bellwoods, Cherry Beach) are endemic for ticks and we frequently see ticks on dogs that have visited these areas, as well as Humber Bay Park, the Rouge Valley, cottage country, and the Kingston/1000 Islands area. We are also starting to see a lot more ticks on cats, even if they just have short supervised backyard visits, since cats like to explore the grasses and shrubs where ticks can be found. Tick-borne diseases such as Ehrlichia and Anaplasma can transmit within 3 hours of tick attachment, and Lyme disease can transmit within 24 hours of attachment. The medications we recommend to prevent tick attachment and the transmission of Lyme disease also protect dogs and cats from a wide variety of other parasites. Just ask, and we would be happy to talk with you about the available options, and what would be most suitable for your pet.
Heartworm is a potentially fatal condition that all dogs are at risk for – not only those that go outside frequently. It is transmitted by mosquitoes, which as we all know are not limited to the outdoors! The disease can be transmitted with a single bite from a mosquito that previously bit a dog or coyote with heartworm, and the larvae then develop within the skin and blood stream of an infected dog. Once mature, they grow to 10-15 cm long, live in the heart, and can cause severe illness as well as clinical signs of heart disease.
Fortunately, heartworm disease is easily preventable with appropriate medication. Our recommendation for most dogs is a safe and effective monthly chewable medication that protects against fleas, ticks and heartworm disease. Our primary cat parasite prevention medications also protect cats from heartworm disease, which is less common but can be even more deadly to our feline friends.
Next Steps for Dogs
The important first step for dogs is to book an appointment to have a tick-borne disease and heartworm test done. This is a blood test that allows us to make sure your dog didn’t contract Lyme Disease, other tick-borne diseases or heartworm disease last year. While testing used to only be done only in the spring, we now recommend combining this with your dog’s annual exam each year, to save you a second visit in the spring. Thanks to special rates from the laboratory we work with, we can offer tick-borne disease and heartworm testing year-round at a significant discount when done at the same time as wellness-monitoring or pre-operative bloodwork. These tests can help us identify and treat emerging health issues early, before they progress and become more difficult and expensive to treat. Preventative care testing is very important to have done annually, since pets age the equivalent of seven human years each calendar year!
If your dog is up to date on their annual exam, and completed their tick-borne disease and heartworm testing at that time, there’s no need to come in again to get their prevention. Just complete our online Flea, Tick & Heartworm Medication Request Form. If your dog needs their annual exam and/or tick-borne disease & heartworm testing, please click here to make an appointment, and we can get everything they need done with a single visit.
Next Steps for Cats
If your cat has not been in for a visit during the past 12 months, please click here to book an appointment for their annual wellness exam. If we have seen them within the past year and you have no other health concerns to discuss with their veterinarian, please feel free to use our online Flea, Tick & Heartworm Medication Request Form.