By Dr. Michelle Evason, University of Prince Edward Island
We’re all worried about ticks. Ticks on dogs, ticks on cats, ticks on horses and ticks on us. The reason for this concern is twofold: no-one wants to get sick (or have a loved one get sick), and ticks are quite simply “gross.” In dogs and cats, tick and subsequent disease prevention consists of two major agreed upon components: 1) tick checks, and 2) veterinary approved tick prevention products applied properly (and consistently, i.e. on schedule) to prevent ticks from transmitting disease.
For the first of these, while we all know we SHOULD do tick checks on our pets… Practically, it’s TOUGH to do tick checks on dogs (not to mention cats) and even harder to do so consistently. For example, we own two large breed, long-haired (ridiculously spoiled) dogs who regularly join me on runs through the woods. All three of us come home from these bursts of nature filled joy covered in the evidence of Atlantic Canada’s booming baby (nymph) and adult tick population, mainly Ixodes scapularis. Although I try hard to practise what I preach (i.e. do the tick check!), it is next door to impossible to pick through one (let alone two) long-haired dogs’ fur or find the time to do so while keeping all of life’s various trains running, e.g. kids to school on time, holding down a job, etc. As such, articles on practical and timely ways to help locate tick attachment “hot spots” in order to remove them from pets are welcome additions to the scientific literature.
Ticks can be even harder to find when they are “babies,” immature or in the nymph stage – especially for those of us who own long-haired or dark-coated animals. This group of researchers from the UK reviewed over 450 records from dogs and over 100 records on cats (the bulk (>60%) submitted by veterinarians), in order to determine tick attachment site locations, among other things. On dogs, ticks were found on the following sites about 80% of the time: the head (almost 50%), followed by legs, neck and chest (all close to 10%). Ticks on cats were found in the same locations and with similar frequency (i.e. about 80%): head (43%), neck (32%) and legs (6%). The article also has graphics of locations on the cat or dog’s head where ticks are more often found, e.g. near eyes, ears. etc.
Similar to simple daily hand hygiene practices, small things (i.e. tick checks focused on the more likely (80%) locations) done quickly on a daily basis can help keep us and our beloved pets healthier and happier – and are a vast improvement over not doing any tick checks at all. Not to mention that anything that helps turn what seems impossible task (i.e. a full body pat-down on an active English Setter) into a focused, and more rapid tick check is a helpful resource.
More information about ticks can be found on the Worms & Germs Resources – Pets page or at PetsAndTicks.com