As the weather warms up, many of us are venturing outside and enjoying the outdoors. Unfortunately, ticks are also out enjoying the nice weather. Ticks are arachnids and adults have eight legs, like spiders. In North America, ticks are divided into two groups: hard ticks and soft ticks. In Ontario, several types of hard ticks are prevalent. The deer tick or black-legged tick (Ixodesscapularis) and the American dog tick (Dermacentorvariablis) are the two most common types of ticks found in southern Ontario.
Hard ticks have three active life stages (larva, nymph, adult). At each life stage, a blood meal is necessary before the tick can molt to the next stage and eventually reproduce. The black-legged and American dog ticks are three-host ticks, meaning they feed on a different host at each life stage.
Ticks are found in various grasses and shrubs. Unable to jump or fly, hard ticks use a strategy called “questing” to find their hosts. The tick will perch at the tip of a grass blade or leaf and extend its front legs, waiting for a host to pass by. Changes in temperature, light, movement, and carbon dioxide can all trigger questing behaviour. Once on the host, the tick will feed.
Ticks can be vectors for various pathogens. Diseases transmitted by ticks include Lyme disease, anaplasmosis, ehrlichiosis, and cytauxzoonosis. It is important to remember that cats, as well as humans and dogs, are at risks of for becoming a tick host. Even indoor only cats are at risks, ticks can be brought inside on clothing or on any furry pets that go outside.
Ticks are very small (only 3-5mm if unfed, up to 20mm if fully engorged) and can be easily missed even if your cat is checked over daily. If you find a tick on your cat, take care when removing as leaving part of the tick can increase the risk of skin irritation and disease transmission. A tick puller can be used by placing the notch under the tick and then removing it by pulling
away. If you are using tweezers, grasp the tick at the site of attachment (taking care not to grab your cat’s skin) and pull upwards to remove the tick. If you are uncomfortable with how to safely remove a tick, please seek veterinary assistance.
Routine parasite control is key to prevention of tick transmitted diseases. Topical products, such as Revolution Plus or Bravecto, can be used safely in cats. Never use a dog product on a cat and always seek the advice of your veterinarian before applying any parasite control.
If you are concerned about ticks and the risks to your cat, we are always happy to discuss parasite control and your cat’s health.
Written by Dr.Kayla Hyland