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Tick Talk Part 1

This shows different life stages (larva, nymph, adult male, adult female).

Good morning! At the clinic lately we have been hearing more and more questions regarding ticks and Lyme disease. As a result, we are posting a 3 part series on the subject for your reading pleasure.

We will start by sharing some information about ticks and their life cycles. Part 2 will discuss how this can affect your pet, and Part 3 will be all about prevention! After all, prevention is the key in this (and many other medical situations)!

Ticks are obligate ectoparasites which means they must attach to a host and take blood meals from that host. Ticks are classified as arachnids, meaning they are more closely related to spiders than they are to insects. There are approximately 850 recognized tick species in the world, and ticks are second only to the mosquito in terms of their public health and veterinary importance because they can transmit a plethora of diseases. Ticks can be divided into two categories, they will either have a soft body (argasids), or a hard body (ixodids).

Ticks have 4 developmental stages: egg, larva, nymph, adult. Larvae will have 3 pairs of legs while nymphs and adults will have 4 pairs. Ticks do have fairly specific host preferences. The larvae and nymphs will tend to feed on small wildlife like birds and rodents. The adult ticks will feed on larger animals like livestock, deer, moose, skunks, dogs and many other animals. The specific host depends on which specific tick is being talked about. In tropical places, ticks can have 2-3 life cycles per year, here in Canada we see mostly one cycle due to our cold winters. So, this coming winter while dealing with the freezing temperatures, snow and chilling winds, you can think about this blurb and be grateful! After all, if it weren’t for that winter weather you’d still be dealing with ticks!

In Canada, according to the Public Health Agency, we most frequently see the tick species Borrelia burgdorferi (which can transmit Lyme disease), Dermacentor andersoni (which can transmit Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever), and Dermacentor variabilis (which can transmit Tularaemia). If you are currently thinking ‘Wait a minute! That doesn’t mean anything to me!’ Have no fear, that’s what Part 2 is for, so stay tuned!

As always, if you would like more info or have other questions, feel free to call the clinic. We’re happy to help!

I will leave you with some fun photos of the above species so that you can get an idea of what ticks look like in various parts of their life cycles! Enjoy!

This is a tick at various stages of engorgement during feeding.

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