News on tick borne diseases from the 2013 OVMA Conference

Well we’ve just returned from a really informative time at the OVMA conference.  I will blog over the next few days about some of the things we have learned at the sessions we attended.  From tick borne diseases, nutrition, posting blogs and helpful YouTube videos, emergency triage, dentistry and fluid therapy.

Dr. Nancy Caven, Dr. Joannah Jarman, Dr. Karin Kubicek, Joanne and myself (Sylvia) attended.  There was a wide variety of sessions and we all attended different ones to get a good cross section of the best practices and new information that is out there.

Although there was a lot to learn, I was pleasantly surprised and proud to know that the standards of operation and quality of medicine we are performing at Mississippi Veterinary Services is on par with industry and in some areas we are actually ahead of the curve.   An example of this, offering things with added value like complimentary post op therapeutic laser treatment to not only initiate healing, but also prevent surgery site infections.  We have been using this technique for over a year.

We also noted some areas where we can improve on customer service, and are currently reviewing all we learned and will be attempting to implement more of these great techniques.

So, today’s blog is about the increasing problem regarding tick borne diseases especially in the Thousand Islands corridor.  I know this isn’t tick season, but it will be here before you know it.  This is a new endemic area and it is increasing exponentially faster than any other hot bed in Ontario.  This corridor runs from Kingston through to Montreal.  Why?  The current thought is due to climate change and the ability of birds to migrate further north and carry some of these ticks in.  These ticks then in turn jump off, feed and reproduce, quickly increasing the population of all life stages of ticks in the area.  The white tailed deer are also migrating further north and they are the largest source of ticks.  Due to the higher annual temperature in the area, the ticks are also able to reproduce over a longer period.

So what is important for us as humans to know?  Well firstly it is most important to identify the type of tick you or your pets are in contact with.  Ixodes Scapularis, the deer tick also known as the black legged tick, is the tick that these diseases of concern come from.   Keep in mind all of these diseases are transmissible to humans.  Here is what the tick looks like, both prior to feeding and engorged with blood.  The most important thing to note is the scutum, just above the mouth parts, it will always be dark chocolate brown.


These ticks are increasingly common in this region, the adults show up in April & May, feed and lay eggs.  Their eggs hatch into larva then after feeding on small mammals turn into nymphs, feed again and the new adults appear in September through November. It is usually in the nymph and larva stage where they pick the diseases up, then they transfer the disease by feeding on dogs, deer or humans as adults before laying eggs.  (They can spread disease at earlier stages, it is not as common).  The ticks usually live in grassy areas along well trod paths of animals and in grassy-scrub bush areas.

So why the fuss?  Well this is the tick that affects deer, dogs and humans.  This tick spreads Lyme disease (borrelia bergdorferi), ehrlichiosis, anaplasmosis and babesia.  Health Canada is concerned as all of these diseases are now here in Ontario. There is an exceptionally large cost to treating humans with Lyme disease.

What does this mean?  Well at this time, we still recommend testing your pet annually for insect and tick borne disease.  This also lets us know what ticks we may be exposed to. We would also recommend testing when there are any symptoms of Lyme disease like lameness, fever of unknown origin, lethargy etc.  When there is a positive test, we will then check urine protein and have a Lyme Quantitative C6 test done.  If treatment is warranted a course of antibiotics will be given.  The disease can reoccur as it is never truly cured, so we often monitor the patient for 6 months after and may repeat urine protein tests and Lyme Quantitative C6 tests.

It is helpful to test the tick as well.  Removing the tick with caution is important, use the following tips.  1.  Wear gloves.  2.  Use a tick twister or other device that ensures the entire tick is removed, mouth parts and all.  3.  Do not pop the tick, it should be alive.  4.  If you remove a tick, you can place a damp paper towel in a jar and place the tick in it, make a tiny air hole.  We will only have Ixodes ticks tested, we can help you identify them.

Note:  It has been proven that cat’s can ‘sero-convert’ Lyme disease, but there are no known cases.

I hope you found this informative, next blog will be about giardia.  Sylvia