Dr. Iz Jakubowski

UPDATE: Protecting Yourself & Your Dog From Ticks (Toronto 2020) *

By Dogs, Pet Parasites, Ticks

March is National Tick Awareness Month!

It’s not the beginning of tick season per se (there is no official “season” where ticks are concerned), but rather the time of year Canadian veterinarians (& especially veterinarians in southern Ontario) revisit the subject of ticks knowing that people & their pets will be spending more time outdoors as Spring approaches. Our complete primer on ticks follows, but here’s a summary of key points that are top of mind.

Tick Take-home Points for 2020

Toronto is considered a risk area for Lyme disease.

Check out Public Health’s map of risk areas in Ontario below. It’s not the kind of map any city wants to be on, but the deer tick has been found in sufficient numbers in parts of Toronto, to put us on it. Comparing the maps for 2016 through 2019, you can see that ticks continue to expand their feeding grounds. They’re now in Hamilton, York region, Kenora & near Orillia where they weren’t established previously. Ticks expand their territories at a rate of about 46 km/year. And where there’s a black-legged (deer) tick, there’s the potential for that tick to carry the bacterium (Borrelia burgdorferi) that causes Lyme disease. (Click on the 2019 map to see a larger version of it.)

Interested in how Toronto is faring where ticks are concerned? Click here for more information about the city’s tick surveillance program: Backlegged tick surveillance – City of Toronto. This website includes a link to the map shown below as well as data on the number of ticks found in different parts of Toronto. In 2018, about 35% of backlegged ticks in the Rouge Valley tested positive for Borellia burgdorferi (the causative agent of Lyme disease). 

By the way, you’re invited to be a citizen scientist & help Dr. Scott Weese of the University of Guelph with his tick surveillance efforts by submitting information about ticks you find on your pet here:  There’s lots of other useful information at this website as well, including some of the latest research on the subject.

Note: It’s still the case that nation- & province-wide, about 1 in 5 deer ticks carry Borrelia burgdorferi. But in certain areas where these ticks have been established for a number of years, as many as 40% of them carry Borrelia. (The longer ticks are established in an area, the higher the level of disease in those tick populations. Gananoque, Kenora District, & Wainfleet Bog have some of the highest level of disease in their tick populations.)

As more information becomes available about the numbers of ticks carrying Borrelia in our area, we’ll keep you posted, but in the meantime, you can assume that at least 20% of our deer ticks are carrying the bacterium.

Tick activity is temperature-driven, not seasonal.

Any day it’s 4ºC or higher (or to be on the safe side, let’s say above freezing [0 ºC]), ticks come out of hiding in search of a meal. We’ve been monitoring weather patterns for a number of years now, & it’s become clear that while the weather is unpredictable, you can count on ticks being active through the winter. Take this winter, for example. One day, the temperature went from a balmy 11.8ºC to a frigid -6.9ºC within a week in mid-January. Almost 90% of January saw temperatures above 0 ºC and almost 20% of the month saw temperatures above 4 ºC. The calendar below shows that there was potential for plenty of tick activity — in the dead of winter.

Given that Toronto is on the map as a risk area for Lyme disease, & winter months here continue to see temperatures that support tick activity, we recommend year-round tick protection to ensure your dog is covered during those warm spells that are becoming a norm through the winter.

Tick-borne diseases like Lyme disease are preventable!

Tick-borne diseases are serious, but they’re also entirely preventable if you take the appropriate precautions. We recommend preventive medication for your dog, appropriate clothing and bug spray for you, staying on trails and keeping your dog on a leash, doing tick checks after you’ve been outdoors and removing ticks from your pet as soon as you find one (even if he/she is on preventive medication). It can take as little as 24 hours for the black-legged tick to transmit the bacterium that causes Lyme disease if it’s carrying it, so the sooner you remove any ticks, the better. If you find a tick on your dog, we can run a quick blood test to check for exposure to disease.

We’ve run the numbers, and it’s less expensive to prevent transmission of Lyme disease for a full year than it is to treat it. And because we worry about Lyme nephritis (a rare but typically fatal complication of Lyme disease that affects kidneys) and we still don’t know enough about subclinical & long-term effects of the disease, your best bet is to take appropriate steps to avoid disease transmission.

For year-round tick prevention (as well as coverage for other parasites for the months of the year they’re of greatest concern), we recommend a monthly chewable in the NexGard® family of preventives:

Note: At some point, we’ll be looking at whether it’s also appropriate to introduce the Lyme vaccine in our area. We’re not seeing a need just yet. 

Need reminders to give your pet flea & tick preventives? There’s an app for that! Instructions for downloading the app: Flea and Tick app Instruction Sheet_EN

Like to do your own research? Here are some reliable places to start.

Read on to further understand the risk ticks present, & to learn how to identify the ticks of greatest concern & take steps to reduce the risk of acquiring tick-borne diseases so you & your dog can continue to enjoy the outdoors in good health.


A Brief Primer on Ticks

What exactly is a tick & why are ticks a concern?

Ticks are external parasites that belong to the same family as spiders. They have several life stages: The adults lay eggs, eggs hatch into larvae, larvae molt into nymphs, & nymphs mature into adults that go on to lay more eggs. Adult ticks have 8 legs, 2 body parts, a flat body (when their bellies aren’t full of a blood meal), & a hard outer skeleton (hard to squish but don’t even try because you might release any disease they may carry). Both adult ticks and nymphs are vectors for (meaning they can carry) certain diseases that can be transmitted to you and your dog when they attach and feed. Not all adults and nymphs carry disease, but some do and their numbers are increasing.

Understanding tick behavior

Unlike fleas & mosquitoes, ticks can’t jump or fly onto their hosts. Instead, they “quest” when they’re hungry for a blood meal. That is, they cling to vegetation (e.g., a leaf or a tall piece of grass) with their back legs & reach out with their front ones so they can grab on & climb aboard any host that passes by (a bird, rodent, deer, dog, or a person, for example). They can sense a potential host through body heat & vibrations. Click: Tick questing  & you’ll see a good example of a tick questing for a meal ticket.

A tick "questing"

A tick “questing”

Once on board, some ticks wander around looking for the best seat in the house (for example, on or near an ear where skin is thin). Others will settle in wherever they land. They’re pretty hungry at this point & literally do a face plant when they feed, embedding their heads into skin & sucking up blood through a feeding tube for several days. Once they’ve had their fill, they fall off their host & move on to their next life stage. You’d think we hosts would notice, but ticks are really small (hard to see until they’re engorged with a blood meal) & some species release a kind of local anesthetic when they feed so their hosts don’t notice they’re there.

Tick feeding with head embedded into skin

Tick feeding with head embedded into skin

It’s only while adult ticks or nymphs are feeding that they can pick up a disease carried by one host & pass it on to another.

Which ticks are a concern?

Species of ticks found in Canada that will feed on dogs or people are listed below. The ones of greatest concern are the black-legged (deer) tick & American dog tick. (Brown dog ticks are uncommon, & Lone Star tick populations have remained low. They’re a greater concern if you’re spending time in parts of the U.S.) The incidence of most tick-borne diseases is still pretty low in Canada. But black-legged ticks that transmit Lyme disease in particular are growing in numbers, including in the GTA.

Travelling to the United States with your dog? Tick-borne diseases & heartworm disease are a much bigger issue there than in Canada, & we strongly recommend that you take preventive measures while you’re there. To learn about the parasites of concern in the U.S., see the maps provided by the Companion Animal Parasite Council at

How can I tell ticks apart?

Tick scrutumThe easiest way is by looking at the shield on their backs called the scutum. The scutum covers the entire back of males but only the upper back of females. It is solid black in black-legged ticks, more “ornate” with some white in American dog ticks, & displays a white spot in female Lone Star ticks (white spots around the margins in males). (Brown dog ticks don’t have a distinct scutum.) That said, ticks are small, so even identifying them by their scutum is challenging. Click here for a chart that can help you identify the four ticks of concern in Canada: Identifying Adult Ticks  

When is tick prevention recommended?

At any point that you’re seeing an area on the ground without snow cover and the temperature is 4°C or higher (let’s say above freezing to be safe), ticks will be out questing for a meal. In our part of Ontario, people & their pets need protection from March through November at a minimum. But given the consistent warm spells we’re seeing during our winter months, we recommend year-round protection. Adult ticks are active in the spring & fall. Nymphs are active during the summer. Nymphs pose the greater risk to people because they’re around at a time when people are wearing shorts & tee-shirts & have more skin exposed, & nymphs are so tiny (1-2 mm in diameter!) they’re hard to spot.

Tick Life cycle

Tick Life cycle

What’s the best way to remove a tick?

tick image3There’s a nifty 2-pronged tool for the job (pictured left) that we can give you.

1) Pick the large or small one depending on the size of the tick.

2) Engage the tick between the prongs of the tool approaching it from the side.

3) Gently lift & turn (clockwise or counterclockwise) until the tick releases its hold.

4) Disinfect the bite site and wash your hands.

Here’s a video showing how it’s done using the tick tool shown above:

Alternatively, grasp the tick close to the skin with tweezers and gently but firmly lift upward. The goal is to remove the tick with its mouth parts intact. (If you leave anything behind it’ll cause a reaction under the skin.) DO NOT put oils, Vaseline, or other concoctions on the tick (we worry that it’ll cause the tick to regurgitate into its host – exactly what we don’t want!).

How worried do I need to be about Lyme disease?

On average, about 1 in 5 black-legged ticks in Ontario carry the bacterium (Borrelia burgdorferi) that causes Lyme disease (less in some areas, more in others). (In areas such as Kingston & Gananoque, up to 40% of ticks are carrying the bacterium.) The vast majority of dogs that are exposed to Borrelia don’t get sick. In fact, only about 5% of dogs develop symptoms of Lyme disease: a lameness that shifts from one leg to another, fever, lethargy, & a loss of appetite. And they can be treated successfully with antibiotics. But left untreated, about 1% of those that get sick develop Lyme nephritis (an immune-mediated disease of the kidneys that’s often fatal).

People can also develop serious complications of Lyme disease if it’s not treated. So if you develop flu-like symptoms (aches, pains, headaches) or a bulls-eye-like or other rash where you may have been bitten by a tick, please see your family physician.

While Lyme disease is serious, it’s also entirely preventable if you take the appropriate precautions.

Dr. Iz Jakubowski

Royal York Animal Hospital  

4222 Dundas Street West Etobicoke, Ontario M8X 1Y6

*416-231-9293  *

Dr. John and Remy

Heartworm, Tick and Flea Prevention Animal Hospital in Etobicoke

By Dog Fleas, Pet Grooming, Pet Safety, Pet Treatment, Ticks

It’s Time For Your Dog’s Heartworm, Tick and Flea Prevention !!


Royal York Animal Hospital has been testing dogs for Heartworm and the Tick Borne Diseases with a “4DX” blood test for several months now.

As of May 1 we have had 5 dogs test positive for Tick Borne Diseases — 4 with Lyme disease and 1 with Ehrlichia.

Ticks are Different Than Fleas

It is very important to know that ticks are very difficult to kill and remove. Unlike fleas, ticks actually attach to your dog.  The sooner the tick is removed from the dog, the less likely your pet will contract disease. Below you can see a photo of what a tick looks like when it lands on your dog and then what it looks like when it becomes engorged with blood.  Many times people bring their dog in to be checked because they think they want a “new growth or lump” to be examined only for us to find that it is an attached TICK.


The Migration of Ticks to the Toronto Area

Hot spots for ticks for the last several yearshas been Kingston through an arc to Belleville , Haliburton and Barrie northwards and moving southwest to the Toronto area.   We know from our own client’s whose dogs, in increasing numbers,  have come in with ticks attached and have only been in our own High Park or grasslands on the Lakeshore or their own backyards.

Use this great tool to check out where Ticks are by postal code:

Ticks in the Toronto Area 2015

 When is tick prevention recommended?

At any point that you’re seeing an area on the ground without snow cover and the temperature is greater than 4°C (let’s say above freezing to be safe), ticks will be out questing for a meal. In our part of Ontario, people and their pets need protection from March through November. Adult ticks are active in the spring and fall. Nymphs are active during the summer. Nymphs pose the greater risk to people because they’re around at a time when people are wearing shorts & tee-shirts & have more skin exposed, and nymphs are so tiny (1-2 mm in diameter!) they’re hard to spot.

How can I protect myself and my dog?

There is no “one product fits all” to treat and prevent where these parasites are concerned.  The Veterinarians at Royal York Animal Hospital have thoroughly reviewed all the products on the market

For 2015 we recommend two products:

1.   Bravecto™ which is a chewable preventive with the added bonus of lasting for 12 weeks (three months)

2. Revolution which is the product most are familiar with.  This is a once a month topical (put on the fur at the back of the neck) and protects your dog from Heartworm, fleas, internal parasites and has some tick protection

Bravecto Tick Prevention

Bravecto Tick Prevention



Other ideas to limit tick exposure:

1. Stay on trails

2. Keep your dog on a leash

3.Do tick checks after you’ve been outdoors.

It can take as little as 24 hours for the black-legged tick to transmit the bacterium that causes Lyme disease if it’s carrying it, so the sooner you remove any ticks, the better. If you find a tick on your dog, we can run a blood test to check for exposure to disease.

Below are links to Royal York Animal Hospital’s own videos showing how to apply Revolution.

No need for a video for giving Bravecto as we have found almost all dogs will take this as a TREAT!

How Apply Your Dogs Revolution

If your dog has not had his Heartworm “4DX” test yet this spring please do not delay any longer!

Contact us today  to schedule this blood test and to pick up your supply of Tick, flea and Heartworm prevention.

Also, if there is only one other article you are going to read about Ticks it should be this one written by my co-worker  Dr. Iz Jakubowski

Protecting you and your Dog from Ticks 2015

 Dr. John

Dr. Lilla Yan

Darwin’s story and Ticks and Lyme Disease in Etobicoke

By Ticks, Toronto Dogs, Toronto Pet, Uncategorized

At the beginning of January,  Darwin, a 4 year old Old English Sheepdog was brought in for an exam for limping and lethargy. His limping was progressing very fast and  within 24 hours he could barely walk!

Our pet X-rays revealed no fractures or signs of bone cancer or any other abnormality.  However, his dog blood work, surprisingly, showed that the dog had Lyme disease.  Since he had been tested for Lyme disease (along with his Heartworm test) in March of 2013 we were able to figure out that sometime  between then and December 2013, Darwin had contracted the disease.  The ONLY way for him to have contracted Lyme disease was from a tick.  But his owners had not found any ticks on him but he is a pretty hairy guy as most dogs are so it is not that unusual to miss.  The scary part is that Darwin had not traveled anywhere and had  stayed in Urban Etobicoke the entire time.

Darwin was so sick.  He could barely even lift his head when he was diagnosed.  Amazingly he responded extremely well to treatment for Lyme disease and  after about 3 days of medication he was almost back to his normal self.


Getting Treatment for Pet with Ticks and Lyme Disease

Ticks and Lyme disease are becoming more and more common in the GTA. We are seeing more dogs coming in for tick removal every year. Here’s a map published by the Canadian Medical Association Journal on the distribution of the Ixodes tick (deer tick that can carry Lyme disease) between 1990-2003. It’s predicted that they will be come more prevalent in the next 20 years. For more information you can view this website

As many of you know, at Royal York Animal Hospital in 2013 we started to include tests for Tick-borne diseases when your dog came in for his yearly Heartworm test.  Along with Darwin there were also  24 additional dogs who test positive for Tick-borne diseases at our hospital.


Here’s a picture of some ticks.  Ticks tend to attach onto a dog (or a person) and not move around like fleas do. The smallest ticks are about the size of the period at the end of this sentence. After sucking blood from a dog they tend to get bigger and look more like the ones in the right of the picture below.

Protect Your Pet During Tick Season

Ticks tend to be out in the spring, summer and the fall. As long as the overnight temperature goes above 3C ticks start to emerge.  They do not need longer than that so they can fool us when the temperature is about 3C for only a day and then plunges again.  They tend to hide in tall grass or brushes, and when a dog walks by they grab onto them and attach. It’s important to check your dog daily, especially after they have been to wooded areas. Because it takes some time for a tick to give a dog the bacteria responsible for Lyme disease and other tick-borne disease, the earlier the tick is removed the less likely the dog will contract the disease.

Our 4Dx test for heartworm now include screening for Lyme disease, Ehrlichia and Anaplasma which are the most common diseases transmitted by ticks. So your dog will automatically get screened for these every year when they get their heartworm test done.

This year, because we have had so many dogs test positive, we are educating people about PREVENTION as well as testing .Even if they haven’t had a tick before and only stay locally, tick prevention should be a consideration; because as you’ve seen in Darwin, all it takes is one tick for a dog to contract tick-borne diseases such as Lyme disease

If your dog has had ticks in the past, or if they will be going to cottages / wooded areas / Eastern Ontario eg. Kingston/Thousand Islands area, then FOR SURE they should go on tick prevention along with their regular flea and heartworm preventions.

Dr. Lilla Yan

Source and Photos courtesy of :






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