Ticks pose a risk to pets and people in Montreal, and throughout Quebec. These parasites are scary because they do more than just feed on blood: they can transmit serious diseases to pets and people, which can lead to lasting health issues, especially if not caught and treated early. That’s why the veterinary team at Vet Mobile Plus wants you to be aware of the big problems these small parasites can cause—and provide guidance on how to help keep your pet (and yourself) protected.
Ticks are small arachnids (akin to mites and spiders) that live off the blood of people, dogs, and cats, as well as birds and other animals such as coyotes, deer, horses, rabbits, and rodents. Ticks like to hang out in wooded or grassy areas, like parks and fields, and can be found around Montreal in both urban and rural areas. If you walk or hike with your pet, you may both pick up ticks along the way. Depending on where you live, you might even find ticks in your own backyard, especially under leaf litter, in the shade, and around the edges of the yard. It’s always good to be familiar with other areas around the province that are considered at–risk areas.
When it comes to size, some ticks are very small, to the point you may not see them even if you’re looking for them. Ticks are masters when it comes to hiding with favourite spots being under fur, in ears, in skin folds, and in between paw pads. In fact, adult Deer ticks are about the size of a sesame seed, and nymphs (immature ticks) are only about the size of a poppy seed!
Ticks in Montreal, Quebec
There are around 900 tick species in the world, with just a few that pose a danger to pets and people in our area. The main ticks we have in and around Montreal are Blacklegged (Deer) ticks, American dog ticks, Brown dog ticks, and Lone star ticks. Lone star ticks, which until recently were found largely in the southern United States, can now be spotted up into eastern Canada.
Tick Diseases in Dogs
The ticks we have in the West Island area can transmit several diseases to dogs, including:
- Lyme disease
So far, in 2023, 1 in 20 dogs tested positive for Lyme disease in Quebec. Last year, more than 1600 dogs tested positive for the disease in our province.
Tick Diseases in Cats
Just like dogs, cats are susceptible to tick diseases too. The parasites can cause several diseases in cats, including anaplasmosis, ehrlichiosis, rickettsiosis and babesiosis. It is unclear yet, whether cats develop Lyme disease, although infection with the bacteria that causes lyme (Borrelia burgdorferi) does occur. Other tick-borne diseases, such as cytauxzoonosis and tularemia, although rare, can be deadly in cats.
Even indoor-only cats can get ticks if the parasites hitch a ride inside on you or another pet.
Symptoms of Tick-borne Diseases in Pets
If you find a tick attached to your pet (or even if you don’t), let us know right away if you notice any of these signs of tick-transmitted diseases in your pet:
- Breathing difficulty
- Fatigue or weakness
- Lameness (which may shift from one leg to another)
- Pale gums
- Sensitivity to touch
- Stiff, swollen, or painful joints
- Walking stiffly with an arched back
- Weight or appetite loss
- Vomiting or diarrhea
NOTE: Pets with Lyme disease rarely get the characteristic bull’s-eye rash seen in some people.
Prevention of Ticks and Tick Diseases
There are several ways of protecting your pet and yourself from ticks and the diseases they spread, starting with keeping your pet on a tick control medication (also called a tick preventive). Ticks can remain active year-round in Montreal, and the surrounding areas. In fact, the risk of ticks exists as long as the temperature remains above 1 degree Celsius.
Here are a few other ways to help protect you and your pet from tick-borne diseases:
- Use insect repellents with 25% to 30% DEET or 20% icaridin (picaridin) on yourself. DEET-containing products can also be used on children who are at least 12 years of age, and icaridin can be used on those 6 months of age and up. DO NOT use these products on your dog or cat. DEET is especially toxic to both cats and dogs.
- Avoid areas known for being infested with ticks.
- Try to stay out of tall grass and heavily wooded areas. This practice won’t prevent you from coming in contact with ticks, but it can help limit the number of ticks you encounter.
- If you’re planning to hike or camp, ask us which areas are high risk for ticks.
- Check yourself and your pet for ticks after you’ve spent time outside, especially if you’ve been in high-risk areas.
The best way to prevent ticks on your pet is to keep your pet on a tick control medication.
Ticks are becoming a greater threat in Montreal and the surrounding area. The team at Vet Mobile Plus want to help keep pets safe from these parasites, so if you find a tick on your pet, let us know. We provide complimentary tick removal and tick identification for our canine and feline patients. And call us today to make sure your pet is protected with a tick preventive!
*Companion Animal Parasite Council (CAPC). Parasite prevalence maps. Tick borne disease agents, Lyme disease, dog. capcvet.org/maps. Accessed April 26, 2023