This month’s focus is on those pesky 8-legged creatures and what you need to know to protect you and your pets.
Ticks are most prevalent in the spring and summer in tall grass, overgrown brush and wooded areas. However, in recent years with urban sprawl, it is becoming more common to see them in the cities, even in your own backyard.
The American Dog Tick or ‘Wood Tick’ (Dermacentor variabilis) is the most prevalent tick in Saskatchewan and comprises greater than 97% of all ticks in the province. While it can be a carrier of some diseases (like tick fever), it is not the carrier of Lyme disease.
The Ixodes species of tick (‘black-legged’ or ‘deer tick’) is the carrier of Lyme disease. This type of tick has not been established in Saskatchewan yet due to our climate. It comprises less than 1% of all ticks found in Saskatchewan. However, with climate change, eventually the Ixodes ticks will establish in larger numbers in our province. For the time being, Lyme disease risk for our pets in Saskatchewan is very low. Talk to your veterinarian if you plan on travelling with your pet outside the province, and ask whether you need to have your pet vaccinated for Lyme disease. Below are photos of the Ixodes tick prior to feeding and after feeding (engorged).
Tips for protecting you and your pets:
- Wear long-sleeved shirts, long pants, socks pulled over your pants, closed-toe shoes or boots, and light-coloured clothing.
- Talk to your veterinarian about the best tick preventive medication for your pet (options include topical and oral formulations). It is important to note that many tick preventive products are TOXIC to cats – ask your vet which products are safe to use in multi-pet households.
- Use insect repellent on yourself containing DEET (do not use on pets).
- Stay on paths to avoid contact with long grass.
- Do a daily full-body tick check on all family members (check especially around head/ears on pets).
What to do if you find a tick on your pet?
Don’t panic. Grasp the base of the tick firmly nearest the skin (where the head is burrowed) and pull straight out with steady even pressure (no jerking). If you are not comfortable removing the tick yourself, call your veterinarian. Many pet stores/veterinary clinics also sell tick removing instruments to keep on hand.
For more information about ticks and how to protect you and your family, please visit the Government of Saskatchewan’s website. On the link below, you will also find information on how to submit ticks for surveillance/monitoring.