It’s tick season in Saskatchewan, because like most people, the parasites prefer the warmer temperatures.
“The species we have here is the Dog Tick, which is most active in May and June when it’s trying to get aboard a host,” said Dr. Emily Jenkins, a professor of veterinary microbiology with the University of Saskatchewan.
Dog ticks are generally red-brown in appearance, and can be found in grassy or wooded areas.
“Most of the ticks that we have here in Saskatchewan do not carry Lyme disease,” said Jenkins, who added that ticks who do carry the disease can start to show up at the end of the Summer.
“What we see in the fall is these black legged ticks that have been brought up in the spring by migratory birds, spent the summer here growing up to be adults, and that’s why they show up in the fall, because that’s when they quest for their adult host.”
University of Saskatchewan researchers have partnered with the province’s Ministry of Health to expand a new online program, eTick, to help monitor ticks and inform people of potential health risks.
“Snap a picture, upload it, we’ll tell you within 24 business hours if it was a Lyme disease tick or just one of our homegrown ticks,” said Jenkins.
Even if a tick is not a carrier of Lyme disease, they can still pose a health risk.
“Even a tick bite from one of our homegrown ticks here can get infected locally,” said Jenkins.
The first line of defence is to check yourself and pets daily for ticks, and remove any immediately.
“Just grab the tick around the head and gently and steadily apply pressure,” said Jenkins. “The tick actually glues itself on, it secretes a glue, so what you want to do is gently break that seal, and pull the tick off all in one piece without aggravating it too much.”
Veterinarians recommend getting a prescription or over the counter tick medication to prevent ticks attaching to pets, as well as changing walk times.
“It’s always better to go out for a walk when the sun is up,” said veterinarian Wole Adeniran. “Early in the morning when the weather is kind of cold or cool, the ticks tend to come up, and then they stay where they can get attached.”
Jenkins says “anecdotally” we are seeing an increase in the number of ticks in Saskatchewan, which she believes is a direct link to global warming.
“We are definitely seeing warmer temperatures that increases the abundance of ticks, the activity of ticks, the range of ticks further and further north and further and further west into Saskatchewan,” she said.
“The patterns in how we use the landscape have also changed. For example, I don’t think urban dog parks were much of an issue until the last decade or so, and so now that we’re out and about in their habitat, the ticks are happy to take advantage of that.”
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