Tick Awareness

Tick Awareness

While the end of winter brings the welcome of longer days and warmer weather it’s exactly these warmer temperatures that are attributed to the ever increasing tick population in Nova Scotia and Canada in general. It has been reported ticks are expanding further north then ever previous found and as the tick range grows so does the various tick species that are transmitting disease causing pathogens. The primary ticks being identified for zoonotic concern (able to transmit disease to both pets and humans) are the American Dog Tick (also known as the Wood Tick); deer tick (also known as the Black Legged Tick); Brown Dog Tick; Lone Star Tick; and more recently the Gulf Coast Tick.

Beginning as an egg the 6 legged larva emerges resembling an adult tick minus a set of legs. Freshly hatched the larva may be free from disease but feeding from an infected animal makes it a potential source of disease. After a first feeding the larva drops to the ground to digest its blood meal and grow. It takes one to three weeks for the larva to molt which begins the nymph stage- an 8 legged replica of the adult tick. Ticks can carry more diseases that any other arthropod in the world and feeding on at least three hosts before they die increases the risk of transmitting disease. These ticks have to keep their mouth parts embedded in their hosts’ skin for hours, even days, before finishing a blood meal. The longer a tick is attached the more likely it has transmitted an infectious dose. For Lyme disease, in general, the tick has to be attached for over a day. Rocky Mountain spotted fever can be transmitted more rapidly, usually within 12 hours of attachment.  Ehrlichiosis, Babesiosis, Anaplasmosis, and Heptatozoonosis are other diseases transmitted by ticks that are of zoonotic concern. Symptoms of these conditions often resemble the flu: headache, fever, muscle pain, skin rash, and in the case of Lyme disease a distinct bull’s eye rash in the area of the tick bite. Medical intervention is the recommended course of action for humans suspecting a tick bite. A simple diagnostic test is available by your veterinarian that can confirm if your pet has been infected by one or more of the above mentioned pathogens. While vaccination against Lyme disease is available for dogs, to date there is no such vaccine for humans. Keeping in mind that 100% efficacy is unlikely, there are highly effective products available that will minimize if not completely eliminate the possibility of your pet receiving a tick bite. Your veterinarian is the best source of information and expertise on the various options available.

Ticks are just another one of those unpleasant facts of life, much like mosquitoes and black flies. As a disease vector, prevention and control is important. You can help create a tick free zone by modifying your yard; removing leaf litter and cutting fall grasses and shrubs. A border of woodchips or gravel between lawn and wood areas may prove beneficial. Walking on cleared trails when in tall grass and wooded areas plus tucking pant legs into socks, wearing long sleeves, hats, and light colored clothing will aid in protecting yourself from ticks. Manual examination of both you and your pets after outings is wise. Tick season is usually in bloom during the months of spring and fall but that said ticks are viable all year round and at four degrees Celsius ticks are searching for a blood meal.

Submitted by

Kelly Fitzpatrick-Stewart