There are two different species of ticks here in Ontario: the American dog tick (Dermacentor variabilis), and the Black-legged tick (Ixodes scapularis). Once attached to a host, ticks can remain feeding for up to 10 days before reaching maximum engorgement. Like mosquitos, ticks are hosts themselves and are affiliated with a plethora of parasites and diseases, some of which include ehrlichia, anaplasma, and Lyme disease.
Ticks are most active throughout the spring and fall from March- June and September- November. They thrive in damp, humid environments, most often being found in woodlands, grasslands, and leaf-litter. Most ticks can survive throughout the winter and will re-emerge once the weather rests above 4 degrees Celsius. Nonetheless, Ontario vet clinics have already begun finding ticks on dogs and cats, so the time to educate yourself is now!
In Canada, the biggest risk associated with ticks is Lyme disease. This infectious disease can be transmitted to dogs, cats, humans and a variety of other mammals. Black-legged ticks or deer ticks are the only species that can carry Lyme in Ontario. In Northern parts of the province, it is estimated that 12% of black-legged ticks carry Lyme, however, in areas surrounding Lake Ontario, Lyme disease is said to infect up to 60% of black legged ticks and its prevalence is borderline epidemic.
The amount of time a tick is attached to a body is directly related to the severity of Lyme. The longer the tick is embedded, the worse the symptoms will be. Checking you and your pets after each outing is vital to avoid an infection. Checking around the ears, neck and the base of tail is recommended immediately after a walk, and even a few hours after a walk. Ticks can range from the size of a poppy seed to a large pebble (once engorged), so be sure to look very carefully. Oral and topical preventatives are available and highly recommended- many of which protect from fleas and other dangerous parasites as well.
If you do find a tick, it is important to have it removed immediately. Click here to learn about tick removal, as it can be very tricky. If you are uncomfortable with removing the tick yourself, bring it to a vet to have it removed safely. While at the clinic, they can properly identify the species and have the individual tick sent away for testing. Blood testing is also recommended 6 weeks following the removal of a tick to ensure there is no risk of Lyme. Click here to speak with a vet and learn how to best protect you and your pets from ticks this spring.