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Tick season is NOT over – in fact it’s just beginning!

We’ve all become very familiar with ticks over the last 10 years or so since they started showing up in our backyards, but unfortunately there is still a lot of misinformation out there about when they are out.  The tick species that carries Lyme disease in our area is the blacklegged tick (Ixodes scapularis), which is sometimes called the deer tick.  This tick feeds only three times in its life, first as a larva (usually in July or August).  These larvae are very small and thankfully do not carry Lyme disease.  They pick up the bacteria that causes Lyme disease when they feed on a small mammal or bird that has the bacteria circulating in its blood.  These larvae fall off and moult into the next lifestage, the nymph.

The nymphs feed most commonly in May, June or July of the following year.  These ticks are very small and can carry Lyme disease and are considered the highest risk to humans due to their very small size and being active at the time of year we spend most of our time outside in short sleeves.  These nymphs feed (they have a second chance to pick up the Lyme disease bacteria) and then moult into an adult.

The adult tick feeds later in the fall through to the following spring.  These ticks will be active any time the temperature is above 4C, even December through February.  In fact, the most ticks we have seen in the clinic in the past two years were during a mild December in 2015 and during the mild spell in February 2017!  Looking back, 95 of the last 96 months in Gananoque have had at least one day above 4C. Therefore tick risk is in ALL 12 months of the year.

The good news:

We can protect your pets using a three-pronged approach: tick checks daily, a preventive with proven action against blacklegged ticks, and a vaccine.

The bad news

Current research suggests humans are actually more likely to develop disease than dogs.  Therefore, we recommend performing tick checks daily, visiting the Public Health Agency of Canada’s website (here) and always discussing tick questions with your human medical professional.

Frost will not make ticks go away.  The ticks will be out the next time it warms above 4C.  The cold weather will not kill them.  They live happily down to temperatures of -18C to -20C and even when temperatures are colder than this, they are insulated under the snow.  Any bare spots on a mild day in the winter months pose a risk.  This is their time to feed.  Don’t let it be on your dog, or on you.

If you have any questions about ticks or Lyme disease, please do not hesitate to contact us at the clinic at 613-382-2900.

Scott Stevenson, DVM

Dr. Scott Stevenson is a member of the Canadian Parasitology Expert Panel, which is responsible for writing guidelines for parasitology for companion animals in Canada.  He is also the only Canadian representative on the Companion Animal Parasite Council, whose goal is to see all pets tested and protected from parasitic diseases across North America.