The warm spring weather in many parts of the province has some warning about the danger of ticks — especially for pets such as dogs, who may be taken for walks through tall grass and wooded areas.

"Any temperature about four degrees is when they start to come out and look for that blood meal," said Julia Gray, a veterinarian at Jacobsen Vet Services in Kelowna.

This week Interior Health sent out a public warning for ticks in the southern interior of the province, stating that the most common species in the region — the wood tick — is not known to carry Lyme disease bacteria, but can carry other diseases and toxins that can cause temporary muscle weakness and paralysis.

The tick species that does carry Lyme disease is more common in coastal areas of B.C., but less than one per cent of that species are actually carriers of the infectious disease.

Effects on dogs

Gray said that ticks can cause a variety of problems for dogs, including irritation at the site, inflammation, abscessation, and even paralysis.

ticks

Dog owners should check their pets both after coming back from a walk and some time later, as the ticks can grow in size and become easier to find. (CBC)

"You can have a normal, happy, healthy dog that all of a sudden can't walk, is having major neurological problems, and they really can't move at all," she told Radio West host Rebecca Zandbergen.

"Then you find a tick on them or you do tick prevention and within a couple of hours they're already starting to feel better."

She said that while all breeds could get infected, herding dogs such as border collies and Australian shepherds tend to be more susceptible to developing issues from tick bites.

"Essentially dogs with white feet, they tend to just be a little more  sensitive to the neurotoxin that's in the saliva of the ticks and that's what ends up causing the tick paralysis in certain dogs."

Gray said dogs tend to be bitten around the head and neck, or in their tail area and around the legs.

Prevention and removal

1. Take preventative measures

Gray said there are sprays that can be used on a dog's fur, a topical product that can be rubbed in between the dog's shoulder blades, and oral pills that last up to three months.

With these products, ticks that bite the dog are killed and fall off the animal.

2. Inspect your dog

Ticks can be very small, so Gray recommends inspecting one's dog both after coming back from a walk and some time later.

"Check them that evening and then the next day because as they get bigger they're easier to find," she said.

3. Take the tick out carefully

"It's really easy to rip a tick off and leave their head in, and then that's when you create even more of an inflammatory reaction," Gray said.

She said a local veterinarian can remove the tick, or provide owners with a small plastic device which can be stuck under the tick to pull it out.

"Or if you're comfortable you can take tweezers and grab the tick very close to the skin and apply slow steady pressure. You definitely don't want to do a quick yank, because that's when you can rip the body right off."

With files from CBC's Radio West


To hear the full story listen to the audio labelled: A veterinarian's tips for protecting dogs against ticks