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Deer ticks, also known as blacklegged ticks, can carry Lyme disease. (Victoria Arocho/Associated Press)

Researchers from Mount Allison University and veterinarians from across New Brunswick are joining forces to determine how widespread Lyme disease is in the province.

They will be collecting blood samples from dogs and testing for antibodies to Borrelia, the bacteria that causes Lyme disease.

Borrelia is commonly transmitted to both dogs and humans through tick bites.

About 75 dogs in the Hampton area will be tested on Saturday as part of the research project.

"It's going to look at the overall risk for dogs in our area, but we can always also equate that to the overall risk in the human population," said local veterinarian Elisha Dickinson-Mills, who will collect the blood samples.

"For example, with five per cent of dogs or 10 per cent of dogs, I mean, we don't know what we're going to find.. But if they're coming back positive, we know that not only is there a risk to the dog population, but Lyme disease can also be contracted by people," she said.

A recent study conducted in New England found that for every six dogs infected, one human also had Lyme disease.

Ticks on dogs on rise

Dickinson-Mills says it has become increasingly common for pet owners to find ticks on their dogs in the past five years.

"There's a lot of marshlands, a lot of water in our area, and the birds actually bring the ticks, which often, at that point, are already infected with Lyme disease, and bring them to our area," she said.

"And so if we knew the numbers, you know ticks is certainly one thing to be concerned about, but more importantly, how many of those ticks are infected? We just don't know at this point."

Dogs with pre-booked appointments will be tested at the Dickinson & Baird Veterinary Hospital, at 141 William Bell Dr., on Saturday from 9 a.m. until about 3 p.m. 

Any dogs that test positive for Lyme disease will receive further testing, said Dickinson-Mills.

There is a vaccine available to protect dogs against Lyme disease, she added.

People can help protect themselves from ticks by wearing pants and long sleeves and using insect repellent with DEET.

If left untreated, people bitten by an infected tick can develop arthritis, neurological and heart problems.