PEI

The snow's melting, welcome to tick season

As the snow melts from another spring storm, Prince Edward Islanders might be forgiven for thinking it's too early in the year to be worrying about ticks.

‘When the snow goes the ticks come out’

Ticks are different from most bugs because they have 8 legs. (Bertrand Guay/AFP/Getty Images)

As the snow melts from another spring storm, Prince Edward Islanders might be forgiven for thinking it's too early in the year to be worrying about ticks.

Unfortunately not.

Island Morning host Mitch Cormier was surprised when his wife told him she found a tick on their dog a few days ago, and it prompted him to call Prof. Vett Lloyd, who runs the Lloyd Tick Lab at Mount Allison University in Sackville.

Lloyd broke the bad news that this was not a surprising find.

"It's the start of tick season," she said.

Almost all ticks on P.E.I. are of the black-legged variety, says Prof. Vett Lloyd. (CBC)

"When the snow goes the ticks come out."

Ticks hide away under leaf litter in the winter, but actually like the cool weather. The spring is when they are most active, coming out hungry after a winter dormancy. In summer, they tend to hide away from the heat and they'll have a little burst of activity in the fall again.

While it's never fun having something sucking your blood, many ticks are relatively harmless. Unfortunately, there are also many in the Maritimes that are carrying Lyme disease.

Lyme is a potentially serious disease that can cause chronic pain and dizziness. It can be treated with antibiotics. It is carried by the black-legged tick.

Daily checks best protection

The good news is tick populations are relatively low on P.E.I. The bad news is almost all of the ticks on the Island, more than 98 per cent at last count, are black-legged ticks.

"Right after you finish going 'Ick,' and "Disgusting,' in those other provinces you then have to worry about what kind of tick," said Lloyd.

"On P.E.I. you can pretty much assume it's a problem tick."

One of your best protections against Lyme is finding the tick early. They need to be attached at least 24 hours to transmit the disease. Check yourself for ticks daily.

Take care when removing the tick. Using the wrong method can cause the tick to regurgitate, increasing the risk of disease transmission.

  1. Use clean, fine-point tweezers to grasp the head as close to the skin as possible and slowly pull straight out. Do no twist or squeeze. There are also special tick removal tools available.
  2. If the mouthparts break off and remain in the skin, remove them with the tweezers. If you're unable to remove them easily, leave them alone and let the skin heal.
  3. Wash the bite area with soap and water or an alcohol-based sanitizer.

More information here.

If you find a tick, hospital labs on the Island will test them to determine if they are carrying Lyme disease.

For your pet, there are topical and edible preventative medicines, and Lloyd said these both work well. She suggested talking to your veterinarian about the best options for you.

With files from Island Morning

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