Ticks: 5 things you need to know

Ticks are on the rise on P.E.I., so here are tips to keep them at bay.

A handy list to keep them off your pet, and out of your home

Ticks are found on P.E.I. from April to October, whereas a decade ago, they were usually only found in the fall. (Radio-Canada)

Warmer weather is upon us which means more time outside for both man and beast. But it also means the possibility of your pets picking up an unwanted passenger: Ticks.

One vet on P.E.I. says ticks are on the rise.

Jill Wood with the Southport Animal Hospital said her clinic has pulled four ticks off animals, both dogs and cats already this spring, diagnosing one with Lyme disease .

Veterinarian Jill Wood with Southport Animal Hospital has already found one tick carrying Lyme disease this spring. (CBC)
The clinic has had nine additional reports from patients who have found ticks on their furry friends.

Wood says when she graduated from veterinary school over a decade ago, there might have been one or two in the fall, but now the clinic sees them from April through to the end of October.

To help keep ticks away from your home we've created this handy list of five things you should know about ticks.

1. Where there is one, there could be many

Wood said once ticks hatch they will only travel about 20 metres at best, which creates little hot spots.

She said there is no one particular community or area on the Island that is more likely to have ticks so best that everyone be aware.

2. They may not be just in the woods anymore

Wood said most often ticks like to climb up onto long blades of grass to try and catch a ride and a meal.

That means trails, wooded areas or anywhere with grass that hasn't been mowed is where they will be.

But she pointed out recently they have been hearing other reports too.

Ticks are most often found on long blades of grass, waiting to catch a ride. (CDC)
"We have had a few cases now since we`ve been telling people that, where people were very adamant that their pet had not left their fenced backyard and yet managed to pick up a tick," Wood said.

"So we`re a little leery of telling people they can`t get them in other places, but still it`s probably more common in wooded areas and long grass. But certainly we're starting to think that maybe even in your backyard is possible."

3. Look for the signs of Lyme

Wood said the actual tick bite isn't a problem but the diseases it can cause are, the most common being Lyme disease.

If you think your animal has been exposed, look for fever, lethargy, lameness or swollen limbs.

She cautioned that even if the animal is bitten, it doesn't necessarily mean they will get Lyme disease, and even if they are exposed to the bacteria it may not turn into the full-blown disease.

If you are concerned, you can get a simple blood test at your vet.

4. What to look for when checking for ticks

If you want to check your animal, you can do so by getting right down to the skin and looking for something that looks like a wart or skin tag.

They will be greyish in colour and a bit shiny, and most often they will be on the animal's legs or head.

Wood shared another tip to use when your animal comes in from outside to catch ticks before they attach: 

"A really neat idea that I've seen is to use one of the sticky lint brushes on your pet, because they can be very tiny when they haven't attached." 

5. Prevention and vaccines

There is a vaccine for Lyme disease, but Wood said there is much debate in the veterinary community if it is worth it, because as with all vaccines there could be side effects.

She said it is best to speak with your vet about your specific dog and if it would be good for them based on their habits.

Another plan is preventative medicines that come in topical applications which will repel and kill ticks and other pests, and is applied monthly.

Vets say if you do find a tick on your pet to report it, so they can keep track of numbers in their area. (CBC)
There are also pills which will kill the tick once it attaches, preventing it from feeding and spreading disease.

The pills are effective for three to four months and are taken as prevention, not once the animal has been bitten.

Wood says the best thing to do if you are concerned about your animal is to speak to your vet.

She also recommends that if you find a tick on your animal, report it to your vet so they can keep track too.