Earliest tick season in years, Regina vet says

Saskatchewan veterinarians say the warm weather has led to ticks making an early appearance in the province. Regina vet Lesley Sawa says it's the earliest tick season in 20 years.

Ticks usually emerge in May and June

Veterinarian Lesley Sawa says this is the earliest tick season in two decades. (Dean Gutheil/CBC)

Many of us in Saskatchewan may be enjoying the warm winter and early start to spring.

Unfortunately, ticks like it, too.

In Saskatchewan, the blood-sucking critters usually emerge in May and June, but in many areas, the pesky parasites have already shown up on dogs and cattle.

"In the last 20 years, this is probably the earliest I've seen ticks," Regina veterinarian Lesley Sawa said.

The warmer weather is bringing migratory birds heading north into Saskatchewan earlier and those birds can also carry ticks with them, Sawa said

Animals that venture into densely wooded areas and tall grass can very easily pick up a tick or two or more. 

Sawa says if you take your pet into those areas, a thorough tick check should be in order.

"Look in their ears, check all over their skin, underneath their armpits. If a tick is stuck in, just pinch it and pull it off."

Before going into tick-infested areas, Sawa recommends, some preventative measures are in order, Sawa says.

She recommends chewable oral medications for dogs.
There are also topical medications which are applied between a dog's shoulder blades.

When you're out in the tall grass make sure your pants legs are tucked into your socks- Dr. Lesley Sawa

Deer ticks can transmit Lyme disease to dogs and humans.
However, the deer tick is not common in Saskatchewan and cases of Lyme disease in this province are rare, she said.
Sawa says the brown tick is most common in Saskatchewan.

It can spread the anaplasma bacteria, which can lead to diarrhea and an increase in heart rate.

Those cases are also rare in the province — but not zero, she said.   

For humans, covering up is the best prevention.

"When you're out in the tall grass, make sure your pant legs are tucked into your socks," she said.

"When you come back, remove your clothes in the garage or somewhere where you're avoiding the inside of your home. And then shake out those clothes and try to remove any ticks that might be stuck on your garments."

The bottom line, says Sawa, is that people should enjoy the warmer season and the great outdoors.

Just remember ticks love the early start, too.