This Toronto woman says she's 'living in hell' as ticks invade her back yard

A Toronto woman is warning people to check for ticks after she found several on herself and her two dogs in the past week.

Michelle Snider says she's has had to pull 25 to 30 ticks off her dogs and herself in 7 days

Michelle Snider, a Toronto woman who lives in the Long Branch neighbourhood, is urging people to check themselves and their pets for ticks this year. She is enduring an infestation in her back yard. (CBC)

A Toronto woman is warning people to check for ticks after she found several on herself and her two dogs in the past week.

Michelle Snider, who lives in the Long Branch neighbourhood of south Etobicoke, said she pulled between 25 and 30 from her two dogs, Juju and Heavy D, and herself in the last seven days. 

"My experience has been horrible and nightmarish," Snider said on Wednesday.

"They've taken over my yard. They've taken over my house. It's a health concern for both my dogs and I. I'm living in hell, honestly." 

Snider said she was bitten by two ticks last year and saw a few on her dogs two years ago. But this year she says she's been bitten by five, all dog ticks, in the past week. Three years ago, she said she didn't even know what a tick looked like. 

Now, she is actively investigating possible solutions to what appears to be a tick infestation in her backyard and surrounding neighbourhood.

"Just check yourselves," Snider said on Wednesday. "Check yourselves multiple times a day."

Snider said the ticks in her backyard have gotten so numerous, she cannot go past her deck. She posted a video to Facebook of two jars of ticks to warn her neighbours. One jar contains a single tick crawling around inside, while the other jar contains several ticks clustered near the bottom.

"It's scary. I'm at mental breakdown point right now," she said.

"I've had them on my shoulder, on my hip, when I wake up in the morning. They're in my bed. It's creepy."

She has put a topical solution on both dogs that she obtained from the vet but she doesn't think it's working. She said she checks herself and her dogs at least three times a day.

Juju, a cross between an American bully and old English bulldog, stands in a park in South Etobicoke. The dog is 11 years old. (CBC)

Toronto Public Health (TPH) said in a statement on Wednesday that it cannot yet say for certain if tick populations are on the rise in Toronto.

TPH has begun its tick surveillance program for this year. It says it monitors only one species, the blacklegged tick, which carries Lyme disease. It suspended its tick surveillance program in 2020 and 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

"It is too soon to tell if there are any trends in the numbers of ticks this year," Dr. Howard Shapiro, director and associate medical officer of health, healthy environments, said in the statement.

Shapiro said the risk of people in Toronto getting infected by a tick carrying Lyme disease is low. The city is dealing with the issue of Lyme disease through monitoring of tick populations and public awareness, he added.

He urged residents, when walking or hiking in areas that are wooded or bushy with lots of leaves or in areas with tall grasses, to wear long pants and sleeves and use an insect repellent containing DEET or icaridin.

Shapiro said some areas of the city have established tick populations known to carry Lyme disease.

An adult black-legged tick is pictured here. Black-legged ticks carry Lyme disease. (Bertrand Guay/AFP/Getty Images)

Trine Butler, branch manager in the B.C. Fraser Valley for Orkin Canada, a pest control company, said she believes the reduced use of pesticides, along with a warmer climate and an increase in the number of pets during the pandemic, has contributed to what seems to be an expansion of the tick population across the country.

These days, Orkin Canada focuses on making environments less tick friendly instead of spraying pesticide, she said. That means working with customers to ensure shrubbery is trimmed back. She recommends keeping grass cut short, trimming trees and removing leaf debris promptly.

Butler suggested that people, in addition to using insect repellant, tuck their pants into their socks, wear closed-toed shoes and have their shirts buttoned up when going hiking in the forest or bush and then check themselves and their pets when they get home.