The population of ticks in Alberta is on the rise and Sylvan Lake vets are warning residents to be careful now that warmer weather is here.
Parkland Veterinary Hospital teamed up with Catherine Smith, a registered veterinary technician with Zoetis Inc., to host a tick seminar recently.
The well-attended seminar gave guests much needed information about why ticks are a concern, where they are coming from, prevention options and the different types of ticks found in Alberta now.
Dr. Lana Keating said she wanted to get this type of information out early, so pet owners can begin to prepare for the warmer months of the year.
“Last year was the first time we started to see dogs come in with ticks,” said Dr. Keating. “That was in May, so we wanted people to know about it before the snow melts.”
Dr. Keating said the pets that came in with ticks were all from Sylvan Lake, and were not farm dogs, or those that spend time out in tall grass or think brush.
Ticks tend to increase in numbers, referred to as a tick bloom, in the spring and fall each year.
The seminar is part of Parkland Veterinary Hospital’s three month Spring Prevention.
“[Ticks] are here and we need to know how to protect ourselves and our pets from the diseases they carry,” Keating said.
The reason Alberta has seen an increase in ticks, something that until recently most was certain were not found in the province, is because of global warming and migratory birds, according to Smith.
Smith says ticks normally found in the southern United States have been identified in Alberta.
“We are concerned because they aren’t meant to be here,” Smith said adding some of the ticks are indigenous to Texas and the Gulf of Mexico regions.
Generally speaking, ticks cannot survive a cold winter. Scientists have determined most species of ticks will die once temperatures reach -16C. However, the problem is despite winters in Alberta often getting a cold as -30C, underneath the snow pack the temperature hasn’t reached the required -16C to kills the small blood-suckers.
According to Smith, that means ticks can continue to survive and grow through to their adult stage.
“In some cases, like with the Brown Dog Tick, they will attach to the dog, feed and then go and live in your floor boards and then feed again,” said Smith.
Ticks have three stages of life, with two of those stages capable of transmitting Lyme disease and tick borne diseases.
This is why it is important to protect yourself and your pets as much as possible against ticks, Smith says.
She recommends using the PAIR method to protect pets: Product; Avoid; Inspect and Remove.
“Talk with your vet about product for your pets,” Smith advised adding, “…don’t destroy the ticks you remove from your pets, we can send them away to be tested.”