West coast vet­eri­nar­ian ex­pects hard ticks pop­u­la­tion to grow in prov­ince

Proper pre­cau­tions rec­om­mended for peo­ple and their pets


New­found­land and Labrador has no re­ported cases of soft ticks, but there is an es­tab­lished grow­ing pop­u­la­tion of hard ticks, thought to have been in­tro­duced by mi­grat­ing song­birds.

Ticks were never found in this prov­ince, but that all changed in 2000, and sta­tis­tics compiled by the pro­vin­cial govern­ment in­di­cate there will be a rise in the num­bers mov­ing for­ward.

Michael Tip­ple, a Cor­ner Brook vet­eri­nar­ian, wants to ed­u­cate the pub­lic on the pres­ence of ticks and what pre­ven­ta­tive mea­sures can be taken to deal with the small, wing­less arthro­pods.

The species of hard tick of most con­cern to peo­ple in this prov­ince is the black­legged tick (ixodes scapu­laris) be­cause it can carry the bac­te­ria (Bor­re­lia burgdor­feri) that causes Lyme dis­ease in both do­mes­tic an­i­mals and peo­ple.

For the west coast in 2015, there were 23 ticks sub­mit­ted to the pro­vin­cial govern­ment for test­ing. Sixteen of them were black­legged ticks, but none of them tested pos­i­tive for Lyme dis­ease. The fol­low­ing year, there were 25 ticks sent to the lab­o­ra­tory for test­ing. Seven­teen of them were black­legged ticks, and four of them tested pos­i­tive for Lyme dis­ease.

Given the in­creas­ing num­ber of ticks, the in­ci­dents of po­ten­tially hav­ing a tick car­ry­ing Lyme dis­ease is higher, ac­cord­ing to Tip­ple.

For peo­ple who have never heard of or seen them be­fore, black­legged ticks can­not jump or fly. In­stead, they seek hosts by climb­ing on veg­e­ta­tion such as grasses or shrubs and wait­ing for a host to rub against them. When this oc­curs, they climb onto the host’s body and even­tu­ally at­tempt to at­tach and feed.

Their pre­ferred habi­tat is dark, moist, brushy, wooded or weedy ar­eas along hik­ing trails and in grassy fields. They feed by at­tach­ing their mouth to the skin of an an­i­mal or hu­man and drink­ing blood very slowly over a pe­riod of days.

Tip­ple says a tick bite is gen­er­ally pain­less and, even if bit­ten by a black­legged tick, the like­li­hood of dis­ease trans­mis­sion is not a cer­tainty. First, not all black­legged ticks are in­fested with dis­ease caus­ing agents and, sec­ondly, they need time to pre­pare their bod­ies to sig­nif­i­cantly ex­pand with blood and of­ten don’t start to feed for the first 24 hours af­ter at­tach­ing them­selves to a host. There­fore, trans­mis­sion of the bac­te­ria caus­ing Lyme dis­ease typ­i­cally re­quires a min­i­mum at­tach­ment pe­riod of at least 24 hours, which is why Tip­ple says per­form­ing a tick check is so im­por­tant.

Dogs are sus­cep­ti­ble to tick bites and tick­borne dis­eases and can be hard to de­tect. Some of the signs to look for, ac­cord­ing to Tip­ple, in­clude ir­ri­ta­tion at the bite site in­clud­ing red­ness, in­flam­ma­tion, chew­ing, scratch­ing and self­trauma.

He sug­gests pet own­ers talk to their vet­eri­nar­ian about the yearly Lyme vac­cine for their dog.


Cor­ner Brook vet­eri­nar­ian Michael Tip­ple demon­strates how to check for ticks on dogs at the Hum­ber Val­ley Vet­eri­nar­ian Clinic in the Mill­brook Mall in Cor­ner Brook.

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