Tick Talk…

The Okanagan area is a virtual convention centre for ticks. Learn how to prevent ticks from getting as attached to your pet as you are.

A common parasite that we start to see each spring in the Okanagan is the tick. Ticks are present in woody and grassy areas and are indiscriminate parasites. In other words, they don’t care if their blood meal comes from a dog, person, bear, coyote or all of the above. They are small, slow moving crawlers about the size an apple seed before they attach. Once on board a host, they migrate to a nice warm area and attach themselves to the skin to start feeding.   Contrary to popular belief, they do not completely burrow under the skin – they latch on with their mouth parts and feed for several days.   As they feed they begin to look like a little grey blimp about the size of a raisin. If you flip it up you can see eight tiny legs waving around. To remove a tick, grasp it close to the mouth parts and pull it off with steady traction.  Tick removers can be purchased and are a good tool to have on hand.  Although the tools are often called “tick twisters”  it is not advised to twist when removing them as that may result in leaving the mouth parts behind, which can contribute to infection in that area.  They should be called “tick pullers”!  Be sure to dispose of the little critter (ie. into a ziplock bag) so that it can’t make it’s way back onto another host.

What problems can ticks cause? Since they feed on numerous different species and hosts during their life cycle they are ideal vectors or transmitters of different diseases. If they have been able to latch on to their host, one of the more serious concerns is tick paralysis. This depends on the tick and the host and does not  happen each time, but you should be aware of what to look for. Tick paralysis can affect any species, including humans. The symptoms start with a wobbly gait and progress to a full paralysis in less than 24 hours. This frightening condition can be completely reversed in several hours by removal of the tick.

Lyme disease is another concern.  According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, the blacklegged tick (aka Ixodes scapularis or deer tick) are found mainly in the southern mainland and into Washington,  and on Vancouver Island in this province.  This is the type of tick which can carry the disease.  The ticks we tend to see in this area are known as the dog tick (Dermacentor variabilis, or wood tick).  Lyme disease is not a direct concern in the Okanagan, but bacterial infections and paralysis are big concerns.  Be sure to protect yourself and your pet from ticks, especially if you plan to go camping or hiking into the backcountry.  A local veterinarian should be able to inform you of any potential parasitic concerns in your desired travel area.

How do you prevent ticks from latching on?  There are a few great products on the market today to help kill off any ticks that manage to find their way onto your pet.  Our staff will be happy to help you find the product which will be best for you and your pets. Regardless if you are using a tick prevention product, people should still check themselves and their pets carefully after hiking, camping or any other outdoor activity.

With proper vigilance and preventive measures you and your pet can safely enjoy all kinds of outdoor recreation – parasite free.