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Tick Prevention & Removal
As the weather gets warmer and Albertans start making plans to enjoy the outdoors with their pets, the Alberta Veterinary Medical Association (ABVMA) is reminding the public that it’s tick season (April-October) and that there is potential for serious health risks if a bite goes unnoticed or untreated. Tick bites themselves cause little harm. The danger lies in a tick’s ability to transmit disease, the most common of which is Lyme disease. Between 1991 and 2021, there were 149 human cases of Lyme disease reported to Alberta Health. All were reported as having been acquired while traveling outside of the province in areas where the bacteria causing Lyme disease and the ticks that carry it are known to circulate. Nevertheless, given the human and animal health risks, there’s a surveillance program in place to monitor the spread of the disease, and successful surveillance requires a vigilant public to check for ticks and signs of infection.
Keep a Close Eye on Your Pets
Tick Prevention should be top of mind for pet owners who take their pets outdoors often. Always check your pets and yourself for ticks after walks. Ticks are often too small to see when they first get on your pet, prior to being engorged with blood, so inspect carefully. A comb can be used to help spot ticks that may have attached to your pet. The sooner these ticks are discovered, the less chance they have of transmitting harmful bacteria.
Tick Removal: How to Successfully Remove A Tick
If you discover a tick that has bitten your pet, follow these Tick Removal instructions from Alberta Health to remove it safely:
Using tweezers, gently grasp its head and mouth parts as close to the skin as possible.
Without squeezing the tick, slowly pull the tick straight up off the skin — do not jerk or twist it.
Do not apply matches, cigarettes or petroleum jelly to the tick.
Once the tick has been removed, clean the bite area with soap and water and disinfect the area with an antiseptic. Wash hands with soap and water.
Save the tick in a clean, empty container. Do not add any ventilation holes to the container that is being used to put the tick(s) in. You can put more than one tick in the container if they are found on the same person or animal in the same general area in the environment.
Add a small piece of tissue or cotton ball, lightly moistened with water, into the container to prevent the tick(s) from drying out.
Submit the tick for testing as soon as possible.
Tick surveillance and submission is crucial to tracking the spread of tick-borne diseases, and it allows the government to inform us of outbreaks and high-risk areas.
Submit-a-Tick is a surveillance program which helps to monitor the types and distribution of ticks in Alberta, and to assess the risk of acquiring Lyme disease within Alberta. All tick submissions must first be screened by submitting a photograph of the tick using the eTick app or through the eTick website. Only ticks that have been requested to be submitted to the lab following photo identification through eTick will be accepted for testing. This ensures the best use of laboratory services. Submitting a tick to the lab when requested is optional and encouraged. Collection, shipping instructions, drop off locations and mailing address are provided on the Tick Testing Request form.
Tick Prevention Steps
Tick prevention is key in avoiding Lyme disease. Here are some tips to help protect yourself from tick bites:
Avoid tick-infested areas: Ticks are most commonly found in wooded and grassy areas, so try to stay on cleared paths when hiking or walking in nature.
Wear protective clothing: Wear long-sleeved shirts and pants, and tuck your pants into your socks to prevent ticks from crawling up your legs.
Use tick repellent: Use insect repellent that contains at least 20% DEET, icaridin or other pest control product registered by Health Canada .
Perform tick checks: After spending time in tick-infested areas, perform a thorough tick check on yourself, your children, and your pets. Ticks can be as small as a poppy seed, so be sure to check all areas of the body.
Contact Your Veterinarian For More Information
Not all animals or people who have been bitten by a tick will contract Lyme disease. It is thought to take 36-48 hours before the Lyme disease bacterium can be transmitted, so getting a tick removed as quickly as possible is very important. If you are uncomfortable or unable to remove the tick yourself, contact your veterinarian for removal, though the earlier a tick is removed the less chance it has to cause infection.