Tick season has arrived, and a central Ontario vet is seeing more of the disease-carrying insects than ever before.
According to a report by CTV News, the Allandale Veterinary Clinic in Barrie has already seen a number of tick-bitten dogs, which they say is a cause for concern.
“If a dog has ticks then the owner needs to be cautious as well,” Dr. Patty Lechten told CTV. “We’ve actually seen a couple of cases of Lyme disease that were not just positive on a blood test. They were actually dogs with symptoms of Lyme disease.”
Although current evidence does not indicate that pets can spread lyme disease to humans, they can carry infected ticks into your home and yard, and research has shown that dog ticks carry other harmful bacteria that can be dangerous to humans.
Lyme disease is caused by a bacteria (Borrelia burgdorferi), which is carried by blacklegged ticks, also known as deer ticks. If the infection is caught quickly, it can usually be treated with antibiotics, though the treatment may require months, depending on how long you’ve been infected. If it’s left untreated too long, it can be impossible to cure, and the disease can attack your central nervous system, brain, and heart.
Over the last few years, ticks have migrated north from the United States, spurring a major public health issue, with established populations now being reported throughout Canada, including several regions in Ontario. According to government data, the number of lyme disease cases in Canada has steadily increased, from 128 cases reported in 2009 to 707 cases reported in 2015.
But because it’s a relatively new issue in the country, there hasn’t been a lot of attention on the debilitating tick-born illness.
“It’s frustrating we see many aspects of Lyme disease can be addressed through public education, better diagnosis, and treatment options perhaps. In Canada there hasn’t been a lot of attention and that’s put people in very debilitating circumstances,” Steven Liss, the vice principal of research at Queen’s University, told CBC News.
That’s why Liss recently proposed a Canadian research network for Lyme disease, which would improve the current methods used for tracking its prevalence. It would be the first of its kind in Canada.
It’s also why it’s so important for the public, and especially those frequenting rural areas with or without pets, to know where ticks hang out, how to identify them, and what their bites look like. If you spot a tick on your skin, remove it with tweezers immediately. If you get a rash that appears like a bull’s eye (a red bite lined with a white and red band) go straight to your doctor. If you’re not close to a physician, take a photo of the rash, which can disappear quickly, but might make the disease easier to diagnose.
For more information on how to spot ticks and what to do if you find one, see “How to keep yourself tick-free this season.”