Since spring, six cases of Lyme disease have been discovered in dogs on Manitoulin Island, which a local vet says should serve as a strong warning to residents.
According to Janice Mitchell, a veterinarian who works at clinics in Little Current and Mindemoya, Ontario, where the discoveries were made, humans are much more susceptible to Lyme disease than dogs.
“…they’re 80 to 90 percent more likely to develop Lyme disease, as opposed to man’s best friend,” she told CBC’s Up North, which means the Northern Ontario island is an especially risky region for humans.
“The experts tell us [ticks are] on the move,” Mitchell said, and she’s absolutely right. Climate change has made the country more hospitable to insects like ticks, and some experts have estimated that their territory is shifting up to 50 kilometres north each year.
It should come as no surprise, then, that the number of Lyme disease cases in Canada is increasing. Not only are ticks moving further north, but awareness of the disease is making it a little easier to diagnose.
Previously, physicians would look for a telltale bull’s-eye rash, but not all patients develop this reaction. More commonly, a person will display flu-like symptoms, including swollen joints, fatigue, fever, headache, and confusion.
The symptoms are similar in pets. When animals show up at one of the clinics Mitchell works at with a fever and sore, stiff joints, she’ll order blood tests to check for Lyme disease, especially if it’s a dog that spends a lot of time outdoors.
She told Up North that if it’s detected soon enough, a cycle of antibiotics is usually all that’s needed.
The infection is caused by a bacteria known as Borrelia burgdorferi, which is transmitted by black-legged ticks (also known as deer ticks) when they suck the blood of humans or other animals. The disease is treated more easily when it’s discovered right away, and if a tick is removed within the first 16 to 24 hours, it’s a lot less likely to transmit the disease to begin with.
That’s why it’s always recommended that you check both yourself and your furry friends after spending time in the bush, and especially long grasses. Because unlike the bites of other annoying insects, like mosquitos and deer flies, tick bites often go unnoticed.