A simple walk outside in Nova Scotia can sometimes turn into more than you bargained for, thanks to one pesky little critter: the tick.
“We’ve got 14 different types of ticks in the province, of which three are fairly common — dog ticks, black legged ticks — which we used to call deer ticks — and groundhog ticks, which are very similar to black legged ticks,” said Andrew Hebda, Curator of Zoology with the Nova Scotia Museum.
May is Lyme disease awareness month, giving Hebda and other advocates a perfect platform to remind Nova Scotians about the risks of coming in contact with ticks.
Although there are more than a dozen different types of ticks in the province, Hebda says there’s only one that people need to be wary of.
“The ones really to watch out for are the black legged ticks or the deer ticks, because those have the potential of carrying Lyme [disease], if they’re in an area where Lyme is present, then roughly 10 per cent of that species will actually have the disease,” Hebda told Global News.
Many dog owners know the struggle of dealing with ticks first hand. Isaac Wilson’s two-year-old corgi, Flapjack, had his first tick in the fall.
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“When we discovered it, we were able to get a little pick that our vet had given us and we basically just went in and did the procedure that he showed to us,” Wilson said.
From 2002 to 2014, there were a total of 443 cases of Lyme disease reported in Nova Scotia. Ticks are actually in the region year round, not just in the summer months.
“Anytime it’s above 4 degrees Celsius a tick will feed,” said Dr. Suzette Dibblee, a veterinarian at Fairview Animal Hospital.
“So even if there’s snow on the ground, and it’s above four degrees and the opportunity — an animal walks by or we walk by — the tick will take the opportunity and jump on the animal or person and start to feed.”
Veterinarians like Dr. Dibblee say more dog owners are now trying to prevent tick-borne illnesses from infecting their animals — such as using chewable tablets or a vaccine.
“The Lyme vaccine has been around for a while but now that Halifax and the area is endemic for Lyme disease, that’s definitely a conversation you want to have with your veterinarian and see if your animal is potentially at risk and whether your animal should be vaccinated,” Dibblee said.
Experts say the best way to protect yourself and your pet is to take precautions.
People are encouraged to wear light-coloured, long-sleeved shirts and pants outside so ticks are more visible. It’s also recommended that you spray both clothing and exposed skin with an insect repellent.
“When you get back in, do a tick check. So in other words, check to see if there are any crawling on you because it takes them between 12-24 hours to get up into a position where they can feed, so you’ve got that window of opportunity,” said Hebda.
For more information on Lyme disease and how to protect yourself visit the public health website here.