The familiar signs of spring are as pleasing as running out the door without a jacket. But with the season’s delights also comes its pests.
And tick season is upon us, according to Interior Heath (IH).
“Ticks are most often found in tall grass and wooded areas so covering up before you head outdoors and checking for ticks on yourself, your children and your pets after being outdoors are simple things that go a long way to prevent tick bites,” Jennifer Jeyes, communicable disease specialist with IH, was noted in a new release.
The insects cut a hole into a host’s skin before latching on firmly and indulging, satisfying all of their nutritional requirements on a blood diet.
The most common tick species in the region is the wood tick, which doesn’t carry Lyme disease bacteria but does carry other rare diseases such as Rocky Mountain spotted fever. Some ticks also have toxins that can cause temporary muscle weakness and paralysis if attached for several days but the symptoms fade once the tick is removed.
While tick season generally runs from now until June, early spring tends to be the busiest time for groomers, according to Christine Unger, who’s owned Pet Needs Plus in Trail for 20 years.
The grooming room is full of canines getting their regular treatment, which this time of year includes a thorough check for the blood suckers.
Unger runs her hands through a Japanese Chin named Emmi to demonstrate how staff separate the fur looking for the pests.
“They start off as little brown crab-looking bugs but as they feed they literally turn grey,” she explained.
“It almost looks like the dog has a wart but it’s a wood tick.
“When they engorge with blood the body of the bug can get up to 15 times larger than the head.”
Most pet owners are unaware that their dog or cat has a tick when they are sent into the Glenmerry shop for grooming. Not much gets past staff, who are used to separating every blade of fur when blowdrying the animals.
“It can make the dog very lame, tired and not wanting to do much because of course this little bug is sucking the life out of them,” said Unger. “It never hurts the dog, either, when you remove them; I think it hurts owners more to know they’ve had a wood tick on them.”
Unger uses forceps to remove a tick by carefully pulling the bug out of the skin and then using a hammer to destroy the bug before disposing it into a bag. The pet store also carries tick twisters, she said, or pet owners are recommended to get their animals on some kind of veterinary-approved repellant.
IH suggests wearing gloves and gently removing the tick with needle-nose tweezers. Without squeezing, pull the tick straight out and be careful not to crush the tick as this could cause it to inject its stomach contents into the skin. After removal, clean the area with soap and water.
The tick species that carries Lyme disease (Ixodes pacificus) is more common in the coastal areas of the province, but may also be present in low numbers in the Interior region, according to IH.
In addition to fever, headache, and muscle pain, people infected with Lyme disease will often develop a rash.
“Most tick bites do not result in illness; however, all tick bites should be cleaned, as infection can occur whenever there is a break in the skin,” added Jeyes.
“It is important to watch for signs of tick-transmitted illnesses. Anyone who experiences a bull’s-eye rash or other symptoms should see a doctor as soon as possible.”