Louise Lamb never used to worry about ticks – certainly not when it came to the family dog.
“When we first got her, I never really knew about ticks,” said Lamb, who frequents the Howard Watson Trail with her nine-year-old pooch.
“But a couple of years ago, I found something had burrowed into her skin. Then when I went to the vet, he explained to me all about ticks, and how they’re getting worse around here.
“I’ve been pulling them off of her, every year since. Just from walking the trails and sniffing through the grass.”
The Lambton Health Unit recently issued a reminder that warm weather welcomes the arrival of active ticks, warning residents to take precautions to avoid bites – particularly from blacklegged or deer ticks, which can be transmitters of Lyme disease.
In fact, Lambton Public Health saw a significant increase in the proportion of blacklegged ticks collected and submitted in 2014. Of those submitted, 26% were blacklegged ticks, up from less than 3% in 2013.
To date, none of the ticks submitted have tested positive for the Lyme disease bacteria.
But Lamb’s veterinarian, Dr. Bill Janitsch, said more awareness is needed around the risks to residents and their pets.
“They’re out in full force now,” he said of the blacklegged ticks, which have been found sporadically throughout Lambton County, according to the Health Unit.
“I don’t want to be an alarmist, but we’re seeing a potential problem here, and I want to be proactive in dealing with this.”
Dr. Janitsch pointed to a dog brought in to Point Edward’s Bluewater Veterinary Services back in January. The six-year-old canine had been bitten by a blacklegged tick in the area, and was diagnosed with Lyme disease.
“I had the unpleasant experience of having to put the dog down,” Dr. Janitsch
said, adding that the dog had developed end-stage renal failure.
“I don’t want to have to do that again. This is a disease to prevent, not to treat.”
Dr. Janitsch suggested pet-owners be wary of local ‘hot spots’ for ticks, including Wawanosh, Canatara Park and the Howard Watson Trail. “But really, anywhere there’s long grass or wooded, marshy areas.”
There are also preventative medicines available, as well as a vaccine – particularly for pet owners who know those types of vulnerable areas are unavoidable.
“Most people should be able to get all that information through their veterinarians,” he said.
Adult blacklegged ticks are tiny, slow-moving bugs, about the size of a sesame seed, according to the Health Unit. The American dog tick – which is larger in size — is the most common tick in Lambton and is not an efficient transmitter of Lyme disease.
Residents are reminded to be aware of tick habitat, apply insect repellent containing DEET, dress accordingly and wear light clothing, and always do a tick-check on family members and pets.
If you find a tick, use tweezers to grasp the tick’s head as close to the skin as possible and pull straight out. Do not twist, squeeze or burn the tick.
Only ticks found on humans can be submitted to Lambton Public Health for identification.
Dr. Janitsch said he doesn’t want to see Sarnia-Lambton become a ‘hotspot’ for Lyme-disease carrying ticks in Ontario – like Kingston or the northern shores of Lake Erie.
He stresses that prevention is key.
“This is a disease to prevent,” he said. “Not to have to treat.”
For more information about ticks or Lyme disease, contact Lambton Public Health at 519-383-8331 or visit www.lambtonhealth.on.ca