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Tick season starts across Canada. Here's how to stay safe

Wednesday, May 20, 2015, 12:11 PM - They're not even 4 millimetres in size but they're a major problem for people and their pets in many parts of the country.

Tick season has kicked off and officials across Canada are reminding people to keep an eye on loved ones, including the pets of the house. The season is expected to go from mid spring to October.

This week, Toronto Public Health confirmed that black-legged ticks found on one of the Toronto Islands will be tested for Lyme disease. This type of tick is known to transmit the disease through bites, though not all ticks carry the disease and the risk of contracting Lyme disease in the city is quite low.

In Saskatchewan, officials have posted a statement on their website advising residents to be cautious when walking through tall grass, brush or wooded areas.

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"It's wise to talk simple precautions before being outside in grassy, bushy or treed areas, and check yourself and your children and pets for ticks afterwards," Saskatchewan's Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Saqib Shahab said in a statement. "If any ticks are found, they should be carefully and promptly removed."

Lyme disease, which is often a risk attached to tick season, is more common in parts of southern Canada and the U.S. where specific tick populations reside.

The disease is a serious illness and symptoms can include fatigue, fever, headaches and skin rash. 

Due to the minuscule size of the insect, bites are mainly painless and can go unnoticed until symptoms set in. Tick bites often resemble a 'bull's eye'; a red bite mark surrounded by rings of red, swollen skin.

The telltale 'bull's eye' appearance of a tick bite.

"Most ticks found in Saskatchewan are not the type that can transmit Lyme disease," Entomologist Phil Curry explained. "Less than half a per cent of ticks found [in the province] are the black-legged or deer ticks, and only a small percentage of those may be infected."

Wearing pants and long-sleeved shirts is one of the best preventive measures. Additionally, pull your socks over your pant legs when walking through tall grass. Insect repellent containing DEET or Icaridin can be useful in these situations. Make sure to wear light colours so ticks are easily visible. Finally, do a "full body" tick check daily on yourself, your children and pets.

Pets are often at risk

Last week, a stray dog died in Manitoba after wood ticks bit the animal hundreds of time. The animal was set to receive a blood transfusion but didn't survive long enough to get the treatment.

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If not treated, ticks can have deadly consequences on pets. Experts suggest checking carefully especially in the warmer areas and behind the ears.

If a pet is infected sometimes they start limping, which is a sign to look out for. Vaccines are available but are not 100 per cent effective.

What about wildlife?

On the east coast, wildlife experts are finding that bigger mammals like moose are are also susceptible to the tiny animals.

Thousands of ticks can be found on moose calves and are one of the main reasons that the mortality rate in some parts are about 60 per cent. However, scientists in Maine say that's down from 73 per cent that was found five years ago.

Source: CBC News | CBC News | CBC News

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