First, get to know their habitat; ticks love to dwell in wooded, grassy areas, especially thick underbrush. Some outdoor jobs and recreational activities, like landscaping, farming, hiking, hunting and fishing, can put you or your pet at a higher risk. When it comes to the transmission of Lyme disease, Ixodes scapularis, or “deer ticks”, are the usual suspects. Adult deer ticks are especially active in mid-to-late fall. These pests cannot jump or fly, but are skilled at latching onto a host at ground level and crawling upward to find exposed skin. And despite what many people think, dogs do not give Lyme disease to people; humans are at risk only if bitten by an infected tick.
While all Canadians are at risk for Lyme disease, eastern Canada has reported the highest rate of infection across the country. Lyme disease is often misdiagnosed, during the stage when it’s easiest to treat. Infection risk is present year-round, but be aware that you and your pet are most prone to Lyme disease from May through September. In addition, keep in mind that ticks are more than just a springtime hazard. If fall temperatures remain mild, ticks can peak again in October or November.1
In fact, certain species of ticks may display increased activity at different times throughout the spring, then again in the fall. In particular, a study from Ontario shows primarily I. scapularis ticks peaking first in the spring months, then a second time in November.2
Climate change is also projected to be a factor in the overall tick prevalence. It is speculated that in the next 80 years, the total area of land suitable for ticks and their hosts will increase by 68.9% in North America.3 In Canada, that number is estimated at a 212.9% increase.3 This means that warmer temperatures will invite an influx of ticks well into the fall months over a greater geographic area, creating an even more urgent need for vigilance and yearly pet vaccination.
To protect yourself from ticks, wear long pants and long-sleeved shirts, and tuck your pants into your socks. Wearing light coloured clothing makes ticks easier to see. It may also be helpful to walk with a partner who can watch for ticks on you or your pet. Try to stay on clear, unobstructed trails, and away from the fringe area between the woods and open land. Spraying an insect repellant on your body and clothing can also deter ticks however consult product caution statements before using, especially on young children. Immediately after being outside in tick-infested areas, check your clothes and body, as well as your pet’s body, for ticks. If you discover one or more ticks attached, proper removal is essential.