Ticks in Alberta – Everything You Need to Know

Dr. Jill Rankin, DVM

What are Ticks?

Ticks are small spider-like arachnids that attach themselves to the skin and feed off blood. While tick bites do not cause health problems on their own, certain species of ticks are known to transmit diseases, including Lyme disease.

Common ticks found in Alberta

There are a number of tick species found in Alberta. However, the tick that most people become concerned with carries the bacteria that can cause Lyme disease. The most common species in Alberta known to carry the bacteria that causes Lyme disease, is the blacklegged tick (or deer tick).  However, there is evidence that tick species capable of carrying the bacteria are expanding their range in Canada.

Time of year ticks are most active in Alberta

Although ticks can be present any time temperatures rise above 4 C, ticks are most active during the spring, summer and fall seasons. In addition to ticks that live in Alberta year-round, migrating birds bring ticks from warmer areas into Alberta during the spring.

Where can ticks be found in Alberta?

Ticks can commonly be picked up by you or your pet while walking through heavily treed walking trails, as well as tall grass and regions with lots of other animals present.

You cannot get Lyme disease from your pet, but your pet can bring infected ticks inside. These ticks can fall off your pet and attach themselves to you

How to protect yourself from ticks

Wear light-colored clothing and cover up as much skin as possible, for example, a hat, long-sleeved shirt, long pants with the legs tucked into socks or boots. Use a bug spray that contains the chemical DEET to repel ticks and reapply as frequently as directed and check yourself for ticks after leaving a grassy or wooded area where ticks may live.

How to protect your pet from ticks

Check your pets for ticks after they have been outside.

Courtesy of the CDC

It is important to remove ticks as soon as possible to prevent the transmission of diseases as it often takes 36 to 48 hours for the Lyme Disease bacterium to be transferred from the tick.

How do I remove a tick from my dog or cat?

Use fine-tipped tweezers to remove a tick. If you don’t have tweezers, put on gloves or cover your hands with tissue paper, then use your fingers. Do not handle the tick with bare hands.

  • Grab the tick as close to its mouth (the part that is stuck in your skin) as you can. The body of the tick will be above the skin.
  • Do not grab the tick around its swollen belly. You could push infected fluid from the tick into the body if you squeeze it.
  • Gently pull the tick straight out until its mouth lets go of your skin. Do not twist the tick. This may break off the tick’s body and leave the head in the skin.
  • If the mouthparts break off and remain in the skin, remove them with tweezers or, if you are unable to remove them easily talk to your health professional or your veterinarian if dealing with your pet.
  • Tape the tick to a piece of paper and put it in a dry jar or Ziploc bag for later identification if needed.
  • After the tick has been removed, wash the area of the tick bite with a lot of warm, clean water. Be sure to wash your hands well with soap and water also.
  • Monitor the area where the tick was removed for signs of a skin infection or a bullseye appearing mark.
  • If your pet has a rash, joint pain, fever, or flu-like symptoms, this could mean indicate an illness related to a tick bite. If you notice any of these symptoms, or symptoms of a skin infection, call your veterinarian.

Lyme disease from ticks

Dogs, just like people, can acquire Lyme disease. At first, owners will see a large round red rash around the bite mark. According to the Alberta Veterinary Medical Association, infections of the skin, joints, muscles, heart, and nervous system can follow unless treated.
If you have concerns that your pet has been bitten by a tick and you’re worried about their health, talk to your veterinarian about follow-up care and management.

We are all in this together, and the veterinary team here at Montgomery Village Veterinary Clinic is here to help! Call us at 403-615-8016 to book an appointment.