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Explosion of ticks biting pets and people in Hamilton

DEER TICK  (Article Ham.Spec.June 5th/13)

THOMAS E. MCCARVER,The Associated Press 

ByMark McNeil     

Ixodes scapularis is commonly known as the deer tick or black-legged tick.  The Hamilton area is facing an infestation of brown dog ticks and health authorities are worried an influx of Lyme disease-causing ticks will follow.   “Lyme disease is on the radar,” says Susan Harding-Cruz, manager of the vector-borne disease program for Hamilton’s public health department. “We are on the lookout for black-legged ticks in Hamilton.”

Lyme disease is spread by black-legged ticks, which are prevalent in much of the United States and increasingly being found in southern parts of Canada over the past couple of decades.

In Ontario, the ticks are known to inhabit Long Point Provincial Park, Turkey Point Provincial Park, Rondeau Provincial Park, Point Pelee National Park, Prince Edward Point National Wildlife Area, Wainfleet Bog Conservation Area and the St. Lawrence Islands National Park area.

But the Public Health Agency of Canada believes the ticks’ foothold in the province will expand because of warmer winters, migratory birds and mammals carrying them and other factors. Hamilton is listed by the agency as being on the cusp of a high to moderate risk of an influx in woodland areas.

To help monitor the situation, Hamilton’s health department is asking people to bring in ticks they find. The department wants to identify the species and note any black-legged ticks, which the department would then test for Lyme disease.

So far this year, 42 ticks have been turned in. Of those, 41 were dog ticks. One was of the black-legged variety and came from outside Hamilton.

Last year, the health department took in 76 — all dog ticks. There were five reported human cases of Lyme disease in Hamilton in 2012, two of which were confirmed. Both of those people received their tick bites outside the Hamilton area.

And while there is no hard evidence of ticks or humans with Lyme disease this year in Hamilton, health authorities wonder whether a huge increase in dog ticks being noticed by owners and vets might be a bellwether for the arrival of black-legged ticks.

Dr. Nicholas Ogden, from the federal public health agency, says dog and black-legged ticks like similar kinds of environments.

“But I don’t think you can conclude that an increase in dog ticks means an imminent risk from black-legged ticks,” he adds.

He says a whole host of factors needs to come together for black-legged ticks to appear in large numbers in communities that haven’t seen them before. The No. 1 factor is warmer temperatures.

Dr. Susan Winder, owner of the Rockland Veterinary Hospital on Rymal Road, says she believes warmer temperatures over the past few years have a lot to do with the growing numbers of dog ticks she is noticing.

“We are seeing more (dog) ticks than we ever have before,” she says. “Over the last three years, we’ve noticed an increase, but this year, it’s especially bad.

“Every second client is saying they are seeing ticks or we’re pulling one off when they come in for a vaccination.”

South Mountain resident and longtime dog owner Les Allan says he had only once noticed a tick on one of his dogs before this spring. That was several years ago.

“And then in the course of one week, we found three of them” on his year-old golden retriever.

He had been walking his dog near the Mountain brow.

Source: Veterinary Practice News


Lyme disease

• It is spread by infected black-legged ticks;

• An infected tick needs to be in the skin for 24 hours to infect a person;

• Early symptoms include fever, headache, fatigue, depression and a characteristic bull’s-eye patterned rash around the bite location. Without treatment, usually involving antibiotics, the disease can affect joints, heart, as well as the central nervous system;

• There were 258 cases of Lyme disease in Canada in 2011 (most recent year available).

Reasons for an uptick in the insect’s population

• Warmer winters

• Suburbanizing previous wildlife areas, which brings wildlife and people closer together

• Increasing deer populations

• Fewer insecticides being used

Removing a tick from a pet or a person

• Wearing gloves, use tweezers to pull the head of the tick where it attaches to the skin;

• Pull gently and steadily so as not to leave part of the tick behind. It usually takes less than 30 seconds for the tick to loosen its grip and come away cleanly;

• Put some disinfectant on the bitten area;

• Place the tick in alcohol.

If you find a tick:

Bring it to Hamilton’s public health department at 1 Hughson St. N., third floor or at 1447 Upper Ottawa, during business hours

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