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In North America there are about 100 tick species and about 40 in Canada. Twelve species can potentially transmit certain diseases to animals and humans. For practical purposes, we will focus on the tick of our region that has the ability to transmit Lyme disease (MDL), that is, the “blacklegged tick” or the “deer tick” or Ixodes scapularis (IS). These mite arachnids have three life stages; the larva, the nymph and the adult. Their size goes from one millimetre to more than 4 to 6 mm once engorged with blood. They have three pairs of legs in the larval stage, but four in the nymph and adult stages. Their colour is in the palette of browns more or less black, so generally quite dark.








The geographical boundary of the SI is poorly defined. These often travel on our migratory birds. So, now that our winters are getting shorter and less stringent, ticks have managed to adapt and survive our winters. They are activated at temperatures of 4 to 7 degrees Celsius. These ticks are found in the woods, where they wait well perched in the shrubs or herbaceous plants to throw themselves on their victim. Ticks feed on the blood of the animals on which they will embark. Despite their denomination “deer tick”, most tick species suck the blood of all animals encountered.


They stay on their host for some time to feed themselves by using their mouthparts covered with hooks to anchor themselves to the skin. The sting is painless because the creature secretes a local pain reliever. Anchoring may take one to two days to complete and the meal will generally last several days, or between 3 and 14 days. Ticks can ingest a blood meals 10 to 100 times their initial weight, which will inflate them enormously and it is at this time often that for the first time you will note their presence, caressing your animal, you will feel a bump in her fur or just you can see if your animal does not have a dense fur or very long. Ticks will have three meals in their life. They can lay 20,000 eggs per spawn!                                                       

IS is the second most common tick in the Maritime Provinces and Eastern Canada. It is also responsible for 43.3% of the transmission of Borrelia burgdorferi (BB) infection or MDL in dogs and humans. It is therefore very important that you get treatment immediately if you have been stung by this tick.

In Canada, we have a monitoring program that is carried out in three ways:

  1. reporting of LD cases in humans by provincial and territorial public health agencies;
  2. voluntary submission of ticks collected from people
    and animals by doctors and veterinarians;
  3. the field study to collect ticks in the environment.


Dog Symptoms

LD usually occurs 2 to 5 months after the tick bite. Only 5% of dogs infected with the bacteria will develop symptoms of fever, joint pain, lameness and body aches. The bacteria can lodge in the kidneys and cause permanent damage. The diagnosis of MDL is made by a simple and rapid blood test in a veterinary clinic. In the event of a positive result, further tests will be recommended to check for damage to other organs and antibiotic therapy will be prescribed. Inspect your pet daily to check for ticks and remove them quickly. Your veterinarian and his team can do this and send the tick for analysis.


Cat Symptoms

Cats can be bitten by ticks, but are not sensitive to MDL. They will very rarely develop symptoms if they are contaminated.


Human Symptoms

Rest assured, the human cannot catch the disease from the dog. The human must be contaminated from a tick bite as well. At an early stage of MDL, there is a circular rash at the bite site. It can also be accompanied by symptoms similar to those of flu. The doctor can then prescribe antibiotics, the sooner the better.



LD has been reportable since 2009. The number of reported cases in Canada increased from 128 in 2009 to more than 710 in 2015. The number of ticks is increasing in eastern and central Canada. In Québec, the epidemic areas of MDL are Montérégie, Estrie and Centre du Québec. Although rarely fatal, MDL must be diagnosed at an early stage as it can lead to degenerative diseases. The best habits to do are, clothing protection, self-inspection, inspection of our animals and removal of ticks. If your dog has a tick-dwelling lifestyle, there are preventative medications, either chewable cubes or liquid to pour on the skin that your veterinarian can prescribe.

@ Martine Lavallée B.A.A. and animal health technician-T.S.A.A..


References :
[1] Illustrations courtesy of Alberta Univesity

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