What Diseases do Ticks Carry?

The main ticks you will find in Saskatchewan include the winter tick (D. albipictus), the wood tick (D. andresoni), the American dog tick (D. variabilis), and rarely the black-legged tick (Ixodes scapularis).

The winter tick is not known to carry any diseases that are transmissible to our pets. The black-legged tick, which is known to carry Lyme disease-causing bacteria, is rarely found in Saskatchewan. In fact, most Lyme diseases cases in Saskatchewan can be traced to pets or people being infected in other parts of the country where Lyme disease is more common. Sometimes black-legged ticks hitch a ride on migratory birds, but these ticks are unable to complete their life-cycle in Saskatchewan.

The most common ticks found in Saskatoon include the wood tick and the American dog tick. These ticks are found in many places across North America, and the diseases they carry depends on their geographic location. Wood ticks and American dog ticks in Saskatchewan are known to transmit bacteria that cause Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Tularemia, Babesiosis and Anaplasmosis. The signs of Anaplasmosis, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, and Lyme disease in pets are often quite vague but can include poor appetite, fever, joint pain, and depression. Babesia can cause damage to red blood cells, fever, rapid breathing, yellowing of the skin and dark coloured urine. Tularemia can cause fever, swollen lymph nodes and yellowing of the skin.

Preventing tick-transmitted diseases involves taking medications that kill ticks when they bite and begin to feed. Monthly tick preventatives are easy to give and can be given at home in the form of a tasty medicated chew. Just remember to store them safely and only give them as prescribed. If your dog eats more than their proper dose gives us a call as soon as you can.

Thoroughly checking both yourself and your pet after a walk in tick-infested areas, and removing ticks properly also help in prevention. Blood tests are a useful tool that allows us to diagnosis tick-transmitted diseases and find an appropriate treatment.

Written by Dr. Ira Froimovitch