Mississauga Warning Residents to Steer Clear of Ticks

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Recently, we found out that a significant number of ticks have been reported in Mississauga (it's been a bad year for bugs, it seems). Now, the city is reminding residents to be particularly vigilant about ticks on pets.

As anyone who has been paying attention to the troubling tick situation knows, black-legged ticks (which can carry Lyme disease) are becoming more prevalent in Ontario. For this reason, it's important to remember that pets can come into contact with ticks during walks in grassy or wooded areas—especially during the warmer months when ticks are active.

Although you've no doubt heard of ticks, perhaps you aren't entirely sure what they look like. Like all bugs, they're ugly. As far as a scientific definition goes, they're small blood-sucking parasites closely related to spiders (which are also unattractive little beasties). Unlike many spiders, however, they can be as small as the head of a pin and therefore difficult to detect (especially if they latch onto your pet).

While ticks are tiny, their bodies enlarge as they ingest more blood from their host.

And While that sounds concerning, there is some good news.

According to Peel Public Health, there is currently no evidence of established populations of black-legged ticks in Mississauga.

As of June 2016, there were no ticks that tested positive for Lyme disease in Peel.

That said, health experts say that tick populations are on the rise and that people do not have to be in high-risk areas to come into contact with ticks and Lyme disease. Warmer climates and migratory birds can also affect tick populations, so residents are advised to consult their pet's veterinarian and Public Health Ontario for information on tick-heavy areas.

If you're primarily concerned about your pet, there are some steps you can take to protect your furry family member.

"The best way to protect your pet is to avoid areas known to have high tick populations," the city's Animal Services document on ticks reads. "Speak to your veterinarian about parasite prevention. In addition, walking your dog on a six-foot leash in heavily wooded or natural areas will minimize contact with ticks."

If you like to take your pet outdoors, you should be careful after walks and other outdoor excursions. Animal Services recommends checking your pet for ticks during camping trips or after walks in the woods or areas with thick vegetation or tall grass.

Early detection and prompt removal of the tick is crucial, as it can take up to 24 hours for a tick to transmit Lyme disease after the initial bite occurs.

Although ticks are small and difficult to spot, they become engorged after feeding and therefore easier to detect.

As for how to check your pets, Animal Services recommends spreading your pet's fur and slowly running your hands over their entire body, paying attention to the head, ears, neck and feet. You should be feeling for any unusual lumps or bumps.

Since ticks may be very difficult to detect, so check repeatedly and carefully.

If you do see one, remove it very carefully. Put on a pair of gloves and grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible using fine-tipped tweezers. Be careful not to squeeze the insect, as that could prompt it to introduce Lyme disease. Once you grasp it, pull it out gently but firmly and cleanse the bite site with rubbing alcohol or soap and water. Be sure to keep the tick in a secure container and bring it to your vet for testing.

More information on Lyme disease visit Peel Public Health.

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