What’s making southwestern Ontario tick?

Vector borne disease coordinator with the Middlesex London Heath Unit (MLHU), Jeremy Hogeveen, says the tick population is on the rise in southwestern Ontario.

“Progressively, since 2009 we’re starting to see the numbers increase. Locally in Middlesex-London we’re seeing a lot of Dog Ticks which don’t transmit Lyme disease but unfortunately, we are seeing an increase in Black-legged Ticks which can transmit Lyme disease,” said Hogeveen.

He attributes the change to an increase in the amount of warm days and shorter cold seasons over the past few years, making southwestern Ontario a more welcoming climate to all sorts of wildlife.

“It started along the Great Lakes and it’s those migratory birds getting over the lakes, landing. At that point the ticks are falling off and starting to grow their own population in and around those areas,” said Hogeveen.

He suggests avoiding long grass, using bug spray, wearing long clothes when hiking, and checking yourself regularly for ticks.

You should check on your pets as well.

Dr. Caroline Von Waldburg, veterinarian for Sears Animal Hospital, says she has seen an increase in patients acquiring tick bites just by being out in the backyard.

“When you’re checking for them on your pet, you’re going to want to look for any kind of warm fold areas so in their armpits, in their inguinal region, their ear flaps and between toes,” said Dr. Von Waldburg.

So it’s important to keep the grass and shrubs in your backyard short. Hogeveen also suggests keeping things like piles of wood away from your property. That’s where chipmunks and mice like to settle but they may be carrying ticks.

If you find a tick on yourself or your pet, use a pair of tweezers to grasp as close to the base of the head as possible and gently pull the insect away from your skin.

If you’re concerned with the type of tick you’ve found, take a picture and send it to etick.ca and they’ll advise you on what your next course of action should be.