When Michelle Van Beek was taking her 10-month-old puppy out for walks earlier this month, she wasn’t thinking about ticks.
A relative newcomer to Vancouver Island, Van Beek, used to the coastal mountain conditions near Pemberton, normally wouldn’t start checking for ticks until April or May. But last week, while she was petting Stellar, her golden retriever husky puppy, she felt something weird on his neck.
“I was just giving him some love and I was like, what the hell is that on your neck?” she said, “and there he was, fully engorged.”
Further investigation revealed another tick latched between his eyebrows.
A self-described “bush girl,” Van Beek had no qualms about safely removing the ticks from Stellar. “One time I picked 35 off my dog,” she said. “I’m very tick experienced.”
She just wasn’t expecting to see them so soon.
Ticks on Vancouver Island are a year-round occurrence. But it’s about this time of year that they start to bite. They’re often found in tall grass and forested areas and attach to people and animals as they walk by.
Van Beek said Stellar had spent time in the Beaver Lodge Lands as well as trails near Willow Creek, all in the Campbell River area. She’s not sure exactly where he picked them up.
Coastland Veterinary Hospital has been seeing ticks for a couple weeks.
“This is around the time of year when they start to come out,” said receptionist Kristy Hamm.
“The worst that can come of it [tick bite] is Lyme Disease, which is, it’s awful,” said Hamm.
While testing ticks that bite humans is more common, you can also ask to have ticks that have bitten animals sent off for testing.
According to the BC Centre for Disease Control, less than one per cent of the ticks tested carry the bacteria that cause Lyme.
There are preventative measures that can be taken to reduce the likelihood of tick bites on your pets. Medications that help fight against tick bites are available, said Hamm.
Pet owners should check their animals after spending time outside.
Feel for any odd lumps by running your hands up and down their body, said Hamm. Ticks normally like to hang out in the ear/neck area, but doesn’t mean you won’t find them in other places.
If you do find a tick, you should safely remove it using a tick puller.
“It’s a good little way to latch on to the tick and turn it and pull it out,” said Hamm. “Some people try to just take the tick out, it’ll break like the head will stay in the body and that’s not good. That can cause a lot of infections.”
You can also take your animal into the clinic if you’re unsure of how to remove a tick.