With recent reports of ticks being found in the neighbourhood, please see the below.
What are Ticks?
Ticks are small spider-like animals (arachnids) that bite to fasten themselves onto the skin and feed on blood.
Ticks are most active during the spring, summer and fall seasons and can be active when the temperatures are above 4 degrees Celsius.
In addition to ticks that live in Alberta year-round, migrating birds bring ticks from warmer areas into Alberta during the spring.
Alberta is home to many species of ticks. Most tick species in Alberta do not carry Borrelia (B.) burgdorferi, the bacteria that can cause Lyme disease in people. However, there is evidence that tick species capable of carrying the bacteria are expanding their range in Canada.
Protect Yourself (and your Pets)!
Learn where ticks and deer that carry ticks are most commonly found in your community. Avoid those areas if possible.
Cover as much of your body as possible when working or playing in grassy or wooded areas. Wear a hat, a long-sleeved shirt, and long pants with the legs tucked into your socks. Keep in mind that it is easier to spot ticks on light-coloured clothes.
Use insect repellents, such as products with DEET.
Clear leaves, brush, tall grasses, woodpiles, and stone fences from around your house and the edges of your yard or garden. This may help reduce ticks and the rodents that the ticks depend on.
Remove plants that attract deer, and use barriers to keep deer—and the deer ticks they may carry—out of your yard.
To protect your pets, there are many preventive products on the market.. These include tick collars that protect the head and neck, topical spot treatments, medicated shampoos, sprays, and prescription medications. Your veterinarian will recommend the safest, and most effective preventative program for your pet, and your area.
Checking For Ticks
When you come in from outdoors, check all over your body for ticks, including your groin, head, and underarms. Comb your hair with a fine-toothed comb, or have someone check your scalp.
Ticks can come into your house on clothing, outdoor gear, and pets. These ticks can fall off and attach to you.
Ticks can be found hiding on your pet’s head, neck, in between their toes, inside their ears, and on their legs. The longer a tick stays on your pet, the greater the chance of transmitting infection.
Check children and pets daily for ticks!
Ticks must be removed as soon as they are found, ideally within 24 hours before they become fully engorged.
Use fine-tipped tweezers to remove a tick. If you don’t have tweezers, put on gloves or cover your hands with tissue paper, then use your fingers. Do not handle the tick with bare hands.
- Grab the tick as close to its mouth (the part that is stuck in your skin) as you can. The body of the tick will be above your skin.
- Do not grab the tick around its swollen belly. You could push infected fluid from the tick into your body if you squeeze it.
- Gently pull the tick straight out until its mouth lets go of your skin. Do not twist the tick. This may break off the tick’s body and leave the head in your skin.
- If the mouthparts break off and remain in the skin, remove them with tweezers or, if you are unable to remove them easily, leave them alone and let the skin heal. Talk to your health professional.
- Tape the tick to a piece of paper and put it in a dry jar or ziplock bag for later identification if needed.
After the tick has been removed, wash the area of the tick bite with a lot of warm, clean water. Be sure to wash your hands well with soap and water also.
You may cover the wound with a thin layer of petroleum jelly, such as Vaseline, and a non-stick bandage. Apply more petroleum jelly and replace the bandage as needed.
Tick Borne Illnesses
The risk of getting Lyme disease from a tick bite in Alberta is considered very low. Between 1991 and 2021, there were 149 human cases of Lyme disease reported to the Ministry of Health. All cases reported were acquired while travelling outside of the province, in areas where ticks that carry the Lyme disease are known to circulate.
Lyme disease can affect humans, wildlife and domestic animals. It can cause an infection and, if left untreated, can cause serious, long-term complications and disability.
People may develop symptoms between 3 to 30 days after a tick bite. Symptoms of early Lyme disease infection include:
- a round, red rash that spreads at the site of a tick bite, known as a ‘bull’s eye rash’
- flu-like symptoms: tiredness, headaches, sore muscles and joints and fever
Lyme disease is treated with antibiotics. Treatment in the early stage of the disease increases the chance of successful recovery.
Other tick-borne diseases
Other ticks in Alberta can carry organisms that may cause diseases in humans such as:
- Rocky Mountain spotted fever (transmitted by Dermacentor andersoni and D. variabilis)
- Powassan virus (transmitted by Ixodes cookie and I. scapularis)
- tularemia (transmitted by D. variabilis)
The number of cases of these diseases reported to the Ministry of Health each year varies from zero to 3 cases and are mainly acquired locally.
Like Lyme disease, there is a low risk that other tick-borne diseases, such as anaplasmosis, babesiosis, ehrlichiosis or southern tick-associated rash-illness (STARI), may occur in Alberta.
If you find a tick on a person, a pet or anywhere outside, consider submitting a photograph of it to the Alberta Submit-a-Tick program via the eTick program.
The Submit-a-Tick program monitors the types and distribution of ticks in Alberta, and assesses the risk of acquiring the tick borne Lyme disease within Alberta.
- This program does not test for Lyme disease or other tick-related illnesses in humans or pets.
- If you are concerned about a tick bite on you, you should consult your health care provider.
- If you are concerned about a tick bite to your pet, you should consult your veterinarian.
Submit a tick photo for identification
The Submit-A-Tick program accepts ticks found on people, animals and in the environment.
All tick submissions must first be screened through eTick by submitting a photograph of the tick using the eTick app or through eTick.ca. You can download the application from your app store or from eTick which has the details and image requirements.
- After submitting your photograph, keep your tick for at least 10 days in case additional photographs are needed to complete the identification. Save the tick in a clean, empty, and secure container. Do not add any ventilation holes to the container. Ticks can be stored in the refrigerator or freezer.
- Photographs submitted will be used to identify the tick species and you will get the results, typically within 2 business days.
- If the tick is identified as a type that can transmit the bacteria that causes Lyme disease, or cannot be identified by photo, you will be asked to submit the tick for additional testing to the Alberta Public Health Laboratory.
- If the tick is not identified as a type that can transmit the bacteria that causes Lyme disease, it can be discarded.
Note: Alberta Health Services Environmental Public Health and Indigenous Services Canada First Nations and Inuit Health Branch offices do not accept tick submissions.