It’s tick season in Nova Scotia and there’s a new tick on the way

Published on May 8, 2017

Dr Gwen Mowbray-Cashen, of Truro Veterinary Hospital, checks Wiggles, the clinic cat, for parasites. Wiggles is an indoor cat but ticks and fleas can be carried inside on people and other animals.

©Lynn Curwin/Truro Daily News

Have you been feeling ill after eating red meat? If so, you may have been bitten by a tick.

One of the parasites being discussed this year is the lone star tick, which is moving in this direction from the southeastern U.S., and appears to cause allergic reactions to red meat in some people. It’s still the dog and black-legged deer ticks causing most concern in Nova Scotia though.

A lone star tick was recently found crawling on the leash of a dog at an animal hospital in Pickering, Ont., but Dr. Gwen Mowbray-Cashen of Truro Veterinary Hospital said she hasn’t seen one in this area yet.

“Not a month has gone by when we haven’t found a tick during the past few years though,” she said. “About half were black-legged ticks and half brown dog ticks.”

Ticks can become active whenever the temperature is 4 C or higher but the ‘tick blooms’ are in May-June and September-October.

“Ticks like long grass and shade,” explained Mowbray-Cashen. “They literally climb up a blade of grass and use it as a springboard. They usually land on a dog or cat’s head and may move down the neck, but they usually stay around the front end.”

Because ticks have anesthetic in their saliva they can feed without the host knowing they’re around. Ticks that are feeding should not be killed before removal, as their final act before death will be to regurgitate, making them more likely to spread disease. They should be removed by grasping them as close to the pet’s skin as possible, with tweezers, and pulling them straight out.

If people want to have a tick tested they should keep it alive by wrapping it in a damp paper towel and sealing it inside a plastic bag. A tick can live for a month this way.

Mowbray-Cashen said they have had animals test positive for Lyme disease, and they can be positive without showing symptoms. An animal that contracts the disease can be treated with antibiotics.

As well as dogs, horses, cattle, sheep and goats can develop Lyme disease and should be examined regularly for ticks. It is rare in cats.


To avoid ticks people should walk dogs away from long grass, and use a repellent with DEET or Icaridin on themselves. It takes about 24 hours to pass on Lyme disease so checking animals and people regularly can prevent infection.

An adult female lone star tick. The tick was given the name because of the white mark on the back. Males don’t have this ‘star,’ but may have lighter markings around the outside of their back.
Centres for Disease Control and Prevention

The lone star tick does not appear to be closely connected with Lyme disease but, as well as generating an immune response that causes an allergy to red meat, it can pass on Rocky Mountain spotted fever,  Ehrlichiosis (a flu-like disease) and STARI (Southern Tick-Associated Rash Illness). They are aggressive and, even if they don’t carry disease, their saliva can cause redness and discomfort at the bite site.