Tick facts

What are ticks?

  • Ticks are arachnids, relatives of spiders, mites and scorpions.
  • They survive by feeding on the blood of animals and humans.
  • Ticks crawl—they don’t jump, fly, or drop from trees.

How big is a tick?

  • Ticks come in all sizes.
  • In their immature stages ticks can be barely visible while adult ticks can be considerably larger (by tick standards!) when they are engorged after feeding on the blood of an animal or human.
Diagram showing various tick sizes

Which species are established in Canada?

  • There are over 40 species of ticks in Canada.
  • The most common established ticks in Canada that dogs and cats may encounter are in the Dermacentor or Ixodes species groups, which include the American dog tick (Dermacentor variabilis) and the blacklegged tick (Ixodes scapularis).
Ixodes scapularis

Ixodes scapularis
(also known as the deer or
blacklegged tick)

Dermacentor variabilis

Dermacentor variabilis
(also known as the American dog
or wood tick)

locator pin

Where can they be found?

  • Ticks can be found in many areas across Canada but they prefer to live in wooded areas, in tall grasses and under leaf litter. They can also be found in urban areas, like city parks and green spaces.
  • Avoiding tick habitats help reduce the risk of exposure.
  • Ixodes species (such as the blacklegged tick) prefer moist environments like leaf litter.
  • Dermacentor species (such as the American dog or wood tick), a hardier tick, can live in drier environments like tall grasses.

When are ticks active?

  • At 4°C ticks start looking for an animal or a person to feed on for a blood meal, and will continue until the temperature consistently remains below 4°C. Blacklegged ticks can be active any time temperatures are 4°C and above, including mild days during the winter months.
  • Ticks can survive the winter hiding under snow, leaf litter and brush.

What diseases can they transmit?

  • The main tick borne disease of concern in Canada is Lyme disease: Federal framework on LD [PDF]
  • Ticks are expanding their range in parts of Canada at a rate of 46 km per year. The risk of pets and people being exposed to ticks and the diseases they can carry—like Lyme disease—is growing.
bandages forming a cross

How to check for ticks on your pet

Step 1: Starting at your pet’s head, use your fingers like a comb and run your hands over your pet’s body. You are feeling for lumps or bumps you previously did not notice. Make sure to check under your pet’s collar, inside the groin area, and under your pet’s front legs. It’s also important to examine under your pet’s tail and between his toes.

Step 2: Check your pet’s ears thoroughly looking inside and out.

How to remove a tick

  • Removing a tick as soon as you spot it can reduce the chances of disease transmission.
  • The easiest and safest way to remove a tick is by grasping it as close as possible to the skin with fine-tipped tweezers and pulling it straight out, without squeezing the body.
  • NEVER try to burn a tick with a match or a candle, or cover it with petroleum jelly, nail polish, perfume or alcohol—all potentially dangerous things to do.
  • Call your vet if you need help.

Contact your veterinarian for more information on tick prevention and awareness.

They can also help set up a tick control program
for your pet.