If you or your pet has been bitten by a tick, follow these easy steps:
1. Take a photo of the tick using your smart phone or digital camera
2. As of April 1, 2020, submit your photo using the eTick online system
University of Saskatchewan (USask) researchers will use these photos to determine the tick species.
Once the species is confirmed, you will receive timely public health information about you or your pet's risk of exposure to tick-borne diseases.
Please keep any ticks in question in a secure container. If researchers identify them as among the targeted species, they will ask you to submit the ticks by mail.
Passive tick surveillance programs rely on the participation of the public to collect information on ticks. These programs allow researchers to provide members of the public with information about their tick bite. Collecting tick bite information also provides tick biologists with data that can be used to study this public health issue.
The Saskatchewan Ministry of Health, the University of Saskatchewan (USask) and the Roy Romanow Provincial Laboratory (RRPL) have been involved in passive tick surveillance since 2008. In the past, members of the public were invited to mail ticks that they found on themselves or their pets to USask or the RRPL.
As of April 1 2020, we are switching to eTick to manage passive tick surveillance in Saskatchewan.
Two USask researchers at the Western College of Veterinary Medicine (WCVM) are responsible for co-ordinating the passive tick surveillance program in Saskatchewan.
- Dr. Emily Jenkins and her research group study many different kinds of parasites, including ticks
- Dr. Maarten Voordouw and his research group study the ecology of Lyme disease
Another great resource for information about the risk of Lyme disease in Saskatchewan is the Ministry of Health website.
Surveillance using eTick
Researchers at Bishop’s University in Sherbrooke, Que., created the eTick system. This online tool provides members of the public with timely information about the tick species that bit them and the risk of exposure to tick-borne diseases. The eTick system will be available to Saskatchewan residents as of April 1, 2020.
The online passive surveillance program works as follows:
- As of April 1 2020, take a photo of the tick that bit you or your pet and submit these digital images using the online eTick system
- Please keep your tick in case we ask you to submit it by mail. You can euthanize the tick by placing it in the freezer for 24 hours.
- As part of the submission process, give relevant information such as where in Saskatchewan you encountered the tick.
- Once USask researchers receive your online submission, a team member will let you know the tick species that bit you.
- For purpose of quality control or if the tick species is one of medical concern (e.g. blacklegged tick), we will ask you to submit the tick by mail so we can confirm its species identity.
Ticks are a nuisance and a public health concern. Ticks are eight-legged arthropods (related to spiders) that need a blood meal from a vertebrate host to complete their life cycle. When ticks blood feed, they can transmit tick-borne diseases like Lyme disease to people and their pets.
There are different species of ticks in Saskatchewan and not all tick species carry tick-borne diseases. For example, the blacklegged tick (Ixodes scapularis) can transmit Lyme disease whereas the American dog tick (Dermacentor variabilis) can not.
For this reason, it is important to know the species of tick that bit you or your pet. We want to help you identify the species of tick that bit you and provide you with accurate information about the risk of tick-borne diseases.
Tick species in Saskatchewan
In Saskatchewan, native ticks include Dermacentor variabilis (American dog tick), D. albipictus (moose or winter tick), and D. andersoni (Rocky Mountain wood tick). None of these three tick species transmit Lyme disease. These three Dermacentor species have established (self-reproducing) populations in the province of Saskatchewan.
Non-native tick species include Ixodes scapularis (eastern blacklegged tick) and I. pacificus (western blacklegged tick); both species can transmit Lyme disease. To date, tick biologists have not found any established populations of blacklegged ticks in the province of Saskatchewan (see below for more information on blacklegged ticks).
Other tick species that occur in Saskatchewan are highly specialized on certain vertebrate hosts and therefore rarely bite humans. These wildlife ticks include I. kingii (specialized on rodents), Haemaphysalis leporispalustris (specialized on rabbits), and Carios kelleyi (specialized on bats).
In 2018 and 2019, we identified 1,500 ticks and 1,900 ticks that were submitted to us by residents of Saskatchewan. Here are some findings from our passive surveillance program:
- Most ticks (about 95 per cent) were Dermacentor variabilis (American dog tick). Other native species include D. albipictus (moose or winter tick) and D. andersoni (Rocky Mountain wood tick). None of these three tick species transmit Lyme disease.
- Non-native tick species were rare and included Ixodes scapularis (eastern blacklegged tick) and I. pacificus (western blacklegged tick). These two species can transmit Lyme disease. Rhipicephalus sanguineus (brown dog tick) was found on pets that had travelled to warmer regions.
- About 60 per cent of the submitted ticks came from dogs, then people, then a range of animals including cats, horses, livestock and wildlife.
- Most ticks (D. variabilis) were submitted in May and June. However, I. scapularis was generally found on pets in the fall (September to November), and occasionally in spring from pets travelling outside the province.
- Very few I. scapularis were detected (less than 10 per year) and only one or two tested positive for Lyme disease.
Ticks and Lyme disease
In North America, there are two species of tick that can transmit Lyme disease:
- Ixodes scapularis (eastern blacklegged tick)
- I. pacificus (western blacklegged tick)
In the early 1990s, blacklegged ticks were rare in Canada, but this tick species has dramatically expanded its range in our country over the last 30 years. As a result, the incidence of Lyme disease in the Canadian public has also increased dramatically.
In Canada, I. scapularis has established populations in southern Manitoba, Ontario, Québec and the Maritime provinces, whereas I. pacificus has established populations in British Columbia. To date, no established populations of blacklegged ticks have been found in Saskatchewan.
Where do the blacklegged ticks that bite Saskatchewan residents and their pets come from? One explanation is that migratory birds bring blacklegged ticks from the United States into Canada (including Saskatchewan) each spring. After dropping off migrating birds, these ticks can survive in the environment and bite a person or pet the following year.
Another explanation is that Saskatchewan residents and their pets encounter blacklegged ticks when they travel to an area where these ticks are common.
Saskatchewan Tick Surveillance Program
c/o Department of Veterinary Microbiology
Western College of Veterinary Medicine (WCVM)
University of Saskatchewan
52 Campus Drive
Saskatoon, SK S7N 5B4
Contact by telephone:
- Voordouw office: 306-966-7245
- Voordouw lab: 306-966-7241
- Jenkins office: 306-966-2569
- Jenkins lab: 306-966-7217