Lyme disease researcher: Be vigilant checking for ticks on pets, humans

Staff ~ The Cape Breton Post
Published on May 12, 2014

Mount Allison University biology professor Dr. Vett Lloyd in her lab. Lloyd and her research team will continue their work, testing New Brunswick dogs and ticks for Lyme disease this summer. 


©Mount Allison University


 A study at  Mount Allison University is indicating people on this side of the border need to be on the lookout for ticks and Lyme disease.

“Ticks don’t know provincial borders,” Dr. Vett Lloyd of Mount Allison’s biology department said. “What we’re finding in the Moncton and Sackville area would be true for Amherst as well.”

Over the past few years, researchers in Lloyd’s lab have teamed up with veterinarians across New Brunswick to get a better idea of ticks and tick-borne illnesses including Lyme disease in this region.

What they’ve found is concerning: infected ticks are growing in numbers across the province, increasing the risk of Lyme disease for both dogs and humans. Blood tests from dogs across the province show the infection rate has grown to seven per cent provincially, but it’s 17 per cent in southeastern New Brunswick.

“These preliminary results demonstrate that ticks, and Lyme disease, are prevalent not only in New Brunswick, but also around Amherst and people and their pets are at risk,” Lloyd said. “We want to work to get a clearer picture but also raise awareness so people can take necessary measures to prevent new infections and treat existing cases in pets, wildlife, and humans.”

Lyme disease is a bacterial infection caused by Borrelia bacteria. This bacterium is usually transmitted by a tick bite in which the disease causing bacteria is injected into the bloodstream.

While early infection can be treated with antibiotics, if left untreated, infection can result in a wide array of symptoms. While most dogs can resolve the infection without treatment, it can cause serious, even fatal, symptoms for some dogs. Lyme disease in humans causes debilitating symptoms if left untreated and is emerging as a serious health problem across Canada. 

Lloyd and her research team, including several Mount Allison University students, will continue their work this summer. They continue to receive ticks for testing in the lab and will be testing approximately 300 to 400 dogs at various veterinary clinics this summer as well.

“People need to be vigilant about checking themselves and their dogs for ticks. Prevention is the best way to deal with it. It’s difficult to diagnose and difficult to treat, but if you don’t get it in the first place it doesn’t matter,” she said.