University of Saskatchewan

Western College of Veterinary Medicine

Equine tick surveillance

A research project conducted by the Western College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Saskatchewan

A WCVM research team has initiated a pilot study to investigate the prevalence of equine granulocytic anaplasmosis (A. phagocytophilum infection) and Lyme disease (Borrelia burgdorferi infection) in Saskatchewan horses.

To better characterize tick populations relevant to equine patients, the researchers are asking veterinarians and horse owners to submit any ticks found on horses within Saskatchewan. Researchers are accepting ticks of any life stage (including larva, nymph and adult stages) and are actively seeking tick submissions over the next two years (2011-2013).

Tick submissions: collection containers

You can submit ticks — alive or dead — in a sealed container. To ensure that ticks are not damaged during shipment, please place specimens in a suitable collection container made out of rigid plastic such as a pill bottle or a film canister. To avoid accidents, please do not use glass containers to submit ticks. 

Please place moistened tissue paper, paper towels, gauze or cotton in the collection container to protect the specimen during shipment and to maintain any ticks that are alive during transport. The moistened material also ensures that the ticks (dead or alive) do not dry out and break during shipping. 

Tick submissions: collection details

When submitting ticks, please include as much of the following information as possible:

Please use one container per horse and one submission form per horse. For example, if you submit ticks collected from three of your horses, please submit three containers and three submission forms. Please include the name of the horse on each container.

Please write the collection details of specimens directly on the container (using a permanent marker) or on a paper label attached to each container.

Tick submissions: contact information

Please send your tick submission by standard post to:

Attention: Dr. Katharina Lohmann
WCVM Veterinary Medical Centre
Room 1401, Large Animal Clinic
University of Saskatchewan
52 Campus Drive
Saskatoon, SK   S7N 5B4

Q. Why is the WCVM research project targeting these specific tick-borne diseases?

Equine granulocytic anaplasmosis and Lyme disease are tick-borne diseases that have historically been considered exotic to Canada. However, in recent years, several dogs and a single horse have been diagnosed with the disease in Saskatchewan.

Both organisms are carried by the black-legged tick (Ixodes scapularis). Although there is no known endemic population of black-legged ticks in Saskatchewan, these ticks have been transported into the province by migratory birds. There is also concern that climate change will eventually lead to the establishment of endemic tick populations in Saskatchewan. 

Q. What's the goal of the WCVM research study?

To answer some fundamental questions relating to tick ecology and their relative importance in disease transmission, the WCVM research team is looking for ticks collected from horses in all parts of the province and at all times of the year. The researchers expect that most ticks will be found in the spring and early summer. However, as Ixodes scapularis is mostly active in the fall, they also hope to obtain specimens later this year.

As part of the study, the WCVM scientists are collaborating with Dr. Neil Chilton of the University of Saskatchewan's Department of Biology who will identify ticks and test relevant ticks for their disease carrier status. Please note that veterinarians and horse owners who submit ticks will be informed of the study's results.  

If you have any questions relating to this tick surveillance survey, or if you have a case in which you suspect one of these tick-borne diseases, please contact Dr. Katharina Lohmann (306-966-7157).