American Dog Tick
- Common Name(s): American Dog Tick, Dog Tick, Wood Tick
- Order: Ixodida
- Family: Ixodidae
- Common Species: Dermacentor variabilis
- Commonly Confused With: Other Ticks, Bed Bugs
How to Identify?
American dog ticks are flattened from top to bottom. Adult and nymph ticks have 8 legs while the larval ticks have 6 legs. The females have a dark red-brown, brown, or black colored body behind the scutum (front section of a tick) with the scutum being gray, silver, or pale yellow in coloration. The males have a mostly black or brown body behind the scutum with the scutum taking up a large portion of their body. It is gray, silver, or pale yellow/off-white in color and can be so elongated that it makes the male tick look as though his entire body is that color instead of the regular black or brown.
Where do they live?
Dogs are a primary host of the adult ticks, hence the name dog tick, but they can and will get on other animals and humans. The nymphal and juvenile stages are found on smaller mammals or birds, but can also get on larger animals or humans. They are very common throughout most of the United States and can be found in any areas where their hosts reside. They wait on grass or tall foliage and attach to a host as it passes. After feeding, the tick drops back off of its host to lay eggs or molt. These ticks mate on the host, and once the female has taken a blood meal she will detach and fall to the ground to lay her eggs.
What do they eat?
All life stages of the tick feed on blood, but the males do not feed much if they feed at all. As mentioned above, ticks can feed on human or animal blood.
What do they do?
These ticks become a serious problem when they begin feeding on humans. American dog ticks can transmit multiple diseases to humans, but Rocky Mountain spotted fever is the most notable of them all. Most people know that ticks can be responsible for transmitting diseases to humans, but some people may not realize that your pets can also get diseases like Rocky Mountain spotted fever or Lyme disease. Though pets do not show symptoms and are not affected in the same ways as humans, if they become infected and a tick bites your pet and then transfers to you, you have just become infected with whatever disease your pet was carrying. If you know that you have been bitten by any tick send it off for testing immediately!
Rocky Mountain spotted fever (RMSF) does not usually have a high mortality rate if properly treated. Some of the symptoms and other stats of RMSF are listed on the University of Florida website listed in the Additional Resources Tab below.
- http://entnemdept.ufl.edu/creatures/urban/medical/american_dog_tick.htm Check out the link to explore these statistics and get even more information on ticks!
Author: G. Wyatt West– B.S.E.S University of Georgia 2017; Board Certified Entomologist
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