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Know Your Ticks: Brown Dog Tick, Deer Tick, and Dog Tick

April to October is the prime time for tick activity as well as the peak time for people to be venturing into the countryside for work and recreation. Tick bites can often pass unnoticed. If you have to go out into areas where ticks may be present here are some tips to follow:

  • use the center of the trail if you can
  • pull your socks over the bottom of your pants
  • wear light colored clothing
  • consider using a repellent
  • examine yourself and your clothes after each trip
  • make sure your pets have proper flea & tick treatment, such as Frontline Plus

Symptoms of tick borne diseases may take days, weeks, or even years to manifest themselves; individual ticks have been known to carry up to three disease carrying microorganisms. Female ticks are more active feeders and therefore the most likely to infect their hosts with a microorganism during blood feeding. However, certain species of ticks are more associated with a particular microorganism than others, and the ability to identify a tick bite, the species, and log when and where the bite occurred could help a health professional towards a diagnosis.

Brown Dog Ticks

The Brown Dog Tick (Rhipicephalus sanguineus) is associated with Babesiosis and Ehrlichiosis and, as its name suggests this tick is most likely to be found on dogs. Unlike many species of ticks, the Brown Dog Tick can spend its entire life cycle indoors and is distributed mainly in warmer climates; the tick can be found throughout Florida. With the female of the species being able to lay 5,000 eggs at one time, home infestations can occur very quickly.

Brown Tick Photo (University Of Florida)

The Brown Dog Tick is red-brown in color, has an elongated body shape, and a hexagonal basis capituli (attaches the head to the body). Prevention of an infestation is easier than trying to eradicate one. Talk to your local Southern States about tick control. Regular treatment of your dog should reduce the chances of a tick attaching itself and successfully feeding.

Deer Ticks

The Deer Tick also known as the Blacklegged Tick and the Cattle Tick (Ixodes scapularis) is associated with Babesiosis, Ehrlichsiosis, and Lyme Disease.

Deer Tick Photo (Iowa State University)

The deer tick is widespread in the eastern U.S. from Florida to Maine and reportedly, is expanding its geographical range. Despite its name associating it with deer, the tick has a mobile three host life cycle. The larvae will attach themselves to mammals and birds during August; white footed mice are a favorite. After feeding, the larvae will become nymphs, which will in turn feed on a variety of hosts. Finally, the adult deer ticks will emerge in October and are active throughout the winter, if the temperature is above freezing.

Adult deer ticks favor white tailed deer and are around one eighth of an inch long, dark brown to black in color, with the female the more active feeder, having an orange to red scutum (dorsal shield) at the top of its head.

American Dog Ticks

The Dog Tick (Dermacentor variabilis), also known as the American Dog Tick is associated with Ehrlichiosis, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and Tularemia.

American Dog Ticks are widely distributed eastwards from Montana to South Texas, west of the Cascade and Sierra Nevada Mountains in California and in Saskatchewan in Canada. The ticks like to wait for potential hosts on grass and vegetation in fallow fields, overgrown roadsides, and along the edges of paths and trails.

Dog Tick Photo (The University Of Maine)

The larvae and nymphs of the dog tick feed on small mammals; the adult of the species prefers larger mammals such as raccoons, ground hogs, opossum, dogs, and sometimes humans. Before gorging herself on blood, the female dog tick is around three eighths of an inch long. After a blood meal she could be well over half an inch long; males are around one eighth of an inch long whether they have fed or not.

The adult dog tick is oval shaped, reddish brown in color, with a mottling of light grey or silver on its scutum. The ticks over winter in the soil and are most active between mid April to early September but can survive around two years without feeding. After feeding for five to 14 days, an adult female will drop to the ground where she can lay between 5,000-6,500 eggs.

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