There are many species of dog ticks though the most common is probably the brown dog tick also known as the red tick. Despite the fact that this tick species prefers dogs it can also survive on other animals.
Tick species that can attach themselves to dogs include the lone star tick, American dog tick, wood tick and deer tick among others. The feeding mechanism of a dog tick is basically the same; it feeds by drawing blood from the host through its mouth parts.
The life cycle of brown dog ticks involves four stages, egg, larvae, nymph and adult. Female ticks feed on dogs and other hosts till their body swells. They then drop off the host to lay eggs. On average, a tick may lay up to 5,000 eggs. The eggs may hatch in two to five weeks depending on humidity and temperature conditions. The larvae search for a host which may be a dog and feed on the host for about a week before falling off so that it can develop into a nymph. The nymphs will then search for a host to feed on for another week or so before dropping off to develop into adult ticks.
Adult ticks look more like small spiders and have eight legs. They have an oval shape and red-brown color. Male dog ticks do not engorge as much as the female type. The latter can feed on a dog for as long as a week and swell to almost the size of a pea. When fully filled with blood, the color of the female tick changes to pale blue-gray. American dog ticks are mostly found in the warmer parts of the United States and do not normally infest homes. They infest either rodents or dogs during the nymph stage of their life cycle.
Ticks have a number of effects on dogs. They cause irritation which makes the pets spend long hours scratching themselves. This may lead to bruising and infection. Heavy infestation may lead to lethargy.
The parasites can attach themselves in areas of the dog’s body that the dog can’t reach such as elbows, under the neck, on the belly and between toes among other areas. Tick removal should be done carefully so that the parasite’s head does not get detached and remain in the body. Dogs with improperly removed ticks develop large swollen lumps on their skins as a result of infection. Brown dog ticks do not attach themselves to humans but other tick species do. The American dog tick transmits Rocky Mountain spotted fever and Tularemia in both humans and animals. Deer ticks transmit Lyme disease in humans and dogs.
Signs of tick infestation in a dog include frequent scratching and presence of ticks on the skin of the dog. For more information on how to eliminate and prevent tick infestations check the tick prevention and removal page.