Brown Dog Ticks
Facts, Identification & Control
Adult brown dog ticks are reddish-brown and lack any easily noticeable markings that are found on many other tick species. Adults that have not taken a blood meal are about 1/8-inch long. Blood-fed females are about a ½-inch long and have a blue-gray coloration. Males are smaller than females, but are colored very similarly.
The brown dog tick (Rhipicephalus sanguineuls) is unique in its ability to complete the entire life cycle indoors. The brown dog tick is the species that is most often found in homes. As a result, brown dog tick populations can be found throughout the world, including areas with frigidly cold outdoor temperatures.
The life cycle of the brown dog tick is similar to that of other tick species in the family Ixodidae: beginning as eggs, they develop through larval and nymphal stages prior to maturing into adults. Brown dog ticks are three-host ticks, meaning that they drop off the host after the meal before each of their developmental stages. However, if necessary, a brown dog tick can remain with one host throughout its life. Unlike tick species that require plants or soil for egg laying, female brown dog ticks are capable of laying thousands of eggs on any surface available to them.
As their name implies, brown dog ticks prefer to feed on the blood of canines. They are also known to bite and feed upon humans and other animal hosts.
Canines are the preferred brown dog tick host and this species seldom attacks other hosts. However, they may sometimes consume a blood meal from people. Their typical habitat is warm, protected indoor locations where dogs are found, and they may become established inside homes. Animal kennels are another place where brown dog ticks can thrive, so kennel tick is another common name for the species.
Infested pets usually introduce the pests into the home. Because they are found deep within the hair of animals, homeowners may not immediately see them. Sometimes, an infestation may not be recognized until populations grow large and ticks are seen crawling across floors or walls. Adult ticks typically imbed themselves to a dog’s ears and between its toes, while larvae and nymphs typically attach to the dog’s back. After feeding, the tick drops off the host but does not travel far. The adult female tick lays a mass of 1,000 – 3,000 eggs after taking a blood meal, and eggs are often laid around baseboards, window and door casings, curtains, furniture, and rug edges. Females can often be seen climbing up walls searching for a place to lay their eggs. Adults that have not consumed a blood meal may live for as long as 200 days.
Brown dog ticks are three-host ticks. This means they occur on a different host at each of its three active life stages (larva, nymph and adult). However, a brown dog tick can live off one host for its entire life, if survival requires it. Additionally, the brown dog tick can complete its entire life cycle indoors, unlike most other species of tick. In the southern United States, brown dog ticks may live in grass or bushes around homes, dog houses, or kennels, and pets may easily pick them up. It takes about 60 days to complete a generation if conditions are optimal.
Range / Distribution
Brown dog ticks can be found throughout the eastern U.S. as well as areas of the West Coast. However, they are more likely to inhabit warm environments and are prolific in the southern areas of the United States. They can be found in particularly high concentrations in Florida.
Brown dog ticks may be potential vectors of Rocky Mountain spotted fever but are not known to transmit Lyme disease. They may also transmit canine ehrlichiosis and babesiosis to dogs.
Infestation or Control
In the event of an infestation severe enough to require pesticides, homeowners are advised to contact their local pest control professionals. In order to reduce or control indoor brown dog tick infestations, the affected home must be thoroughly cleaned. Special shampoos and medications may also be used on the affected pet’s fur. Contact your veterinarian to discuss any such treatments. Severe infestations often require the services of pest management professionals.
In homes, all areas frequented by house pets should be kept clean.
Brown dog ticks are often mistaken for deer ticks, which are known carriers of Lyme disease. However, brown dog ticks instead transmit Rocky Mountain spotted fever. If there are medical concerns regarding a tick bite, consult a medical professional.
If a homeowner suspects a problem with brown dog ticks, the best thing to do is seek the advice and assistance of your pest management professional. Your pest management professional will provide a thorough inspection and prepare an integrated control plan based upon the findings. In general, an effective and efficient brown dog tick control plan includes:
- Using veterinarian-recommended tick treatment products on pets.
- Frequently inspecting dogs or other pets and promptly eliminating any ticks that are found.
- Using approved tick control products to target ticks that are either inside or outside the home.
- Frequently cleaning and vacuuming the home’s interior to remove as many ticks as possible.