Dog Tick

Dog Tick Scientific Name: Dermacentor variabilis

Dog Ticks Facts

There are thousands of ticks in the world, but the dog tick is the one that is most likely to cause misery for you and your pet. Dogs may come into contact with dog ticks when outdoors, particularly in high grasses, or may even catch them from other stray or untreated animals, including cats.

tick on dog

tick on dog

Dog ticks are blood suckers and, as such, can transmit many diseases to your pets. There are many preventative medications that are available at your veterinary clinic or local drug or pet stores. These can help reduce the chances of a dog tick staying around if your dog should come in contact with one. Many of these medications may also provide a cure when a dog tick is found, however, it is essential to also remove the tick from under the skin to prevent further infection.

Dog Ticks Identification

Female dog tick

Female dog tick

Male dog tick

Male dog tick


You can tell if your pet has a dog tick by watching their behavior. The area is likely to be sore, swollen and red. You can also usually see the tick under the surface drawing blood. You can remove them using tweezers or take them to a vet. Similar symptoms may arise in people and can be treated the same way. Medical treatment is usually recommended as a preventative measure afterward to ensure both pets and people are safe and are not at risk from secondary disease.

Dog ticks themselves look like much larger versions of fleas. They have a rounded, fat body with six legs and are usually a brown or tan color but may also appear black to the naked eye. Ticks have hard shell on their back and most medication or preventative treatments have a picture, which is enlarged for easy identification. Dog ticks are commonly found in grass or forest areas, but can be found on animals or people acting as hosts.

Dog Ticks Habitat

Much like most other ticks, dog ticks can be found waiting in low grasses in many countryside and rural areas. There is a general misconception that ticks may live in trees, but this is untrue. They will wait in low-level grasses, usually no higher than waist-high and will prey on animals or sometimes humans who pass by. They can survive up to a year when mature without a blood meal and prefer to seek residence on dogs, who can provide a steady blood supply. They may change between two to three hosts within their lifetime.

Once they have a host, dog ticks can survive for a few years and may change hosts during this time. This may be a matter of preference or may be because their hosts invariably dies from anemia, blood loss over time or disease. If this happens, they will likely return to a grassy area before waiting for a new host to latch onto.

Life Cycle of Dog Ticks

Dog ticks have four main life cycles, just like other ticks and many insects. These phases are eggs, larvae, nymphs and adults. Each phase allows for birth, growth, development and reproduction. Female dog ticks will lay their eggs most frequently in its host, so that when they are born they have the required blood meals readily available. Larvae, which hatch from eggs do not have legs and as such, cannot find a host for themselves.

The larvae will feed extensively on their host in order to gain enough energy to compete their second phase of development. Once they have fed and shed their skin several times to accommodate rapid growth, they will go into a lymphatic phase which will allow them to grow their legs and emerge from a cocoon as adults. Adult dog ticks will then seek out their own host, and during the growth cycles, a host can be drained of its blood supply.

Dog ticks can survive without a meal from this point for up to a year if required. They will breed frequently and are sexually mature from this point on. A tick may survive for a few years and females may breed many times during this adult phase, creating hundreds of new dog ticks.

Dog Ticks and Humans

While dog ticks may cause stress and concern for you and your pets, they can also feed from humans. This can cause further worry and problems for children and other family members who can also become susceptible to many of the diseases that dog ticks carry. These include Lyme disease, ehrlichiosis, anaplasmosis and others that can be contracted from direct blood contamination.

In order to ensure healthy family and pets, regular preventative measures should be put in place and an annual screening from your vet is recommended for all dogs in the household. Because the symptoms of disease are not easily recognizable and may stick around once the tick is gone, it is essential to test to make sure your dog is safe. Treatments are usually simple affairs and can be administered at home.

Dog Ticks Control

Preventative measures are key to protecting your pets and families from these blights. There are many over the counter medications which can be applied monthly to help deter dog ticks from your pets and an annual check up with your vet will help alert you to any problems. Preventative treatments are also available for people in the form of sprays and creams which can help when camping or working in dense grassy conditions.

Maintenance: Around the home, gardening and general maintenance can help prevent dog ticks from settling in and waiting for a host. Try to keep grasses cut very low and bushes and hedges trimmed back. You should also check your children for ticks regularly if you spend time outdoors or have been camping, hiking or participating in other outdoor activities.

Pest control treatments: There are innumerable sprays, powders and treatments which are usually chemical based and advertised for use against ticks. You should follow the specific guidelines for applications and choose one based on your indoor or outdoor requirements.

Removing ticks: This can be done with tweezers at home if you know how to remove them correctly. You should ensure that the entire head and body as been removed from the host and that the area is cleaned and sanitized to prevent further infestation. If you are unsure, it is best to seek medical attention. A follow up visit may also be recommended.

Tick stuck to tape

Tick stuck to tape

Dog Ticks Entomology

Dog ticks is the common name given to a type of tick which is most likely to be found attached to your pet. They belong to the animalia kingdom and are classed as arachnids for their strong comparisons to spiders, despite only having six legs. They are also acari, which is a genera family of ticks, fleas and other parasitic insects and may be classed specifically as parasitiiformes for their ability to transmit disease from feeding on blood.