While the brown dog tick isn't the only member of its blood-sucking family that afflicts dogs, it has the dubious distinction as the only tick found all over the continental United States. This particular tick lives worldwide. Unlike other tick species, the brown dog tick can spend its entire life cycle inside buildings. That means it thrives anywhere, even very cold climates.
The brown dog tick (Rhipicephalus sanguineus) lacks any markings. It's a small, reddish-brown tick with a longer body than other species have. At maturity, it's about an eighth-inch long. Like other ticks, it evolves from an egg to a larva, then into a nymph before the adult stage, its final life stage. While known as a "three-host tick" -- dropping off a host in the course of development and requiring a blood meal in each stage -- the brown dog tick can stay on one animal throughout its life cycle.
The brown dog tick earned the nickname "kennel tick" because it is so often found indoors. As far as the tick is concerned, if your home contains a dog, it's a kennel. If your house becomes infested, you'll probably require professional extermination services. Brown dog ticks live in hidden areas of the house, including behind moldings and baseboards, within upholstered furniture and inside drapery folds. Keep your dog on a monthly topical or oral tick preventive in order to keep brown dog ticks out of your house.
The brown dog tick doesn't transmit Lyme disease -- that's the deer tick -- or tuleremia. The latter disease can result from an American dog tick bite. However, the brown dog tick can transmit Rocky Mountain spotted fever by infecting a person with the bacteria Rickettsia rickettsii. Symptoms of this potentially fatal disease include severe headache, fever, muscle and abdominal pain, and vomiting. If you're bitten by a tick, make an appointment with your doctor. If possible, save the tick body and bring it with you.
While canines are the brown dog tick's primary host, they aren't the only species this tick feeds on. The brown dog tick ingests blood from any warm-blooded animal, including humans. Most often, an adult brown dog tick latches onto a dog's feet or the ear area, while larva get on the animal's back. Female ticks drop off dogs after feeding and find a secluded place to lay eggs. Each female tick lays between 1,000 and 3,000 eggs, starting the cycle over again.
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