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I’d Like to Check You For Ticks

Got your attention, didn’t I?! Well, if you’re a country music fan, you know that is a line from a Brad Paisley song, and if you aren’t a country music fan, you probably think I am some weirdo for wanting to check you for ticks. is summer in Oklahoma, and that means it is peak tick season. Today, I want to talk about the common ticks that we see in our great state, and in my next blog, we will talk about tick-borne diseases.

Brown Dog tick infestation on dog's ear

Before we jump into the tick species, we should talk briefly about the tick life cycle. Ticks start as eggs. After they hatch, they are known as larvae. In this stage, the ticks have six legs, and they are commonly known as “seed ticks.” Following a blood meal, the larva molts and becomes a nymph, and in this stage, the ticks have eight legs and resemble adults. However, they cannot reproduce in this stage. Following another blood meal, the nymph molts and becomes an adult. The adult female lays her eggs after a blood meal, and the cycle begins again. Under favorable conditions, the tick life cycle can be completed in less than one year, but if environmental conditions are unfavorable, the life cycle can take up to 3 - 4 years to complete.

There are two major families of ticks – the hard ticks and the soft ticks. We will only talk about the hard ticks as they carry the diseases that we will discuss next time. The first step to disease detection and diagnosis is tick identification. So, here we go.

Deer Tick

This tick is also known as the black-legged tick, and its scientific name is Ixodes scapularis (dammini). Typically, the life cycle of this tick is 2 - 4 years. The immature forms of this tick typically feed on white-footed mice, and the adults most frequently feed on white-tailed deer. Originally, this tick was limited geographically to New England, Wisconsin, and southern Ontario, but it has greatly expanded its territory southward and westward. In suburban communities, deer ticks can live in woodlots next to houses.

Deer tick a.k.a. black-legged tick
Map of Blacklegged tick geographical range

American Dog Tick

The American dog tick’s scientific name is Dermacentor variabilis. This tick can be found throughout the entire United States. Their habitat includes wooded areas, abandoned fields, grasses and shrubs of medium height, and sunny or open areas around woods. Adult ticks prefer to feed on medium to large sized mammals, including dogs and humans, and the immature forms will feed on the same hosts as well as smaller mammals.

American dog tick
Map of American dog tick geographical range

American dog tick feeding growth chart

Brown Dog Tick

The brown dog tick’s scientific name is Rhipicephalus sanguineus, and this tick is found almost exclusively on dogs. This tick is widely distributed throughout the entire world, and all life stages can be found behind baseboards in the house, under windows, and in furniture. Nasty! Adult ticks are found most often in the ears of dogs or between their toes. Again, Nasty!

brown dog tick

Map of brown dog tick geographical range

Lone Star Tick

The Lone Star tick’s scientific name is Ambloyomma americanum. This tick is seen throughout the southeastern third of the United States, including Texas and Oklahoma. This tick is found primarily in wooded areas, but it can found along rivers and streams with marginal vegetation. This tick feeds on multiple hosts, including dogs, cats, humans, cattle, horses, sheep, goats, and poultry. Lone Star tick nymphs move really quickly, and they can climb up a person’s arms and legs in less than 5 minutes.

Lone Star tick
Map of Lone Star tick geographical range

If you find ticks on your pet, you want to remove them carefully. Then, you don’t leave the head behind. You also don’t want to compress the tick, which could potentially squeeze infectious agents into your pet (or you) before removal. Multiple videos of methods for tick removal can be found where you twist the ticks. You will also hear about pulling the tick straight out with or without forceps/tweezers. I found a video of this nifty little device for removal, and I wanted you to see it. I think this is pretty cool, especially since no one really wants to touch an engorged tick! In fact, the CDC recommends wearing gloves when removing the ticks to decrease your risk of exposure to disease.

If you want to revisit my last blog post on fleas, the tables that I included listed which products are effective again which ticks. Most of the products that kill ticks will work on all of the ones that we have looked at today, but please note that Bravecto only kills Lone Star ticks for 8 weeks even though it kills the others for 12 weeks.

"Don’t worry babe, I’ve got your back….I’d like to check you for ticks." - Brad Paisley


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