Random Arachnid: American dog tick


American dog tick (Ixodida: Ixodidae: Dermacentor variabilis) photographed 05/07/2013 near Clayton, Michigan.

Found throughout eastern North America and parts of the Pacific coast, American dog ticks (Ixodida: Ixodidae: Dermacentor variabilis) are well-known parasites of mammals. After hatching these arachnids go through three life stages from larvae to nymphs to adults. At each stage they feed on the blood of progressively larger mammals. Larvae and nymphs commonly feed on small animals like mice and rats. Adults frequently attack dogs, but will also feed on other larger mammals, including humans.

American dog ticks are important vectors for two serious diseases. They can transmit Rickettsia rickettsii from rodents to dogs and humans. This bacterium causes Rocky Mountain spotted fever. They can also infect humans with Francisella tularensis, the bacterium that causes tularemia. If that wasn’t enough these arachnids can cause tick paralysis in both dogs and children. It’s thought that this illness is produced by a toxin in tick saliva. They do not, however, appear to transmit the bacterium that causes Lyme disease. That is vectored by blacklegged ticks of the genus Ixodes.

Tick-borne disease can be prevented in several ways. Avoid areas that may host ticks when possible. When entering such areas wear long clothing and repellent. After leaving, inspect yourself and remove any ticks you may find. Disease transmission can take several hours or more, so prompt removal can prevent infection. Repellents and removal on dogs can protect them as well, and prevent them from transporting ticks indoors.


About Jeremy Sell

Science and nature nerd.
This entry was posted in Ecology, Entomology, Invertebrate Zoology, Organism Interactions and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Random Arachnid: American dog tick

  1. Mike Powell says:

    Yikes. I have managed to encounter a few ticks this spring, but not one of those (I think mine were the Lone Star tick variety)


  2. Wildlife TV says:

    It’s hard to love ticks, but they are indeed quite fascinating. Something quite fun you can do with them: if you see one perched on a blade of grass, breathe gently on it and you’ll see it raise it’s little legs into the air; they react to the carbon dioxide and you can trick them into preparing themselves for a new host!


  3. Yup, that is a tick. One of the few creatures where I can’t find common ground and acceptance.


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