Name Brown Dog Tick
Latin Name Rhipicephalus sanguineus
Nicknames/common names Kennel Tick, or Pantropical Dog Tick
Brown Dog Ticks are one of Ontario’s three most common tick species, alongside the Deer Tick and American Dog Tick.
How do you get rid of Brown Dog Ticks?
A structural Brown Dog Tick infestation is a serious matter. Brown Dog Ticks are the only species of hard tick found in Ontario that is likely to breed and live indoors and they can be quite difficult to control. It is imperative to treat pets, the structure and the yard sometimes several times over a period of months. If ticks are encountered in your home, or in another structure on your property, call Addison Pest Control immediately and schedule an inspection by a trained technician who will be able to identify your pest problem and develop an integrated pest management plan (IPM) to control your tick population.
How to identify Brown Dog Ticks
Brown Dog Tick eggs are amber-dark red. The larvae are minuscule versions of adults that only have six legs. Nymphs are smaller lighter in colour than adults and are about the size of a poppy seed; both nymphs and adults have eight legs. Small, and red-brown in colour, adult Brown Dog Ticks have elongated bodies and a distinctive hexagonal basis capituli. As is typical for most tick species, adult Brown Dog Tick females are larger than adult males. An unfed female tick is typically 3-5 mm in length and will expand to 10-12 mm when engorged with blood meal and turn a grey-blue to an olive colour.
An adult female will feed for about a week before dropping off its host, engorged, to lay upwards of 5000 eggs over the course of a two week period, at the end of which, it dies. The eggs are often laid in cracks and crevices around the house, under beds and other furniture, on top of kennels and other ledges that provide easy access to your dogs, and if desperate, to you and your family. Two to five weeks later the eggs will hatch, and larvae will seek out their first host (preferably a dog). The larvae will feed for about two to seven days, drop off of the host and spend two weeks moulting into nymphs. A tick at the nymphal stage will feed for about five to ten days, drop off of the host, and spend another two weeks moulting into adulthood. Adult males take smaller blood meals than adult females who become engorged on blood, typically expanding ten times their resting size, before laying fertilized eggs.
Adults can survive for up to 18 months without feeding, nymphs and larvae can survive for 6-9 months without a blood meal.
Signs of a Brown Dog Tick infestation
Signs of a Brown Dog Tick infestation are typically the presence of adults crawling on walls, on a person, or a pet or, symptoms in pets of the diseases that they carry. Brown Dog Ticks can usually be found hiding in and around furniture, window frames, the perimeters of carpets and rugs, exterior siding, and foundations. This hard tick is both unique and unnerving in that it can complete its entire life cycle indoors, and given access to host body blood meals, can reach obscenely high population numbers.
Where did they come from / how did I get them?
Dogs are the preferred host for this ectoparasite, and resultantly, it is frequently found in kennels and the homes of dog owners. Warmer temperatures mean a faster transition into adulthood for the Brown Dog tick, and being able to survive indoors has led them to be found in Ontario year-round. Brown Dog Ticks may enter the home on a dog, or person who has been in contact with an infested body (animal, person) or site.
Active in temperatures above 4 degrees Celsius, eight-legged nymphs and adults pose the greatest threat for disease transmission to humans and pets due to their hard-to-spot, poppyseed size and an increase in human activity in parks and along trails. Unable to fly or jump, ticks will instead ‘quest’ for hosts. In response to carbon dioxide or heat and vibration stimuli, ticks will climb a blade of grass or move to the edges of leaves, stretch their front legs forward, and mount an unsuspecting host as it brushes past. Once mounted onto its host, ticks will move around the body and select a preferred feeding site typically around a warm and moist area around the neck, head, armpits, groin and knees.
What do Brown Dog Ticks eat?
Preferring blood meal from dogs, The Brown Dog Tick, like all hard ticks, is a three host tick which means that it requires a blood meal and leaves its host to moult at each developmental stage, preferring a new canine, or human, for each stage. In a domestic environment, this may lead the tick to feed on and return to, a single canine, or human, for its entire lifecycle. Brown Dog Ticks at all phases can survive several months without feeding.
How Serious are Brown Dog Ticks?
It is a vector of Canine Ehrlichiosis (Ehrlichia canis) and Canine Babesiosis (Babesia canis), diseases that cause lameness, fever, anorexia and anemia. It has not been found to transmit Lyme disease to humans. Brown Dog Ticks are known carriers of the severe and sometimes fatal Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and have been known to cause tick paralysis.
Canine Ehrlichiosis: Ehrlichia canis is a white blood cell infection that affects bone marrow, lymph nodes, spleen, and liver if left untreated. Common symptoms include a loss of appetite, lethargy, discharge from the eyes and nose, lameness and joint pain as well as bruising on the gums and belly of the animal. Many dogs can fight off the virus, but it may become chronic, returning during periods of stress causing arthritis and kidney disease. Although humans can contract Ehrlichiosis, they are more likely to contract the disease from a Lone Star Tick (which transmits Ehrlichia chaffeensis) as opposed to Ehrlichia canis discussed here. An infected dog will not transmit the disease to humans but can infect other dogs via blood transmission from bites.
Canine Babesiosis: With an incubation period of about two weeks, symptoms may remain mild for months or years. Babesiosis symptoms include a lack of energy and appetite, enlarged abdomen, fever, pale gums, weight loss, jaundice and stool discolouration. Babesiosis causes hemolytic anemia, which breaks down red blood cells. An infected dog will not transmit the disease to humans but can infect other dogs via blood transmission from bites.
Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever: Restricted to the Rocky Mountain range of the United States and southwestern Canada, ticks may become infected with the R. rickettsii bacteria in the larval or nymphal stages. Male ticks can transfer Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever to female ticks while mating and once infected the tick carries the pathogen for life. Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever is commonly misdiagnosed as the flu. Typical symptoms include a fever and rash. The tell-tale red spotted rash on one’s palms or soles of the feet might not appear until after six days of other symptoms. Severe cases of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever can involve the urinary, gastrointestinal, central nervous and respiratory systems and cause death. Only knowing that a tick bite occurred recently would lead a physician to diagnose Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, so it’s important to monitor your body for ticks and tick bites.
Tick Paralysis: Tick Paralysis occurs when a potent toxin from an adult female tick’s saliva is injected into the blood of the host (common in dogs) as it feeds on a blood meal. Tick Paralysis directly affects the nervous system of the animal and the onset of symptoms usually takes 6-9 days. Symptoms include vomiting, unsteadiness, high blood pressure, increased heart rate, loss of muscle control (apparent relaxation), excessive drooling, asphyxia, loss of appetite and pupil dilation. Symptoms of Tick Paralysis will usually subside upon the removal of parasites from the body of the animal, but it is imperative to have your pet treated by your veterinarian because even in cases where proper diagnosis and treatment is received, Tick Paralysis may be fatal. Although it is uncommon in humans, Tick Paralysis can affect people with a smaller body mass, most frequently, children. Tick Paralysis symptoms in humans are similar to those in affected animals and exist in increasing seriousness the longer the tick feeds on its host; symptoms may include respiratory failure, acute muscle weakness and even death. Like most tick-borne illnesses, diagnosis can be difficult without the knowledge of a tick bite, if ticks are found on a host they must be carefully removed and saved for testing.
Thankfully, Brown Dog Ticks must typically feed on the host body for upwards of 24 hours to successfully transmit the diseases that they carry, if you find a Tick on a person or pet:
Grasp the tick behind the head using tweezers and slowly remove it from the host (fingers can be carefully used if an appropriate tool is not on hand, wash hands thoroughly before and after tick removal). Do not crush the tick; crushing may lead to the release of dangerous fluids. Ensure that the mouthparts of the tick are fully removed and thoroughly wash the infected area. Seek medical attention. Save the tick body for testing and diagnosis.
How Addison Can Help Eliminate Brown Dog Ticks
Brown Dog Tick management should be undertaken in a focused program that combines harbourage removal as well as a crack and crevice treatment and a residual surface spray treatment. It is imperative to maintain stringent sanitation practices in a home being treated for Brown Dog Ticks for several months because, unfortunately, adult Brown Dog Ticks can survive for up to 18 months without a blood meal, significantly increasing your risk of infestation.
How Addison can help Prevent Brown Dog Tick Infestations in the Future
When entering a suspected tick populated, or leaf-littered area:
Wear light clothing, long sleeves and long pants tucked into socks. Repellents: Deet-based skin repellent helps repel them, and Permethrin clothing treatment can kill ticks. Contact your veterinarian about available preventative treatments for ticks and other ectoparasites.
Ticks and other ectoparasites can enter the home on just about anything, on clothing, pets, people, and plants. In general, when returning from any densely vegetated, wooded or infested area where tick harbourages and activity are suspected, it is crucial to perform thorough checks of all incoming living and non-living objects. Ticks are drawn to moist and warm areas on their host bodies; be sure to check the scalp, nape, behind the ears, armpits, groin, navel and knees. Always check twice. Immediately wash and dry all clothing on high heat and be sure to shower as soon as possible. In a consideration of the Brown Dog Tick, this is of particular importance upon returning from a kennel, dog park, or any place where one dog interacts with another. Bathe and groom your pets and regularly check for ticks and other parasites. Although most ticks will not survive without being able to feed on an active host body and are not inclined to live indoors, soft ticks and Brown Dog ticks are adept at invading homes and establishing harbourages just about anywhere with easy access to a blood meal.
Certain preventative measures can be taken as part of a system of physical controls:
Keep your home clean, check under furniture and the areas that pets may frequent. Repair crevices and gaps around the structure, paying particular attention to possible entry points from outdoors. Keep your grass cut and maintain an organic free barrier of at least 1m around the exterior walls of the structure using gravel or woodchips. Dispose of all animal nesting material, and evict other pest populations in and around your property as ticks parasitize most rodent and avian pest species. Keep your lawn free of debris and leaf litter, keep children’s playsets clear of wooded areas.