American dog ticks are about 4-6mm in length, have oval shaped, but flattened bodies, and four pair of legs. The dorsal surface or back of the female tick is dark reddish brown with a crescent shaped, light colored plate near the front of the body.They prefer food sources such as starches, sweets, grease and meat products, but other items may include cheese.
Habitat: American dog tick has a fairly wide host range.Dogs are a preferred host but adults commonly infest both large and medium sized mammals such as cattle, deer, raccoons, and opossum. The immature stages may feed on these same hosts but prefer to infest smaller mammals such as meadow mice, squirrels, and chipmunks.All stages of the American dog tick will also feed on humans if given the opportunity. In Oklahoma, this tick transmits the causative organism for Rocky Mountain spotted fever.
Life Cycle:Once the nymph has grabbed a new host, it will again drink more blood, this time for about six days. It will again drop from its host and molt. This time it may take weeks before it molts and becomes an adult tick.The male and female ticks will again look for a host, their third one. It will most likely be a larger mammal, such as a raccoon, opossum, fox, skunk, woodchuck, deer, dog, or human.
This time the male will not feed. The female will feed on the host, and the male will mate with her while she feeds. After mating, the male will die and the female will drop off the host to lay eggs on the ground. She will lay over 4,000 eggs and the cycle will begin again. If a tick can’t find a host in any of its stages, it can survive up to two years.
Disease: American dog tick is the primary vector of a disease organism that causes Rocky Mountain spotted fever in man in the southeastern U.S. Symptoms include headache, muscle and lower back pains, fever, chills, and a measles-like rash that starts on the wrists and ankles and spreads to the trunk of the body. These symptoms occur within 2 to 12 days following a tick bite.
The disease can be fatal if medication is not administered properly. The organisms that cause Rocky Mountain spotted fever are retained by ticks even as they grow and develop. They can even be transmitted to the next generation of ticks by the female through the egg.
Removal: Ticks should not be removed by handpicking because infected tick secretions can be transferred from a person’s hands to his or her eyes, mucous membranes, mouth, etc. Therefore, forceps should be used when removing a tick . To properly remove a tick, grasp the mouthparts near the attachment site firmly with tweezers.