The Life Cycle of Dog Ticks

Most people know all about deer ticks, but dog ticks also plague canine friends. There are two varieties including the American dog tick and the brown dog tick. Learn more about their life cycles and possible health risks they cause.

Life Cycle of American Dog Ticks

The biggest risk from American dog ticks involves Rocky Mountain Fever and tick paralysis. Because the tick is found throughout the United States, it's one you're likely to see. You'll see these ticks most commonly from April to June.

An American dog tick is reddish brown in color with a whitish plating (the dorsal shield) near the head. In the larvae stage, the ticks will have six legs, but by the time they progress to adults, they grow an additional leg. The ticks average about 1/8 of an inch in leg normally, but when engorged with blood they'll be about half an inch in length.

The ticks start from eggs. As they hatch, the larvae attach themselves to small mammals like birds, chipmunks, mice or squirrels. The larvae feed for four or five days before returning to the ground to molt. Once the skin is shed, the newly hatched nymph must find a new food source.

Nymphs tend to go for larger mammals like opossums, raccoons and skunks. They will feed for a week or so before going back to the ground to molt. After this stage, the female adult dog tick then finds a larger host, like a deer or dog. While the female tick feeds a male adult dog tick mates with her for a couple of weeks. Once the mating session ends, the female tick crawls back into the ground, digests the blood and then lays thousands of eggs that will hatch in the spring.

In general, the entire life cycle of an American dog tick lasts about 54 to 60 days. Like fleas, ticks thrive in moist, humid areas. In cold or dry climates, their life cycle may take longer.

Life Cycle of Brown Dog Ticks

A brown dog tick differs from other ticks because it doesn't need to be outdoors to complete a life cycle. It's more like a flea in that it lays eggs indoors.

Brown dog ticks prefer to feed on dogs, but will bite another mammal if the need is there. Most dogs pick the tick up after being in a kennel or playing with a tick infested dog.

After the eggs hatch, the larvae attach themselves to a host. They will feed for a week and then rest for a couple weeks while developing into a nymph. The nymph then bites the host and feeds for another week or two before molting into an adult.

The adult brown dog tick feeds and mates at the same time. Once the mating is over, the female finds a secluded area of the home and lays up to 5,000 eggs. These eggs will hatch in less than a week and repeat the life cycle.

Identify the brown dog tick by the reddish-brown legs and body. The body has a darker pattern on the back that looks like random lines and blotches.