While the main share of information regarding ticks is for the blacklegged or “Deer” tick, there’s another tick which you may be very familiar with and not even know it – the American dog tick. In fact, the American dog tick is the largest of the eastern wood ticks, as well as the one you are most likely to see. While not known for transmitting Lyme disease, the American dog tick is known to transmit both Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and Tularemia, both of which are considered to be quite dangerous.
According to the University of Rhode Island’s Tick Encounter site, " American dog ticks are found predominantly in areas with little or no tree cover, such as grassy fields and scrubland, as well as along walkways and trails." It’s also worth noting, they will also use their sense of smell and bodyheat to detect a trail where mamals often go. While they need a blood meal to lay eggs as well as survive, they can last up to two years without feeding on a host.
The adults are highly active from April through August and will actively feed upon a range of hosts including: raccoons, skunks, opossums, coyotes, dogs, cats as well as humans. Through injecting an anesthetic into their host, in order to avoid their bite being detected, the American dog tick can feed on a host for up to 1 week. At this point, in particular the female American dog tick, will drop from the host and lay up to 4,000 eggs before dying. Unlike other species of ticks, the American dog tick isn’t known for feeding on humans during its nymphal stage of life.
What is Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever is a tickborne disease caused by the bacterium Rickettsia rickettsii. This organism is a cause of potentially fatal human illness and is transmitted to humans by the bite of an infected tick, i.e. the American dog tick and brown tick.” Symptoms include: fever, headache, abdominal pain, vomiting and muscle pain. The illness can be fatal if not treated early through antibiotics such as doxycycline.
This chillingly dangerous disease is acquired completely at random. Dependent upon what the nymphal American dog tick fed upon prior to latching onto a human host is what precipitates what the tick is infected with. It’s for this very reason you should become familiar with what the American dog tick looks like as well as being tested for RMSF if you notice a dog tick on you or a family member. The female American dog tick’s appearance is quite discernible, consisting of an off-white scutum against a dark brown body.
If you ever have any questions about the American dog tick and how to keep it out of your yard, contact the professionals at Mosquito Squad of Boston Metro South by calling us at (781) 297-0123, emailing us at [email protected] or by filling out the form below. We look forward to hearing from you soon!