Brown Dog Tick

In Kansas City and elsewhere, the brown dog tick (Rhipicephalus sanguineus) is not only a pest of dogs, but also an incredible nuisance in our homes. Unlike the American dog tick, this species does not reside in wooded areas and fields. Rather, it is found where dogs frequent, such as residential or farm yards, parks or alongside walking or hiking paths.

Recognition

The adults of this species tend to reside in the ears and between the toes of dogs. On the other hand the larvae and nymphs tend to be found in the long hair along their back. It is unusual among ticks, in that it can complete its entire life cycle indoors. Because of this, it can establish populations in colder climates, and has been found in much of the world. Although it will feed on a wide variety of mammals, dogs are the preferred host and appear to be required to develop large infestations.

It is small, red-brown in color (called the red dog tick in other parts of the world), and lacking any ornamentation. Although not sufficient for formal identification, it can be recognized by its by red-brown color, elongated body shape, and hexagonal area between the head and body.

Biology

As with the first tick described, the brown dog tick requires three blood meals to complete development; once each as a larva, nymph and adult. The brown dog tick is also a 3-host tick; this indicates that it leaves the host to develop and molt between the larval, nymphal and adult stages. Each stage must locate a host; in a domestic environment this may result in feeding on the same dog (if there is only one or a few dogs present), but there is an opportunity for the same tick to feed on three different hosts.

A fully blood-fed female brown dog tick can lay up to 5,000 eggs; the number of eggs laid depends on the size of the tick and the amount of blood she ingested. The length of time each stage feeds, and the time required for development and molting, are very dependent on temperature. Feeding and development times are generally faster at warmer temperatures. Survival is generally higher at cooler temperatures and higher relative humidity, but these ticks are tolerant of a wide range in conditions.

Habits

An adult female will feed on the host for around one week, then drop off the host and find a secluded place for egg development. Cracks and crevices in houses, garages and dog runs are ideal locations. She will start laying as soon as four days after she completes feeding and drops off the host, and can continue to lay for as long as 15 days. As she lays the eggs, she passes them over her body, to coat them in secretions which protect the eggs from drying out. After she finishes laying her eggs, she dies. The larvae hatch two to five weeks later, and begin to quest, or look for a host. All stages of this tick prefer dogs, although they will feed on other mammals. Larvae feed for three to seven days, then take about two weeks to develop into nymphs. The nymphs then feed for five to 10 days and again take about two weeks to develop into adults. As adults, both males and females will attach to hosts and feed, although the males only feed for short periods. The overall cycle can be completed in just over two months, but frequently will take longer if there are few hosts available or in cold temperatures. Ticks are notoriously long-lived, and can live as long as three to five months in each stage without feeding.