The brown dog tick is found all over the world. It is the most widespread tick species globally. It’s found among tall grass where dogs and other animals frequent. It gets its name because of its distinctive red brown-color and the fact that it primarily infests domestic dogs.
Both adult male and female brown dog ticks have a flare body and are uniformly reddish brown. They are also of the same size with very small pits on the back. When the adult females feed on blood, their bodies swell to several times their initial size. The engorged body turns gray blue but the head, mouth and legs stay red-brown. The males take small blood meals and maintain their size even after feeding.
Dogs most likely acquire a few brown dog ticks from already infested residences, grooming facilities and veterinary clinics and bring them back home. At this early stage of infestation the ticks are only on the dog and are easy to miss. After the female brown dog ticks lay eggs and they hatch, their population explodes. One female can lay a mind boggling 4000 to 7000 eggs. Ticks crawling on draperies and on the walls are the first sure signs that the dog owner has an infestation problem that needs to be dealt with.
Brown dog tick eggs are dark brown in color and round. The larvae are about 0.56mm in body length and have six legs. Nymphs have eight legs as do adults and look the same but are smaller and don’t have any patterns on the back.
The brown dog tick feeds only once during each active stage that is, larva, nymph and adult. It then drops from the host to digest the ingested blood to lay eggs or molt. Brown dog ticks mate on the host’s body after a blood meal. After feeding on the host for about seven days an adult female will leave the host and look for a quiet hidden place to lay and incubate her eggs for about a fortnight. Cracks on the walls, carpet edges in houses would be ideal locations. She will start laying her eggs from the fourth day after leaving her host and can go on laying for up to eighteen days. After she finishes laying her eggs the female dies.
Six to twenty three days after, the larvae hatch and start looking for a host. The seeking activity causes a lot of visible tick movement towards dogs thus alerting the dog owner to the infestation.
Larvae will feed for about fifteen days and leave the dog. After seven days to a fortnight the larvae develop into nymphs. The nymphs latch on to another host and feed for about thirteen days and there after they drop from the dog. They develop into adults after two weeks. If breeding pattern is not interrupted, you dog will suffer from a lot of distress.
The brown dog tick mostly latches onto dog’s ears, head, between toes, and the back. When preventing or managing a tick infestation it is important to check these areas.
To prevent home infestation, seal all crevices and cracks. Keep grass and weeds short. Kill ticks on furniture using steam and use hot water to wash dog beds and set dryer on high heat.
Getting a pest controller involved as soon as you see the first signs of infestations is crucial. A pest officer will kill employ mitigation methods that ensure eggs, nymphs and adult alike are killed breaking the breeding cycle effectively.