American dog ticks are only found in North America, and dogs are their favorite host. Although they’re not a structural pest, they frequently feed on pet dogs and will also readily latch onto humans. The American dog ticks can transmit Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Tularemia, and Tick Paralysis via its saliva. This species of tick is found through North America except, ironically, in the Rocky Mountains.
The American dog tick does not survive well indoors. If you find one indoors, a dog probably carried it in as its host. American dog ticks generally feed on their hosts until they’re fully engorged. After they’ve eaten their fill, they’ll drop off of their hosts to find a good place to lay eggs. American dog ticks require 3 different hosts to move through their entire development cycle. Young larval and nymphal American dog ticks actively crawl around, seeking small mammalian hosts. Along with their obvious preferred prey American dog ticks feed on mice, voles, rabbits, muskrats, rats, squirrels, and cats.
Adult American dog ticks hunt (or “quest”) by crawling up grass or other low vegetation and clinging to it. Upon reaching the top of their perches, ticks enter their “waiting position” by outstretching their legs into the air. Then, when a prospective hosts wanders near their perch, they simply grab on. To hunt successfully, ticks need to find places where hosts walk by frequently. They tend to find these hunting spots near roads, paths, and trails. Tick hunting grounds grow more infested over time as engorged ticks drop off of their hosts along paths.
CONTROL AND PREVENTION
There are a number of things you can do to avoid picking up ticks while you’re outside. Keep your trouser legs tucked into your socks or boots, and button and tuck your shirt in. Avoid sitting on logs, stumps, leaves, twigs, or bushes. Periodically inspect your clothing for ticks so you can remove them before they attach to you.
If you find a tick that’s already attached, remove it with a slow and steady pull. Avoid yanking the tick too quickly, or you might break off but leave its mouthparts attached. If you’re using a fine-tip forceps to remove ticks, place the tips of the forceps just behind the mouthparts. If you’re using a scraping device, draw the device firmly against the head of the tick. Don’t put too much pressure on the tick’s abdomen, or you might crush it into your wound. After removing the tick, clean the attachment area with rubbing alcohol or another disinfectant. If you’re going out, we recommend taking a proven tick repellent with you. Make sure you apply it to your clothing frequently.
Adult females are about 3/16” long. Males are slightly smaller at ⅛” long. Engorged females grow to around ⅝” long, and ⅜” wide. American dog ticks have oval, flat bodies and look brown with whitish to grayish markings. Female ticks have a marbled, cape-like pattern on the upper front part of the body. Males have a marbled pattern over the entire upper body surface.
In heavily infested areas, a Plunkett’s Pest Control pest management specialist will apply an appropriately-labeled residual pesticide. We’ll concentrate on the areas most likely to harbor ticks, such as paths, trails, property lines, and fence rows. Hopefully, we’ll be able to make the first application in early spring to eliminate overwintering larvae and nymphs.
Plunkett’s may also recommend eliminating any pest rodents in the area surrounding your home. We’ll accomplish this with rodenticides and/or rodent traps. As a precaution, we only use tamper-resistant traps, and only place them in areas pets and children can’t access.
If you’re worried about an American dog tick infestation around your property, give Plunkett’s a call any time. We’ve got everything we need to keep you, your family, and your pets safe from ticks for good.