Brown dog ticks, Rhipicephalus sanguineus, are found throughout the United States. Brown dog ticks, or kennel ticks, are not the most common tick species encountered in New England as the tiny arthropods complete their life cycle most successfully in warmer temperatures.
The brown dog tick, however, can survive in temperate zones like New England as long as the parasites have access to warm and dry environments indoors. The brown dog tick prefers to feed on the blood of dogs and has the ability to transmit diseases to pets of New England residents.
What Does a Brown Dog Tick Look Like?
Partly named for the hue of their bodies, brown dog ticks are reddish-brown in color. The flattened, oval body of the brown dog tick turns grayish-blue when the parasite ingests blood.
Adults measure about an eighth of an inch long prior to feeding and increase in size up to a half-inch when engorged. Like other tick species, brown dog ticks have eight legs as adults and nymphs, while newly hatched larvae only have six.
Where Do Brown Dog Ticks Live?
In New England, brown dog ticks are almost always found indoors. The brown dog variety is the only tick species with the ability to go through an entire life cycle in an indoor area.
Brown dog ticks commonly occupy:
- Animal hospitals
- Other places where dogs live or roam
The parasites also crawl up vertical surfaces to hide in cracks, crevices, and wall spaces, especially when molting or laying eggs. Brown dog ticks are frequently found in dog beds and other areas where pets usually sleep.
What Do Brown Dog Ticks Eat?
As the name of the species indicates, brown dog ticks prefer to feed on the blood of domesticated canines. The insect will also use cats as hosts but rarely bites humans. Brown dog ticks require a blood meal from a domesticated dog for dietary sustenance at each stage of their life cycle.
Brown Dog Tick Life Cycle
Like other species of ticks, the brown dog variety emerges from an egg as a larva and develops into a nymph before maturing completely into an adult. Brown dog ticks go through a three-host life cycle in which the parasites feed on a host, typically a dog, before transitioning to each subsequent phase of development.
After consuming the required blood meal, brown dog ticks leave the host to molt, thereby advancing to the next stage of the life cycle. The entire cycle takes about two months to complete in ideal conditions, with females laying between 360 and 3,000 eggs as adults.
Problems Caused by Brown Dog Ticks
What Problems Can Brown Dog Ticks Cause?
While brown dog ticks rarely affect humans, the parasitic arthropods can spread Rocky Mountain spotted fever in geographic regions where the disease is prevalent. Within the New England area, brown dog ticks are mostly associated with transmitting canine babesiosis and canine ehrlichiosis to dogs. Both diseases cause fever, chills, nausea, and other symptoms that can be life-threatening to the animal if left untreated.