Physical Characteristics

The American dog tick ranges in size from 1/8 inch for males to 5/8 inch for females engorged with a blood meal. Its body is oval-shaped and brown in color, with whitish or grayish markings on its scutum, or the dorsal shield behind its head. Larvae have six legs, nymphs have eight, and first-instar nymphs are 1/64 inches long and yellow, doubling and size and darkening in the second instar, or growth spurt after molting.


American Dog Tick


These ticks don’t inhabit structures on their own, but their favorite hosts are dogs, and when they hitch a four-legged ride inside a house, they have been known to attack people. Outside, these small arachnids will clamber up a blade of grass in an area where they detect the scent of animals and cling to the top of the grass blade with their third pair of legs, and then they will wave their other legs around when a suitable host – whether that’s a person, a dog, a cat or some other mammal – and then hop aboard. They are most active from early spring to midsummer, going into decline by autumn. The American dog tick can be a vector for Rocky Mountain spotted fever and tularemia, and it is known to cause tick paralysis.   


While out in the wild, tuck those pant legs into socks or boots, keep your shirts tucked in, stay buttoned up and use a tick repellent, and don’t sit on logs, stumps or the ground in the brush. Periodically examine your skin or clothes for ticks. If you find one, remove it with a slow, steady pull, so its mouthparts don’t stay embedded in your skin. Forceps or fingernails on – or just behind the mouthparts – should work, and be sure to wash the area of contact thoroughly afterward. You can put a drop of fingernail polish, Vaseline or isopropyl alcohol on the tick’s body anywhere from five to 30 minutes before you try to extricate its mouthparts from your body. Also, be very careful when clearing ticks from your dog, as infected secretions from ticks can transfer from your hands to your eyes or mucous membranes if you aren’t careful. Around the house, keep grass cut, trim back vegetation, and remove any plant or other debris, which provide harborage for rats and mice. Since ticks often hitch rides on rodents, a sanitation and exclusion approach targeted to reducing rodent activity should reduce the likelihood of ticks, too. Your Clark technician should be a good source for advice, and can prescribe treatments to reduce rodent activity around your home.      

Latin name: Dermacentor variabilis


Most infestations of ticks can be controlled with Clark's Year Round Pest Control in conjunction with the treatment of any pets.