The American Dog Tick: A Risk To Your Pet's Health

If you're a dog owner who lives east of the Rocky Mountains or along the coast of California, there's a dangerous pest you need to be aware of: the American dog tick. Though it is not known to transmit Lyme disease, this species of tick does carry several other dangerous diseases, including Rocky Mountain spotted fever and tularemia. Thus, it is important that you know how to spot this tick, how to keep your dog from being bitten, and what the symptoms of these tick-borne diseases are.

Identifying the American Dog Tick

The American dog tick is larger than many other tick species; it's about the size of the eraser on the back of a pencil. Females are reddish brown with an off-white segment just behind their heads, and males have bodies that are spotted with a mixture of off-white and reddish brown. The ticks are more ovular in shape than round, and their eight legs are typically visible when they are viewed from the top.

Avoiding the American Dog Tick

American dog ticks are typically found in wooded areas or areas with tall grass. They prefer the shade and thrive in moist areas. Ways to reduce the risk of your dog being bitten by an American dog tick include:

  • Keeping the grass and shrubbery around your home well-trimmed
  • Avoiding taking your dog for walks in long grass or wooded areas
  • Treating your dog with a tick-repellent on a regular basis

Additionally, you should groom your dog on a regular basis and always look him or her over thoroughly when you do return from a walk in an area where you suspect there may be ticks. If you find a tick, remove it by grasping at its base with a pair of tweezers and pulling upward with steady pressure. Do not use your fingers to remove a tick; they can spread the disease to humans, too. The sooner you remove the tick from your dog, the smaller the chance it has passed on an infection.

Signs of Common Diseases Spread by the American Dog Tick

If you do find an American dog tick on your dog, watch him or her closely for the signs of the following infections.

Rocky Mountain spotted fever causes a fever, vomiting, muscle stiffness, general lethargy, and sometimes a rash. It can be fatal if left untreated, but if your dog is given antibiotics in the early stages of infection, the prognosis is good.

Tularemia causes a tender abdomen, sudden fever, lethargy, the appearance of white patches on the tongue, and enlargement of the lymph nodes. Many dogs do die from the infection, but if antibiotic treatment is started early on, there is some chance of survival.

If the American dog tick is prevalent in your area, talk to an animal hospital for more tips for keeping this pest off your dog. This is truly the only way to prevent Rocky Mountain spotted fever and tularemia.