How to Identify Ticks on Your Dog

Ticks are arachnids, like spiders, mites and scorpions. Unlike insects, they have four pairs of legs and no antennae. Ticks are disease carriers who attach firmly to flesh and suck their hosts' blood. They feed slowly and are small enough to go undetected for days while they feed. To identify ticks on your dog, follow these steps.

Obtain tick identification cards from your veterinarian's office. They contain pictures and information about common ticks found on dogs, including their sizes, color and identifying features.

Identify the American dog tick, also called the wood tick. Unfed ticks are roughly 3/16-inch long and reddish-brown in color. After feeding, females become the size of a small grape and have a large silver spot behind their head. Male American dog ticks have slim, silver lines on their back but don't enlarge after feeding.

Spot the Lone Star tick in its pinhead-sized nymph stage, when it's commonly found on people and dogs. Adult Lone Star ticks are 1/8-inch long and brown and are often confused with the deer tick. The adult female Lone Star tick displays a white spot on the middle of her back.

Distinguish the deer tick from the American dog tick by its size. Adults are roughly half the size of female dog ticks. Adult deer ticks are also reddish brown, but they primarily feed on deer. In the nymph stage, they are pinhead-sized and brownish, and they'll feed on humans, dogs and other warm-blooded animals.

Locate the brown dog tick, also called the kennel tick, throughout the U.S. Unlike other ticks, the brown dog tick thrives indoors. Adults are roughly 1/8-inch long, reddish-brown and typically attach themselves around dogs' ears or between their toes. Brown dog ticks don't typically carry human diseases.


Learn to identify the symptoms of various tick-transmitted diseases.

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