Deer Tick Vs. Dog Tick

Deer Tick vs. Dog Tick

Ticks have been around for at least 90 million years. They are classified under Arachnida, which is the class of Arthropods. Ticks are majorly categorized as hard and soft ticks. Deer ticks and dog ticks are a type of hard ticks. They transmit a multitude of diseases ranging from Lyme disease to Tularemia. 

Deer Tick

Blacklegged ticks or deer ticks (Ixodes Scapularis) are tiny ectoparasites that can transmit various diseases. The most common diseases transmitted by deer ticks include Babesiosis, Bartonellosis, Borrelia miyamotoi, Anaplasmosis, and Lyme disease. They are most commonly found between the East Coast and Texas. A type of deer tick (Ixodes pacificus) is widely seen in Oregon, Washington, and California.

Dog Ticks

Dog ticks are most commonly found along the East Coast and the Rocky Mountains. Dog ticks get their name because their preferred hosts are dogs. They can be found in various places, including forest margins and regions with little to no tree cover and sidewalks and walkways. Throughout their life cycle, they usually feed on three hosts. Dog ticks can live for two years per life cycle stage if they do not find a host. 

Adult dog ticks prefer medium-sized hosts like canids, whereas dog ticks in the larvae and nymph stages of their life cycle prefer small mammals. When the nymph reaches adulthood, the adult male will mate with a fully fed female adult. 

After feeding, the adult female will utilize the blood and use that energy to lay thousands of eggs. They die when the eggs hatch. Adult female dog ticks frequently feed upon humans. Dog ticks most commonly transmit tularemia and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever.

You’re most likely to be bitten by an American dog tick in the spring and summer. They are easily identified because of their big size and decorated dorsal shield. Their bodies are coated with red and brown dots all over, making them easy to identify.

Size

Ticks, in general, are small in size. This also makes their presence hard to detect. Deer ticks are smaller than dog ticks. Unfed deer ticks are just around 3mm big. They tend to be longer than wide. It can also be said that an adult deer tick is the size of a sesame seed while a nymph tick is the size of a poppy seed. Unfed larvae are 1/32’’ in length and sport six legs. Post molting, the unfed nymphs are 1/16’’ in length and have eight legs. Nymphs are comparatively bigger than larval deer ticks. On feeding, the size of the deer tick at any stage increases.

On the other hand, adult dog ticks tend to be bigger. They are usually ¼ of an inch. This means they are at least 5mm big. They can grow up to 15mm after feeding. A point to note is that adult male dog ticks tend to be smaller than adult female dog ticks. Nymph dog ticks are approximately 0.9mm, while larval dog ticks are 0.6mm in size.

Anatomy

Though all ticks have similar anatomy, they differ in varying aspects.

Deer Tick Anatomy

Mouthparts that a deer tick uses to feed on its host are known as hypostomes. These mouthparts are barbed. Adult male deer ticks fertilize adult female deer ticks using this. The deer tick’s head has a sensory leg-like structure. These are known as palps which help the deer tick detect its hosts.

Additionally, features such as their porose area of Basis Capituli work as identifying features. Compared to dog ticks, deer ticks have smaller porose areas. The Basis Catipulli attaches the mouthparts to the body. Their shield/scutum helps determine the sex and life cycle stage. Adult female and nymph deer ticks possess black oblong shields located on the top portion and are straight at the bottom. 

Here, it connects to the body and is missing rounded humps on top of either side of the hypostome. The Trochanter is the part of the leg that attaches to the Coxa. It does not have spurs. The deer tick’s leg is attached to the Trochanter through Coxa I-IV. The adult male deer tick inserts his hypostome in the Genital Aperture to mate with the adult female deer tick. The glands present in the spiracular plate may help in water loss regulation and air diffusion. In deer ticks, the Anal Groove tends to extend above the ticks.

Dog Tick Anatomy

Dog ticks are reddish-brown, with silver markings on their scutum. The scutum is a dorsal shield, which works like an identifying feature. Adult female dog ticks have a small dorsal shield behind their mouthparts, not covering the entire dorsal surface. On the other hand, the scutum in adult male dog ticks covers the whole dorsal surface. 

Dog ticks use barbed mouthparts to feed, which are called hypostomes. The second segment of palps is equally long and wide. On the underside of dog ticks are the anal and genital openings. Genital openings are only present in adult dog ticks. Posterior to the anus is a groove. The spiracular plate is present right behind the fourth coxae. The fourth coxae are the leg attachment segment. 

Identifying Features

Though all ticks seem similar to a novice, all species sport certain distinguishing features that set them apart. Keeping these features in mind or having a tick identification card with you helps you easily identify any tick and take necessary precautions. 

Deer Tick Identifying Features

Both the nymph and adult stages of deer ticks have eight legs. They have long legs that protrude from their rotund midsection. The orange-brown bodies of female mature deer ticks, as well as the black shield on their backs, work as their identifying features. It’s essential to keep in mind that ticks need a lot of moisture and shade to survive.

Nymph bites, in particular, are responsible for most human cases of Lyme disease. This is because a nymph is easy to miss than an adult tick. The adult deer tick is spotted and removed during feeding. Only female adult deer ticks spread diseases because male adult deer ticks do not feed. Female deer ticks have two shades of lighter brown torsos than male deer ticks. 

Female deer ticks’ abdomen turns more rust-colored after ingesting blood. Male deer ticks have a darker and more uniform brown coloration and a white stripe on the outside of their abdomen. Deer ticks have a flat appearance, but as they feed, they will grow in size as they feed. They burrow slightly into the host’s skin and stick out of the skin when eating.

Dog Tick Identifying Features

The scientific name of the Dog tick is Dermacentor Variabilis. Its body is dark brown. Female dog ticks have an off-white scutum. Male dog ticks tend to have silver/white markings on their scutum. Dog ticks’ scutum/dorsal shield is a prominent identifying feature. They tend to be oval and flat. Their abdomen has festoons around its edges. Like deer ticks, dog ticks have six legs in the larval stage but eight legs as a nymph and adult.

Location

Deer Ticks

Deer ticks have been identified in all states in the U.S. They are more common in the area between the East Coast and Texas. You can encounter them in areas with overgrown grass and logs. They can also be found on pets that have been outside.

Dog Ticks

Dog ticks are commonly found in Northern American regions, the Rocky Mountains, and the East Coast. Since they are resistant to drying out, they are prominent in dryer regions. They can also spend the entirety of their life cycle indoors. You can encounter them in areas without tree cover, walkways, trails, kennels, dog beds, and areas where pets spend their time and sleep.

Activity Period

Deer Ticks

Deer ticks tend to be active when the temperature is above freezing. Their activity period ranges from spring to fall.

Dog Ticks

Dog ticks are active in dryer regions from April to August.

Source: https://animals.howstuffworks.com/arachnids/tick2.htm 

Life Cycle

Both deer and dog ticks follow the four-stage life cycle: the egg, the larva, the nymph, and the adult. This is true for both male and female deer and dog ticks. Ticks are parasites; both deer and dog ticks feed at each stage of their life cycle.

A deer tick’s life cycle tends to be two years long. On the other hand, a dog tick can finish its life cycle in 54 days. A dog tick’s life cycle can also take up to two years to complete if hosts are not readily available to the tick. The time for which a deer and dog tick can survive without a blood meal at every stage varies. 

Larval dog ticks can survive up to eleven months without feed. Additionally, they take anywhere between two to fourteen days to complete feeding. Nymph dog ticks can survive up to six months without feeding and usually feed for a three to ten-day period. Adult dog ticks can survive up to two years without feeding. They take anywhere between six to thirteen days to finish feeding. 

Finding hosts, feeding, and then molting takes at least a week and three weeks to a few months for nymph ticks. Deer ticks, on average, can survive up to three months without a host. Usually, this period of inactivity takes place in winter.

  1. Egg

An adult female tick will mate with an adult male tick after feeding. After mating, the female tick departs the host’s body in search of a suitable location to lay her eggs.  In summer, deer tick eggs hatch, and their life cycle begins. The eggs laid by female adult dog ticks hatch thirty-six to fifty-seven days later. Following this, the life cycle of a dog tick begins.

  1. Larva

Once the eggs hatch, the second stage begins. It is the transition into a six-legged larva, which generally takes two to eight weeks to occur. The larva remains on the ground, searching for a suitable host. If the deer tick larva becomes infected with Borrelia burgdorferi (the bacteria that causes Lyme Disease) during this stage, it will carry the infection for the remainder of its life. This also implies that it would transmit the bacterium to its next host. 

For dog ticks, the favored host is small mammals such as mice. The larvae will feed on their host and inflate. Dog tick larva tends to feed for up to fourteen days. They can go without feeding for up to five hundred days. The larva must feed itself before moving on to the next stage. The larva will feed itself, remove itself from the host, and molt.

  1. Nymph

After finishing feeding and molts, the larva slides off the host into an eight-legged nymph. The nymph is looking for a suitable host to feed on to move on to the next stage of its life cycle. After a few days of feeding, the nymph will drop from the host and molt into an adult. Dog tick nymphs can survive up to six months without feeding. In May, deer tick nymphs’ activity period begins. 

Nymphs (both deer and dog ticks) look for a host by scouring the ground for plants. Deer tick nymphs will cling to their hosts for four to five days and feed on them. The nymph will spread the Lyme disease bacterium to its host if affected during the larval stage. Nymphs are thought to be responsible for 80 percent of human Lyme disease cases. Even though nymphs prefer to eat on small animals, they prey on humans. Nymph dog ticks feed for ten days, while a nymph deer tick feeds for four to five days.

  1. Adult

When a tick molts from a nymph to an adult, it is looking to feed and mate. It’s time for it to start looking for a new host. Adult ticks can quest up to three feet above the ground, perching on grass blades and plants. When it comes to feeding, female ticks usually take longer than male ticks at this stage. 

This is because female ticks store blood, which is essential for reproduction. Before mating, male and female hard ticks must first feed themselves sufficiently on their final host. The season determines when they feed and mate. Female adult ticks lay eggs, whereas male adult ticks die after mating. The female adult dies soon after laying thousands of eggs. After that, its life cycle comes to an end. 

Only a few cases of Lyme disease are caused by adult deer ticks, even though up to 50% of adult ticks carry the disease. This is because they are considerably bigger. Their host will most likely notice their presence before they finish feeding and transmission (under thirty-six hours). Deer ticks mate on or off the host, but dog ticks mate on their host. Adult female dog ticks feed for six to thirteen days and then mate. 

After mating, female adult dog ticks feed for fourteen days and lay 4000 to 6500 eggs. Female adult deer ticks lay around 3000 eggs. Adult dog ticks are capable of surviving up to two years without feeding. They quest on grass blades and shrubs using their third and fourth pairs of legs. Dogs and other mammals are their preferred hosts. 

Hosts

Deer Tick

They are called deer ticks since their preferred hosts are deers. Larval deer ticks feed upon small mammals and birds. Nymph deer ticks’ preferred hosts are also small mammals and birds. In their absence, they choose to feed upon humans and their pets. The preferred hosts for adult deer ticks are humans, dogs, cats, horses, and other domestic animals. 

Dog Ticks

They are called dog ticks since their preferred hosts are dogs. Larval dog ticks feed upon small mammals such as white-footed mice and meadow voles. Nymph dog ticks prefer medium-sized hosts. This includes opossum and raccoons. Preferred hosts for adult dog ticks are dogs and humans.

Engorged deer tick

Engorged dog tick

Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:American_dog_tick_engored.jpg 

Engorged Deer Tick Vs. Engorged Dog Tick

It takes an adult deer tick four to seven days to become fully engorged. If infected, it can transmit the disease within thirty-six hours of feeding. Deer ticks at any life stage can inflate to several times their size. Fully engorged deer ticks can swell up to 1/4th to 2/3rd of an inch. On the other hand, partially engorged deer ticks swell up to 1/8th of an inch. Dog ticks upon feeding can swell up to half of an inch. A tick’s size increases upon feeding depending on its life cycle stage.

How Dog And Deer Ticks Transmit Diseases

Ticks suck blood from their hosts via a feeding tube inserted into their hosts’ bodies. The tube is introduced via a cut made by the tick using the chelicerae. Dog and deer ticks transmit diseases through this feeding mechanism. They identify possible hosts based on their body odor, breath, vibrations, body heat, and occasionally even their shadows. Ticks can also recognize the path that their potential host takes regularly. They use their third and fourth pairs of legs to grasp on and rest on the tips of grasses and shrubs while they wait for the opportunity to latch onto their hosts. Since they cannot fly and jump, they use their third and fourth pairs of legs to cling to the tips of grasses and shrubs. This waiting position is called questing. The rate at which a tick feeds depends on the species and sometimes their sex. It could take anywhere from ten minutes to several hours.

Because the transmitted diseases are vector-borne infections, it’s crucial to understand what occurs if a tick feeds on a host who has previously been diagnosed with a blood-borne disease. In this case, the tick will consume the pathogens from the host and transmit them to its next host. The tick will fall off after feeding and prepare for the next stage of its existence. When the tick returns to feed, their saliva, which contains the pathogens from their previous host, can enter the new host and disseminate the acquired sickness.

Diseases

Both deer ticks and dog ticks can transmit a multitude of diseases. Though most recover from tick-borne diseases, they can prove to be life-threatening and result in lifelong complications in multiple cases. It can happen in cases of delayed treatment. Also, it is likely to happen when the patient already has an illness or a weak immune system.

Deer Ticks

The diseases caused by deer ticks range from Lyme disease to Anaplasmosis, Bartonellosis, and more. 

  1. Lyme Disease

Lyme disease is caused by the microorganism Borrelia burgdorferi and rarely by Borrelia mayonii. Deer ticks transmit the disease to humans. They are the most prominent Lyme disease carriers. One of the most prevalent symptoms is a bullseye-shaped rash. Additional symptoms include flu-like symptoms. Antibiotics are commonly given for two to four weeks to treat Lyme disease. 

Most patients who recover from Lyme disease have modest symptoms for up to six months after treatment (pain, fatigue, and so on). If left untreated, Chronic Joint Inflammation, a variety of neurological symptoms, and cognitive defects might occur. Deer ticks are most commonly found in Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, and other states. Any deer tick infected with Lyme disease is capable of spreading the infection. Up to 50% of deer ticks are capable of transmitting Lyme disease.

  1. Anaplasmosis

Anaplasmosis is caused by the bacterium Anaplasma phagocytophilum, and it is transmitted primarily by deer ticks. Fever, chills, nausea, and severe headaches are common early symptoms. Two weeks is the incubation period. If not treated right away or if you have a pre-existing medical condition, your symptoms will get worse and you will be at risk of getting severe complications. 

Respiratory problems, bleeding, and organ failure are all examples of complications. Delayed treatment can potentially result in death. Patients who are elderly or have a weakened immune system are more likely to suffer severe symptoms. In the early phases of treatment, doxycycline is administered. It helps prevent death and worsening of symptoms. Check whether you’re allergic to doxycycline. An adverse reaction to doxycycline is fatal. While treating Anaplasmosis, any drug other than doxycycline has the potential to be lethal.

  1. Babesiosis

Babesiosis is a red blood cell infection transmitted by ticks. Babesia is the parasite that causes the disease. When you are bitten by a Babesia-infected deer tick, the parasite enters your bloodstream. It’s more common in specific areas and during certain seasons. 

It is most common in the upper Midwest and Northeast of the United States during the summer months. The majority of Babesiosis patients show no symptoms leading to diagnosis and treatment. Those who do exhibit symptoms should seek treatment as soon as possible. A seven to ten days treatment of a combination of two antibiotics is commonly prescribed. 

Fever, nausea, chills, and exhaustion are among the most frequent flu-like symptoms that accompany Babesiosis. It’s important to know that this parasite will destroy your red blood cells. This leads to a kind of anemia called hemolytic anemia, which can cause jaundice. Babesiosis can be life-threatening in some cases, particularly in people with a weakened immune system or those who have a pre-existing medical condition. Low blood pressure, hemolytic anemia, low platelet count, organ malfunction, disseminated intravascular coagulation, and death are all possible complications.

  1. Bartonellosis

Species of the genus Bartonella cause a range of disorders known as Bartonellosis. The deer tick is known to transmit this group of illnesses and is the principal cause of Bartonellosis in humans. 

Cat Scratch sickness, trench fever, Carrion’s illness, and other diseases are caused by multiple Bartonella species. B. elizabethae, B. washoensis, B. alsatica, and B. koehlare are among the disease-causing Bartonella species. Bartonella has a five to fourteen-day incubation period, with symptoms ranging from moderate to severe. 

Fever, tiredness, and headaches are among the most common symptoms which resemble flu-like symptoms. Some symptoms include swollen glands around your arms, neck, and head, loss of appetite, mental fog, and confusion. Enlarged lymph nodes are one of the signs of Cat Scratch illness. Oroya fever, which is similar to malaria, is a symptom of Carrion’s sickness. 

High temperature and chills are common symptoms of Carrion’s disease. Verruga peruana, which are red-purple skin lesions, are prone to develop post these symptoms. Additional Bartonellosis symptoms include gastrointestinal problems, pain behind the eyes, increased anxiety, and a failed response to prescribed antibiotic treatments.

  1. Borrelia miyamotoi

Borrelia miyamotoi is a spiral-shaped bacterium. Ixodes scapularis (black-legged or deer tick) and Ixodes pacificus (pacific tick) are known to carry this bacterium. Fever, headaches, and chills are some of the symptoms associated with Borrelia miyamotoi infection. A rash, bodily ache, and joint pain are other, observed uncommon symptoms. Doxycycline is used to treat it. The treatment lasts for two to four weeks. Amoxicillin and Ceftriaxone are also utilized in treatment, depending on the symptoms of the affected person. 

  1. Ehrlichiosis

Ehrlichiosis is a set of diseases caused by the microorganisms Ehrlichiosis chaffeensis, E. ewingii, and E. Muris Eauclairnsis. This can be fatal if left untreated or treated late. The most common treatment for Ehrlichiosis is doxycycline. It assists in the prevention of severe symptoms and death. Check whether you’re allergic to doxycycline. An allergic response to doxycycline might be lethal. Lone star and deer ticks that are infected bite people and transmit the disease. 

Two weeks is the incubation period. Some of the early symptoms include fever, headaches, and muscle aches. Many patients develop a rash followed by fever within five days of being bitten. You are most likely infected if you fall ill after spending time in grassy or wooded areas. If treatment is delayed, significant complications and chronic repercussions may occur. This includes uncontrolled bleeding, inflammation of the brain and surrounding tissues, organ failure, and breathing difficulties.

  1. Powassan disease

This viral infection is caused by the Powassan Virus. It is more contagious than Lyme disease. In most cases, the infection is mild, but in severe cases, it can be fatal. The virus causes no symptoms in the majority of infected people. The virus takes a month to incubate, during which time symptoms appear. The Powassan virus results in severe symptoms, and one out of every ten people who are infected with it die. 

Some of the most common symptoms include fever, vomiting, headaches, and infection of the brain or the membrane around the spinal cord. There is currently no treatment available for the infection. Those who have been diagnosed are frequently admitted to the hospital for treatment to manage their symptoms. Powassan illness is widespread in the Great Lakes region and the Northeastern states.

Dog Ticks

The diseases caused by dog ticks are Ehrlichiosis, Tularemia and Rocky Mountain Spotted fever.

  1. Tularemia 

The Francisella Tularensis bacterium causes tularemia, an infectious disease. It primarily affects rabbits and squirrels, although it can also infect humans. It can target the eyes, skin, lungs, and lymph nodes of an organism. In humans, it can cause diseases including meningitis, endocarditis, and hepatitis by affecting the central nervous system, heart, and liver. 

The bacterium’s incubation period ranges from three to fourteen days. The symptoms vary significantly, with some infected people being asymptomatic while others developing severe flu-like symptoms. Tularemia is usually treated with antibiotics for ten to twenty-one days, depending on the stage of the infection and the antibiotic treatment employed. Symptoms usually linger a few weeks, but most people recover completely. 

  1. Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever 

Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever is a bacterial infection caused by the Rickettsia rickettsii bacteria. It can be fatal if not detected and treated early. If a tick carrying this bacteria feeds for at least six hours, it is likely to infect its host. During the spring and summer, they are most active outside and prefer to hide in thick grasses. Female ticks are more likely to bite and infect people. 

The microorganism can damage key organs such as the heart if not treated immediately. The bacteria has a fourteen-day incubation period. Since the early symptoms can be mistaken for those of other diseases, it’s important to act quickly and cautiously. After being bitten by a dog tick, you should see a doctor. Antibiotics are commonly used to treat Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. It’s also important to remember that while it’s not contagious, it does require prompt treatment to avoid serious complications. 

How To Take Care Of A Tick Bite?

  • If you locate a tick on your body, remove it with caution.
  • Do not believe in any myths revolving around tick bites.
  • To gently remove the tick from your skin, put on gloves and use a pair of fine-tipped forceps or tweezers.
  • Use a gradual upward motion to remove the tick.
  • Make sure to not twist or squeeze the tick. Try to remove the tick fully in one go. 
  • If any mouthparts remain, do not try to remove them by force. They will be naturally expelled from your body. 
  • Ticks should not be handled with bare hands, and ticks should not be removed with petroleum jelly or nail polish.
  • Petroleum jelly and nail polish suffocate the tick, causing it to secrete infectious fluids into the cut from where it feeds.
  • It will not assist you in removing it, thus specialists advise you to avoid their use. 
  • The bite location should be washed with warm water and soap. You can also use rubbing alcohol or an iodine scrub. 
  • Take a picture of the tick or place it in a container for your doctor, if you get serious symptoms. It will assist them in better analyzing the bite.

Medical Help

Tick bites (both deer and dog ticks) are not painful. Changes in the bite’s appearance, such as swelling, or a color change, are the first signs of a possible infection. It can go unnoticed at times. Deer and dog ticks are capable of transferring diseases. A tick bite can cause severe symptoms of a potentially fatal disease. 

Tick-borne bacteria can cause a variety of disorders. The deer tick must be attached to the host for at least 36 hours for Lyme disease to be transmitted, although several other illnesses can be transmitted in a matter of minutes. Both deer and dog ticks can often go unnoticed while attached to its host. A tiny lump is expected to appear after a tick bite. If the deer tick bite is followed by a bullseye rash it could be an indication of Lyme disease (bullseye rash appears in up to 30% of people with Lyme disease). 

The likelihood of catching an illness from a tick bite is largely determined by where you live, where you go, and how much time you spend outdoors. The incubation period varies depending on what the tick infects you with.

Not all tick bites cause infection, but if your tick bite seems to cause infection and there is a change in the color of the bitten area, you should see a doctor. A course of antibiotics is usually prescribed to cure tick-borne diseases. It is best to call 911 (or your local emergency number) if you have serious symptoms soon after being bitten, such as a severe headache, heart palpitations, or difficulty breathing.

Prevention

There are a few general guidelines that you should adhere to. To start, spray your clothes with chemical repellents such as DEET, picaridin, or permethrin. It’s crucial to keep in mind that this should only be done in a well-ventilated environment. Make sure the chemicals completely dry off before wearing them. 

When you’re out in the woods, wear light-colored clothing so you can see a tick on you. Your arms and legs should be completely covered. Ticks that are looking for a place to hide prefer grass blades, shrubs, and bushes. Try to stay in the trail’s center. When you reach home, make sure you check yourself for ticks. If at all possible, ask someone else to check it for you as well. use a fine-tooth comb to check for ticks in your hair. 

Take a hot shower and wash your clothes to kill and remove any ticks that may have remained undetected previously. Remember that deer ticks are more active from March to May and then from August to November when the weather is warmer while dog ticks are active from April to August. The bite, on the other hand, can be sustained anytime. It’s also a good idea to stay away from regions where deer ticks and dog ticks are large in number. 

Forests, thick and tall grasses, dense mammal populations, overgrown places with significant humidity (in case of deer ticks), and dry regions (in case of dog ticks) are examples of regions where deer and dog tick population density tends to be high. Ticks are found in yards as well, not just in the woods. Ticks will avoid your home if you make it undesirable to them. Mow your lawn frequently to keep the grass at a low level all over. Get rid of any weeds and leaf debris. 

Remove bird feeders as well, as the seeds can attract mice. Mice are common deer tick carriers. Since dogs can pick up dog ticks easily while walking in infested areas, it is important to look after your pets properly. Applying pesticides in residential areas is recommended.