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Diagnostic Services
at Michigan State University

101 Center for Integrated Plant Systems
East Lansing, MI 48824-1311
Phone: (517) 355-4536
Fax: (517) 432-0899

American dog tick (Dermacentor variabilis)

Female dog tick

Male dog tick
 

 
American dog tick (Dermacentor variabilis)
 
The American dog tick is the most commonly found tick in Michigan and can be distinguished from deer ticks by the presence of white markings on the back. Dog ticks do not transmit Lyme disease. Their bites rarely result in serious disease in Michigan, but like other wood ticks, dog ticks are a known carrier of Rocky Mountain spotted fever and tularemia. The cases of Rock Mountain Spotted Fever reported in Michigan have been from primarily southern counties, particularly those located directly north of the Toledo Airport. Also, toxins injected with their bites cause itching, fever and in some cases tick paralysis. Be on alert for any rash, which is a primary symptom of both Rocky Mountain spotted fever and tularemia that develops after a tick bite. 
 
Mice appear to be the preferred hosts of immature stages of the American dog tick while the adults prefer to feed on dogs and other large mammals. Dog ticks can live for over a year without food.   These ticks are most likely to be encountered in the spring and early summer along animal paths in grassy, shrubby areas adjacent to woodlots and forests. Family members and pets should be inspected daily where ticks are known to be abundant. Insect repellents may help keep wood ticks from biting, also apply duck tape around pants cuffs to keep ticks from crawling up the legs. If an attached tick is found, it should be removed by placing tweezers near the head and gently pulling it off. Be careful not to squeeze the tick as this can inject more toxins into the wound. Keep in mind that ticks cannot feed immediately after attaching. They require several hours to imbed their mouthparts deep enough to take a bloodmeal.
 
 
        

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