What are brown dog ticks?
The Australian brown dog tick (Rhipicephalus sanguineus) is actually not exclusive to Australia - brown dog ticks are the most widely distributed tick species globally. They can be found in many parts of Australia but are most prevalent in northern and inland regions. Brown dog ticks are specialised parasites of domestic dogs.
Brown dog tick distribution
Approximate brown dog tick distribution based on confirmed reports Barker, S.C. and Barker, D. (2023) Ticks of Australasia: 125 species of ticks in and around Australia. Zootaxa. 5253(1), 1-670.
There are serious infections that can be transmitted from one dog to another by the brown dog tick in Australia:
- Babesiosis – Babesia parasites invade the red blood cells of dogs causing anaemia, which can be fatal.
- Ehrlichiosis – a potentially fatal bacterial infection confirmed in Australian dogs for the first time in 2020.
What do brown dog ticks look like?
As you can see from the pictures of brown dog ticks below, they can vary greatly in appearance depending on whether they are unfed or have become engorged after feeding on blood. Identifying the species of a tick can be difficult and so it’s best to contact your veterinary clinic for advice.
Female Brown Dog Tick
Unfed on the left and engorged on the right.
What is the brown dog tick life cycle?
The life cycle of the brown dog tick has four stages; egg, larva, nymph and adult. After brown dog tick eggs hatch, the larva finds a host (a dog) and attaches. Once fully fed, the brown dog tick larva detaches from the dog and hides in the environment (e.g., soil or vegetation). The larva then moults to become a nymph. Nymphs find a new host (another dog), feed and then detach in the same way as larvae. The nymphs then moult and either a female or male adult emerges. The adults find a new host (another dog) and the female and male ticks mate. The females feed on the host and then detach. They lay eggs in the environment and then die.
What are brown dog tick symptoms?
Brown dog tick symptoms may include skin irritation at the site of attachment and heavy infestations may result in anaemia from excessive blood loss.
Brown dog ticks can also transmit life-threatening diseases from one dog to another, such as babesiosis and ehrlichiosis, so it’s important to consult with your vet if you find a tick.
Brown dog ticks vs paralysis ticks
One important difference between paralysis ticks and brown dog ticks is that brown dog ticks do not cause tick paralysis, but they are still harmful and can transmit life-threatening infections to your dog.
Can a brown dog tick bite humans?
It is rare to find brown dog ticks on humans – they would much prefer to attach to a canine host. If you find a tick on you or a family member, it’s best to seek medical advice.
Brown dog tick treatment
If you find a tick on your dog it should be removed as soon as possible with a tick removal tool or tweezers. Grab the tick adjacent to your pet’s skin (at the tick mouthparts), twist the tick, then pluck the tick away from the skin. Take care not to squeeze the tick’s body. If you are unsure, it’s always best to speak to your veterinary clinic who will be able to assist you.
There are also highly effective products available to treat ticks. NexGard® for Dogs and NexGard SPECTRA® for Dogs treat and control paralysis ticks, brown dog ticks and bush ticks for a full month.
Are brown dog ticks dangerous to dogs?
Brown dog ticks can cause skin irritation and heavy infestations may result in anaemia from excessive blood loss. They can also transmit potentially fatal diseases to your dog.
How are brown dog ticks different to paralysis ticks?
Brown dog ticks and paralysis ticks are different species of ticks. Paralysis ticks cause a disease called tick paralysis which is very serious and can be fatal. Brown dog ticks do not cause tick paralysis, but they are still harmful and can transmit life-threatening infections to your dog.
Can I get brown dog ticks from my dog?
Humans can be bitten by ticks, but they are usually picked up from walking through vegetation and not from our pets. Brown dog ticks rarely bite humans – they much prefer a canine host.
How do I remove a brown dog tick?
Using a tick removal tool or tweezers, grab the tick adjacent to your pet’s skin (at the tick mouthparts), twist the tick, then pluck the tick away from the skin. Take care not to squeeze the tick’s body. If you are unsure, it’s always best to speak to your vet who will be able to assist you.
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