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American Dog Tick

Name: American Dog Tick

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Arthropoda

Class: Arachnida

Order: Ixodida

Family: Ixodidae

Genus: Dermacentor

Species: Variablilis


American dog ticks are larger than blacklegged ticks:

  • female American dog ticks are about 0.5 cm long
  • female blacklegged ticks are about 0.3 cm long

The back of American dog ticks has a unique pattern, while the back of blacklegged ticks is not patterned.

This figure shows the life stages of a blacklegged tick that has not fed:

  • larva (1)
  • nymph (2)
  • adult male (3)
  • an adult female (4)

Unfed female ticks are dark reddish-brown. They:

  • become paler brown to yellow as they start to feed
  • become greyish as they continue to feed
  • are dark grey-brown when fully fed

As they feed, the tick’s stomach gets bigger. The tick grows from approximately 0.3 cm when unfed to 0.6 cm when partially fed.

When fully fed, the tick is:

  • about 1cm long
  • egg-shaped

Three nymphs of the blacklegged tick are shown in different stages of feeding.

The unfed nymphal ticks are:

  • very small (0.15 cm long)
  • grey-brown in colour

As they feed, their stomach grows and gets darker. When they are fully fed, the nymph is:

  • about 0.3 cm long
  • almost black in colour
  • egg-shaped

Symptoms of Lyme disease

Signs and symptoms of Lyme disease can vary from person to person after being bitten by a tick.

Lyme disease occurs in stages. The signs and symptoms of each stage can overlap. In some people, Lyme disease may present in a later stage without a history of prior signs or symptoms.

Early signs

The most commonly reported sign of Lyme disease is an expanding skin rash that typically begins at the site of the tick bite. This rash is called erythema migrans. It slowly grows to more than 5 cm in diameter over several days, and can sometimes:

  • be circular or oval-shaped
  • look like a target or bull’s eye
  • go unnoticed, especially if it’s on:
    • dark skin
    • a part of the body that’s difficult to see

Some people may not develop a rash.

Other early signs and symptoms include:

  • fever
  • chills
  • fatigue
  • headache
  • swollen lymph nodes
  • muscle and joint aches

If left untreated, the infection could spread to the joints, heart and nervous system.

Images of erythema migrans rash





Later signs

Later symptoms of Lyme disease can appear days to months after an infected tick bite, and may include:

  • more rashes
  • dizziness
  • severe headaches
  • migratory pain that spreads in the:
    • joints
    • bones
    • tendons
    • muscles
  • arthritis in the:
    • knees
    • ankles
    • elbows
    • wrists
  • thinking and reasoning symptoms, such as:
    • memory loss
    • inability to think clearly

Other later stage symptoms include:

  • nerve pain, weakness, tingling or loss of sensation in limbs
  • drooping of one or both sides of the face (facial paralysis or Bell’s palsy)
  • heart palpitations and an abnormal heartbeat
  • swelling of the brain and spinal cord
  • eye problems, such as pink-eye

In very rare cases, death could occur due to the complications involving an infection of the heart.

If you become ill

Early diagnosis and treatment of Lyme disease can prevent complications. Consult your health care provider right away if you’ve been:

  • bitten by a tick and develop symptoms of Lyme disease
  • to an area where blacklegged ticks may be found and develop symptoms of Lyme disease

You may not feel a tick attach to your skin or notice being bitten by a tick because ticks are tiny and their bites are usually painless.

Tell your health care provider:

  • where on your body the tick was attached
  • how long you think the tick was attached to you
  • where you were (city and province) at the time you were bitten by the tick or may have been exposed to ticks

Diagnosing Lyme disease

Diagnosing Lyme disease can be challenging as symptoms vary from person to person.

Symptoms of Lyme disease can be similar to other illnesses. A diagnosis of Lyme disease is based on:

Your health care provider will assess if you need a blood test. You usually won’t need a blood test if you:

  • have the characteristic expanding rash and
  • were exposed to blacklegged ticks

Only get tested by a licensed public health laboratory. Testing by private, non-licensed laboratories may not be reliable.

Risks of getting Lyme disease

You should always take precautions against tick bites when taking part in higher-risk activities, such as:

  • working in habitats suitable for ticks, such as:
    • parks
    • forestry
    • agriculture
  • participating in recreational activities where ticks may be present, such as:
    • hiking
    • golfing
    • hunting
    • camping
    • gardening
    • bird-watching
    • fishing (from land)

How to remove a tick

Removing attached ticks as soon as possible reduces the chance of infection. Infected blacklegged ticks need to be attached for at least 24 hours in order to transmit the bacteria that causes Lyme disease.

If you find an attached tick, follow these instructions to remove it:

  1. Use clean, fine-point tweezers to grasp the head as close to the skin as possible and slowly pull straight out.
    • Try not to twist or squeeze the tick. Ticks firmly attach their mouthparts into the skin requiring slow but firm traction to remove them.
  2. If the mouthparts break off and remain in the skin, remove them with the tweezers. If you’re unable to remove them easily, leave them alone and let the skin heal.
  3. Wash the bite area with soap and water or an alcohol-based sanitizer.

Do not try to remove the tick by:

  • burning it
  • smothering it with:
    • nail polish
    • essential oils
    • petroleum jelly
    • nail polish remover

This can cause the tick to release its stomach contents, which can be infected, into the bite area. This can increase your chance of infection.

Visit your health care provider as soon as possible if:

  • you’re not comfortable with removing a tick
  • you can’t remove the tick because it has buried itself deep into your skin
  • you have symptoms of Lyme disease, aren’t feeling well or have concerns after being bitten by a tick

Your health care provider may ask you:

  • where on your body the tick was attached
  • how long you think the tick was attached to you
  • where you were (city and province) at the time you were bitten by the tick or may have been exposed to ticks

What to do with removed ticks

Put the tick in a sealable plastic bag or container such as a pill bottle. Record the date and location of the bite, as well as the part of your body where you were bitten.

If you see your health care provider, bring:

  • a photo of the tick or
  • the tick in a sealed bag or container

Your health care provider may be able to help identify the type of tick that bit you.

Disposing of ticks

Kill the tick before disposing of it by drowning it in rubbing alcohol or by freezing it for several days. Avoid squashing ticks with bare fingers as infection may enter through breaks in your skin, such as close to the fingernail.

You can dispose of ticks in your household garbage once they’re dead.

Tick identification

Tick identification can help to:

  • determine if the bug is a tick
  • determine if it is the type of tick that can carry Lyme disease
  • identify the areas where tick populations are common or increasing

You can identify a tick by:

Tick testing

Tick testing, done by your local and provincial public health authorities, can help us to determine:

  • which bacteria and viruses are in ticks and the percentage of ticks infected with a particular bacterium or virus
  • how the type of bacterium and virus and percentage of ticks infected with them changes over time
  • whether new or emerging bacteria and viruses are occurring in ticks

Tick testing isn’t intended to guide diagnosis and treatment of Lyme disease. This is because:

  • ticks may not have been attached for at least 24 hours to transmit the bacteria that causes Lyme disease
  • a person may have been unknowingly bitten by another infected tick that was not found
  • a health care provider can consider providing a preventative treatment after a person has been bitten by a tick and this can occur without tick testing
  • a diagnosis of Lyme disease is based on:
    • symptoms
    • travel history
    • blood tests, when required
    • exposure to blacklegged ticks

Your health care provider will determine if you need a blood test.

Contact your local and provincial public health authorities for details on:

  • the tick testing program available in your area
  • how to submit a tick for testing


Treating Lyme disease

Lyme disease is treated with antibiotics. The earlier you receive treatment for Lyme disease, the greater the chance of a successful recovery.

Some people who are treated for Lyme disease may continue to have symptoms after treatment. The cause of these symptoms isn’t currently clear, but continued antibiotic treatment:

  • may produce unwanted side effects
  • hasn’t been shown to improve symptoms or outcomes

KUUS Inc. products which are effective against ticks:

  4. MS0001-0014-DEET REPELLENTS
  7. KD510D-EQUINE FLY SPRAY PCP No.-33823