Dermacentor variabilis
Known as the American dog tick or wood tick,
is found predominantly in the United States, east of the Rocky Mountains,
and as its name suggests, is most commonly found on dogs as an adult.
The tick also occurs in certain areas of Canada, Mexico and the Pacific Northwest of the U.S.
The tick is a 3-host tick, targeting smaller mammals
as a larva and nymph and larger mammals as an adult.
Although it is normally found on dogs, this tick will readily attack larger animals,
such as cattle, horses, deer and even humans.
The tick can spread Rocky Mountain spotted fever and tularemia,
and has caused canine tick paralysis.

The movement of these tick's have not been throughly studied
so a great deal of mystery surrounds how the ticks acquire a host
but it is theorized  that  many animals typically follow trails,
they leave an odor that attracts these ticks causing them
to move toward the trails in the attempt to hitch a ride on them.
Or maybe they are just opportunist who spend most of their lives
searching for a host dependant on finding a host or dieing off.  

Life Cycle
The tick develops from the egg stage, to a 6-legged larva,
then to  8-legged nymph, and finally to a adult.
The cycle requires a blood meal before progression from
larva to nymph, and from nymph to adult, and one more for egg production.
This cycle generally requires three different hosts and generally requires 54
days to complete, but can take up to two years depending if a host is found,
and the temperature. The fully mature female feeds for about 4 to 5 days then drops from the host.
She then digests the blood meal and develops her egg clutch over the next five to 10 days.
She then lays anywhere from 4,000 to 6,500 eggs on the ground.
About 25 to 40 days later, depending on the temperature,
the eggs hatch into larvae
After hatching, larvae stay on the ground or
climb growing vegetation where they wait for small mammals, such as rodents,
to serve as hosts. Under proper temperature, larvae can survive up to 11 months without feeding.
After contacting and attaching to a host, larvae require from two to 14 days
to complete blood feeding. After feeding, larvae detach from their host
and fall to the ground where they digest their blood meal and molt
into the nymphal stage. This process can take as little as a week, and as long as a month.
Nymphs survive six months without a blood meal.
After successfully aquiring a second host,
which is normally a slightly larger mammal
(such as a raccoon or opossum),
the nymphs will blood feed over a two to 10-day period.
After feeding, they fall off the host, digest their blood meal
and molt into an adult.
This process can take anywhere from three weeks to
several months again dependant on temperature.
Adult ticks can survive two years without feeding,
but readily feed on dogs or other larger animals when available.
Adult ticks climb onto a grass blade or other low vegetation,
cling to it with their third pair of legs, and wave its legs
as a potential host approaches. As the host animal passes the vegetation,
the ticks grab onto the  animal. Mating occurs on the host
and the female feeds within six to 13 days after which
she drops from the host to lay her eggs and then she dies,
thus completing the cycle.

Dangers Of Ticks
The American dog tick is the primary cause for the pathogen causing
Rocky Mountain spotted fever, it is also known to transmit
tularemia and can cause canine tick paralysis.

Proper parasite management is essential in preventing an infestation
or your dog becoming infected with a Tick pathogen.
These include preventative insecticides in the yard and tick control measures on your dog,
especially if they are a outside animal or field dog.
Repellent products are available both over the counter
and from your Veterinarian to utilize directly on your dog.
Check your dog routinely for ticks
Keep lawns mowed, brush trimmed,
and leaf litter away from the home.
Keep trails or paths in wooded areas
on your property clear of vegetation.

Human Animals and American Dog Ticks

Rocky Mountain spotted fever
Most cases occur in the spring and summer with about 1,000 cases reported per year. Most of the reported cases have
been in children

Canine tick paralysis
Hard- and soft- bodied female ticks are thought to produce a neurotoxin capable of causing paralysis in children

Tularemia is often referred to as Deer fly fever or Rabbit fever

Since the mid-1980s, however, bacteria of the genus Ehrlichia
have increasingly infected humans in the United States

John A Sampson I
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