If you’re a dog pet owner, then knowing the types of ticks should be one of your very first priorities so that you can determine if your dog has any other these dangerous parasites attached to it. Dog ticks are not simple blood sucking little critters that would just drink and run. Rather, ticks are often carriers of diseases and, if there are enough of them, they could pose serious threat to the health of any animal, even humans.
What Are Ticks?
Before we go to the types of ticks, let’s first go over some general information you should know about ticks, a little biology never hurt anyone. First of all, ticks aren’t insects. They are actually arachnids, belonging to the same family as spiders, mites, and scorpions.
Ticks are ectoparasites or parasites that ed externally, remaining outside the body, as opposed to endoparasites, which enter the body and feed from within. All types of ticks survive via hemopothagy so basically the whole lot of them are literally blood suckers who attach themselves to their mammals for sustenance.
Questing and Feeding
Ticks aren’t the most industrious of parasites, meaning very few of the types of ticks would go out of their way to find a host, instead they lie in wait for hosts to come by. Ticks are often found outdoors in the wilds such as caves, open grassy fields, and heavily forested areas and they determine their hosts via body heat or the release of carbon dioxide.
While these creatures can neither fly, hop nor jump, they can often wait patiently perched on leaves or blades of grass with their front legs lifted up and conveniently attach themselves to the host as it passes. It them finds the right spot to begin the feeding process, the duration of which can vary depending on the species of ticks and can range from a few minutes to days, months or weeks.
General Types of Ticks
There are an estimated 800 types of ticks worldwide, with different sizes and shapes which can be divided into two types based on their body types — the Hard Ticks and the Soft Ticks. The differences between the two go beyond the hardness of their shells and also involve their life cycles, habitation, and feeding habits
The scientific name for the hard tick family is Ixodidae. These are characterized by a hard shell which covers the length of their bodies and their heads and mouth. Seeing a hard tick from the top you’ll only probably notice the legs sticking out.
Hard ticks have three life stages: larvae, nymph and adult. Emerging from the egg, the hard tick larvae has 6 legs and feeds upon the first host to gain the necessary sustenance to mature to the next stage. The second stage for the hard tick is the nymph stage, where they grow 2 additional legs, maybe to provide them a better grip on their hosts and to support their feeding.
Upon completing its feeding process in the nymph stage, the hard tick then matures to adulthood after which, the male tick detaches itself from the host, mates or reproduces then dies. The female on the other hand proceeds to lay thousands of eggs then shortly dies as well, leaving a legacy of more little blood suckers for us to worry about.
Hard ticks can also choose to remain on one host for the duration of its life cycle while others can transfer to another host for the last two stages, or possibly transfer to a different host for each stage of maturity. These are known one-host, two-host or three-host tick respectively. The life cycle of hard ticks can vary depending on their sub-types and location, but can range from less than a year to up to 3 years, very few exceed this time period. Also, hard ticks can ingest enough blood to make them gain 200-500 times their original body weight so it is often a bit a bit disturbing to find a large fully fed tick attached to something.
Soft ticks or Argasidae do not have the hard shells covering their bodies, instead they have tough skins and closely resemble small spiders. Unlike their harder shelled cousins, soft ticks have no definite life cycle, meaning that after emerging from the egg, the larvae need only feed once to advance to the nymph-stage where it could stay for a number of feeding cycles before growing enough for the adult phase. The life cycle of soft ticks can last for several years, significantly longer than most hard ticks because of the prolonged nymph phase.
While soft ticks also perform questing, or waiting on a leaf for a host, many types of ticks in the soft family prefer nesting or lying in wait in caves or nests to fall upon unsuspecting victims although some have been known to follow their hosts until they get the chance to climb on and start sucking. While the soft ticks cannot ingest as much blood as the hard ticks, the repeated feeding cycles and multiple hosts increases the chances of transmitting diseases from past to present hosts.
Threat Posed by Ticks
Where many people would believe that ticks are mostly an animal problem, these can also cause Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever and other diseases for humans. For other mammals and especially dogs, these can cause anemia, loss of appetite, swelling and fever.
While there are different types of ticks, all of these represent a serious threat to the health of your household and your pets and as such, everyone should be aware of what to do if you’ve got a tick problem because where there is one, chances are, there would more just waiting to find a new host to feed on.