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The hard bodied deer tick is a North American native and can be found in abundance in the southeast, midwest and northeast areas of the United States. They belong to the arachnid family. An adult tick has eight legs and the newly hatched ones have six. Their flat and round bodies reach an average length of 3mm, and their heads and legs are solid black. Adult females have black shields and red abdomens, while the males are either black or dark brown in color. They become larger when their bellies are engorged with blood.
Deer ticks have three hosts over the span of their lifetime, one in each of their life stages. They can be active all year long and pose considerable risk to hikers, outdoor enthusiasts, pets and pet owners. Deer ticks can also be active during winter when the temperature is above zero. They are ambush predators, and tend to lay in wait in brushes, tall grasses, low hanging branches, leaf and bush litter. Once the host brushes by, they latch onto them and start feeding. All cats and dogs are at risk, and it can be quite difficult to spot them in pets with long fur. Large and small mammals, including humans and pets, are ideal prey for these ticks, in addition to lizards and birds.
How are they different from the brown dog tick?
Deer ticks are commonly mistaken for the brown dog tick, which transmits a number of deadly diseases like ehrlichiosis, babesiosis and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. The easiest way to tell the difference between the two is by looking at their legs. Deer ticks have black legs whereas the brown dog tick;s legs are light brown in color. Deer ticks are also smaller than brown dog ticks. Irrespective of the kind of tick you find on your pet’s body, make sure you detach it and store it for further examination by the veterinarian.
Tick prevention tips
If your dog spends considerable time outdoors, then get him a tick collar. Alternatively, you can go for a whole body spray as well. Cats are more sensitive to these treatments. If you have a cat, consult with the vet before you go for preventative care. Having said that, it bears mentioning that your pet can get ticks even if he is on a preventative. To avoid that, make sure that he stays in the middle of the path, away from shrubbery when going for a walk. You can also combine preventative treatments with a Lyme vaccination, especially if Lyme disease is endemic where you stay. Also, keep your pet away from leaf piles as ticks tend to hide in it. Last, but not the least, brush your pet thoroughly once he comes back inside the house.