The Brown Dog Tick

Common Name:
Brown Dog Tick
Scientific Name:
Rhipicephalus sanguineus (Latreille)


This tick gets its common name from its overall reddish brown color and that it is common on dogs. Although the brown dog tick is the species most commonly encountered indoors, it rarely attacks man. This tick is found throughout the United States and the world.


Unengorged adults are about 1/8" (3 mm) long, but enlarge up to about 1/2" (12 mm) long when engorged with blood. Body flattened dorsoventrally (top to bottom). Reddish brown in color, but when engorged, engorged parts of body change to grey-blue or olive color. Male with tiny pits scattered over the back. Scutum (dorsal shield just behind mouthparts) present which covers male's entire back but only front part of female's back. Eyes on margin of scutum. Capitulum (mouthparts and their base) visible from above; basis capituli (base for mouthparts) laterally producedlanqular, not straight; 2nd segment of palpi about as long as wide. Abdominal festoons (rectangular areas divided by grooves along posterior margin) present; anal groove present, posterior to anus.


  1. American dog tick (Dermacentor variabilis) and other Dermacentor species have sides of basis capituli (base for mouthparts) straight, not laterally produced/angular, although base may be angular laterally, and abdomen with 1 1 festoons (rectangular areas divided by grooves) along posterior margins.

  2. Lone star tick (Amblyomma americanum) has 2nd segment of palpi twice as long as wide, female with pale markings near hind end of scutum (dorsal shield).

  3. Cattle tick (Boophilus annulatus) lacks anal groove and festoons.

  4. Bird and rabbit ticks (Haemaphysalis spp.) lack eyes, anal groove behind anus, festoons present, 2nd segment of palpi laterally produced.

  5. Ixodes spp. lack eyes, have anal groove in front of anus, lack festoons.

  6. Soft ticks (Argas, Omithodoros, etc.) lack a scutum (dorsal shield), capitulum (mouthparts and their base) ventral, not visible from above.


The engorged female drops off the host dog and seeks a sheltered spot in which to lay her mass of typically 1,000-3,000 tiny, dark brown eggs. Since she has a tendency to crawl upwards, eggs are often deposited in cracks and crevices near wall hangings, ceiling, or roofs. She dies afterwards and the eggs hatch in 19-60 days into minute, 6-legged larvae or seed ticks. They crawl down the walls and attach to a dog as soon as possible but can survive for 8 months without food or water. After engorging for 3-6 days, during which they become globular, blue, and about 1/16" (2 mm) in diameter, they drop off and seek a sheltered place in which to molt. In 6-23 days they become 8- legged, reddish brown nymphs, which can survive for about 3 months without food or water. They again attach and engorge for 4-9 days, becoming oval, about 1/8" (3 mm) wide, and dark gray. The nymphs then drop off, hide, and usually molt in 12-19 days into adults. Although the adults attach to a dog at the first opportunity, they can survive 18 months before attachment. Once attached, they engorge for 6-50 days, mate, and the females drop off to lay eggs and repeat the cycle. Under favorable conditions, the cycle can be completed in about 2 months but there are usually only 2 generations per year in the north and 4 in the south.

Although they rarely attack humans, brown dog ticks can serve as vectors for Rocky Mountain spotted fever and several other disease organisms.


The brown dog tick does not do well outdoors in the woods in the United States. They prefer warm, dry conditions where dogs live. They do not travel far after engorgement and dropping off the host. They typically move upward, a behavior which usually promotes host encounters.

Brown dog ticks may attach themselves anywhere on a dog. The adults typically attach on the ears and between the toes, but the larvae (seed ticks) and nymphs typically attach on the back.