Deer Tick vs Dog Tick


If you come across a tick, either attached to your body or just in your area, one of the first things you want to determine is what kind of a tick it is. The two common types in much of the US are the deer tick and the dog tick. How do they differ?

The first thing to realize is that both deer ticks and dog ticks come in different stages. They all start out as eggs. Then they hatch as larva with only six legs. They molt and turn into a nymph with a full eight legs. Then they turn into the adult form, male or female, and the female can then lay eggs. So you can't necessarily just go by size. It could be an adult deer tick - or it could be a larva form of a dog tick.

Still, lets discount the egg and larva form. A tick feeds once and then morphs. A tick can't be born with disease in it. So therefore the forms that can give you disease are the nymph form or adult form - the ones who have previously fed on something which might have been infected. A larva hasn't eaten before it found you :). Poor little thing.

OK so let's start with the big ones. The dog ticks. The American Dog Tick, or Dermacentor variabilis is fairly large. Three in a row would span a penny. You normally don't "miss" a dog tick if you scan yourself for ticks. American Dog Ticks don't give you lyme disease - but they can carry Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. This is an adult female.

Deer Tick vs Dog Tick

This is an adult male (the larger tick in the image).

Deer Tick vs Dog Tick

So dog ticks have dark bodies. The female has a pale collar area, while the male has a darker collar area. The nymph version looks similar, but smaller.

In comparison, a deer tick is much smaller and also much simpler in coloring. This adult is simply black in the collar area and amber in the body. Note that deer ticks are the ones that carry Lyme disease.

Deer Tick vs Dog Tick

The nymph form is even tinier. This one is bloated with two day's worth of feeding. Its body is only the black part.

Deer Tick vs Dog Tick

Here's an adult male dog tick alongside the nymph version of the deer tick. The dog tick is the larger one.

Deer Tick vs Dog Tick

So even with the nymph being quite bloated up, it's still tiny compared with the dog tick.

To see full details on the deer ticks, which carry Lyme disease, visit my Deer Tick Photos
To see full details on the dog ticks, which carry Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, visit my Dog Tick Photos


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