Common Name: brown dog tick or kennel tick
Scientific Name: Rhipicephalus sanguineus
Description and Identification: The adult stage of Rhipicephalus sanguineus or the brown dog tick is red-brown in coloration, lacking any distinctive markings or body patterns with an elongated body shape and hexagonally shaped mouth parts (Lord 2011; Keirans and Litwak 1989). Adult females are between 1/8 to 1/4 inches in length.
Biology: The brown dog tick is an endophilic (adapted to indoor living), monotropic (all developmental stages feed on the same host species), and three-host (each life stage requires a new host to feed on) tick species. Although R. sanguineus is adapted to indoor living, it is able to survive in some outdoor environments. The brown dog tick prefers to feed on dogs but it will occasionally feed on other hosts (e.g., humans).
Distribution in the United States and Wisconsin: The brown dog tick is the most widespread tick in the world and a vector of pathogens which affect domestic animals and occasionally, humans. This species is more commonly found in warmer climates and associated with human habitations and domestic dogs in urban, suburban and rural environments. The brown dog tick can be found in most populated areas in the United States and is rarely associated with uninhabited wild or forested areas.
The Surveillance of Wisconsin animals program (SWAT) has received very few specimens of this species, suggesting it is very rare in Wisconsin.
Hosts: R. sanguineus will feed on a variety of hosts but domestic dogs are the preferred host in the United States. They can attach anywhere on a dog, but particularly prefer the head, ears, between the toes, back, inguinal region and axilla (Dantas-Torres 2010).
When seeking a host, the brown dog tick is typically utilizes a hunting strategy or actively pursues hosts but has also been known to adopt an ambush strategy or “questing behavior” typical of other tick species such as Ixodes scapularis (Dantas-Torres 2010).
R. sanguineus is unique among tick species as it can complete its entire life cycle indoors, therefore infestations in homes or kennels can occur rapidly (Lord 2011). This tick requires three blood meals to complete development from each life stage to the next. Dogs are the preferred primary host across all life stages (larva, nymph and adult) in North America. The brown dog tick attains sexual maturity and mates only on the host. A female may begin feeding without the presence of a male but will not become fully engorged unless she mates with a male since the ingestion of a blood meal is a stimulus for production of spermatocytes (sperm cells) in males and oocytes (egg cells) in females. (Dantas-Torres 2010).
An adult female typically feeds on a host for approximately one week and after mating, the engorged female detaches from the host, drops off and finds a safe area for egg development (typically cracks or crevices in or near a home, garage or dog kennel). A female may begin oviposition or egg-laying anywhere from as soon as four days to several weeks after detaching from the host (Lord 2011; Dantas-Torres 2010). The oviposition or egg-laying period can last for up to several weeks (Koch 1982). These ticks are very prolific– an individual fully blood-fed gravid female is capable of laying an average of 1500-4000 eggs (Dantas-Torres 2010; Koch 1982). The number of eggs deposited depends on a number of factors including the weight of the female, the amount of blood ingested and the length of the oviposition period (Koch 1982). The ambient temperature also influences the length of time each stage feeds and the time required for development and molting where feeding and development are generally faster at higher temperatures but survivability is greater at cooler temperatures and higher relative humidity (Lord 2011).
Medical and Veterinary Significance:
The brown dog tick has been reported to transmit several pathogens of medical and veterinary significance.
Recent work has highlighted the involvement of this tick in the transmiswsion of Rocky Mountain spotted fever in American Indian tribes in Arizona, with over 300 cases and 20 fatalities in the period from 2002 to 2011. http://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2015/p0619-RMSF.html
The brown dog tick has been implicated in the transmission of several Ehrlichia species. The bacterial agent Ehrilichia canis, responsible for canine monocytic ehrlichiosis is transmitted by R. sanguineus (Groves et al. 1975; (Harrus et al. 1997). Other Ehrlichia agents associated with R. sanguineus include: E. ewingii, responsible for canine granulocytic ehrlichiosis in dogs but can also cause illness in humans; and E. chaffeensis, also known as human monocytic ehrlichiosis (HME) due to its predilection for monocytes (a type of white blood cell) (Murphy et al. 1998).
The brown dog tick has also been reported to transmit the bacterium Rickettsia ricksettsii, causing Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (RMSF) in humans and domestic canines in the United States (Dantas-Torres 2007; Demma et al. 2005) and Mexico (Mariotte et al. 1944; Bustamente and Varela 1947). In regions of southern Europe, Africa and Asia, the brown dog tick is the main vector for Rickettsia conorii, which is the bacteria responsible for causing Mediterranean spotted fever in humans as well as Rickettsia massiliae, recently implicated as a cause of human disease (Parola et al. 2005, Vitale et al. 2006). R. massiliae was also recently found in R. sanguineus from Arizona (Eremeeva et al. 2006). R. sanguineus has also been reported to vector the protozoan parasite Hepatozoon canis, which causes canine hepatozoonosis in dogs (Baneth et al. 2001; Nordgren & Craig 1984) as well as Babesia canis (canine babesiosis) in dogs (Dantas-Torres 2008). Bartonella henselae, the bacteria which causes cat scratch disease in humans, is typically associated with fleas, but was recently detected in R. sanguineus ticks in California (Wikswo et al. 2007). It is currently unknown whether it is a competent vector for B. hensaelae. Brown dog ticks have also been experiementally infected with Bartonella vinsonii (Billeter et al 2012). R. sanguineus is also considered a possibe vector for Anaplasma platys and Babesia gibsoni to domestic dogs (CAPC, 2012).
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