Differences Between Dog Tick vs Deer Tick

|7 min read

Ticks might be small bugs, but they can be a nuisance and create big problems for people and animals.

Two types of ticks that are often confused are dog ticks and deer ticks. Even though they might look alike and live in similar places, they have some essential differences that we should know about.

Use a shield or scutum on the tick's back to identify the kind of tick your pet has. A deer tick has a dark brown or red scutum. The dog tick has white markings or stripes on the scutum. The tick larvae are not infectious because they need blood for feeding and spreading infections.

In this article, we'll learn what makes dog ticks different from deer ticks. We'll talk about where they're found, how they bite, and why it matters for us and our furry friends.

By the end, we'll be able to tell them apart and know how to deal with them. So, let's dive in and discover the world of these ticks!

Dog Tick vs Deer Tick

Let's do a quick overview of the difference between the dog tick and the deer tick.


  • Deer ticks, or black-legged ticks, have a red-orange body with a black shield (females) and eight dark legs.
  • While the dog ticks have a reddish brown with white shield (females) that is grooved along with eight legs and a narrow shape.


  • Deer ticks are extremely tiny. Grown-up ticks are about as big as a sesame seed, and young ticks are as small as a poppy seed.
  • Adult dog ticks, on the other hand, are smaller than a quarter of an inch.

Potential health issues

  • Deer ticks transmit Lyme disease, babesiosis, and anaplasmosis.
  • Rocky Mountain spotted fever, tularemia, and tick paralysis are caused by dog ticks.


  • Deer ticks are primarily found in the eastern, central, and southern parts of the United States. However, they have been spotted in all 48 connected states.
  • Dog ticks are common in the eastern regions of the Rocky Mountains. These include the coasts of the Gulf of Mexico and the Pacific Ocean. They have the ability to reside indoors throughout their entire life span.

Where do you find them

  • Deer ticks can be found in dense natural spaces, such as tall grass, vegetation, and fallen logs. They can also be found on pets that have spent time outdoors.
  • Dog ticks can be found in open outdoor spaces lacking tree cover, pathways, hiking routes, dog beds, and other spots where pets rest and hang out.

Active season

  • Deer ticks are commonly active during the period from late spring to early fall when temperatures stay above freezing.
  • Dog ticks are active mainly from August through April. 

Dog Ticks Overview

Dog ticks are the kind of bug that can spread illness if they latch onto you. While they often feed on dogs, they're not limited to them.

These parasites hang around houses and can live there for their whole lives, which might be about 2 years.

Dog ticks are larger than deer ticks, so you might notice them more easily. Female adult ticks are more likely to bite you in the spring and summer seasons.

Adult deer ticks might have dangerous diseases that can really harm you. Some of these illnesses include Rocky Mountain spotted fever and tularemia. If a tick with these diseases bites you, it can make you very sick.

Deer Ticks Overview

Don't be fooled by the name "Deer ticks." They aren't just limited to deer. They also bite humans and other animals. These ticks live for about 2 years. The female ticks will bite humans when they're young and when they're grown up. The deer tick nymphs can spread quickly. Even the male deer tick is just as harmful. So it's best to get rid of deer ticks.

These ticks do not stick to one host. They bite different animals and people as they grow, and that's how they spread disease. The reason you can get sick from a tick bite is because the ticks might have caught diseases from animals they bit before, like Lyme disease, babesiosis, and anaplasmosis.

When they're babies, these ticks first bite small animals like mice and birds. This is how they can get infected with harmful bacteria that they can then pass on to humans.

Around 1 out of every 3 adult ticks and 1 out of every 5 young ticks in Minnesota carry the bacteria that causes Lyme disease.

For these ticks to pass on diseases like Lyme disease, they usually need to be attached to a person for a day or two. But while they're attached, you could also catch other diseases. Ticks might stay on you and feed for up to 5 days. Adult deer ticks are just as harmful as dog ticks.

When To Get A Doctor On Board?

If you notice a rash or flu-like symptoms that worry you within a few weeks of a tick bite, you must speak with your doctor immediately.

It's possible to have these symptoms even if you didn't see a tick on you.

One sign of Lyme disease is a rash that looks like a bull's eye and spreads from the tick bite. You might see this rash even if the tick is gone before you notice it.

If the bite area becomes redder or starts oozing, it could be infected and needs medical attention. Your doctor will provide treatment if they suspect you have an illness from a tick bite. Lyme disease can be treated with oral antibiotics.

Things You Need To Do If You Find A Tick On Your Dog

Here are the steps to follow if you spot an American dog tick:

Safe Removal: Equipment Needed

  • Gloves
  • Clean tweezers or tick remover
  • Disinfectant or antiseptic cream
  • Isopropyl alcohol

Remember to prioritize safety! Always wear gloves while handling ticks to prevent contact with your skin.

Using Tweezers

  1. Hold the tick as close to your dog's skin as possible. Be careful not to pinch your pet.

  2. Gently pull the tick out slowly in a straight and steady motion. Avoid going too fast, as leaving any part of the tick behind could cause an infection.

Using a Tick Remover

  1. Press the tick remover gently against your pet's skin near the tick.

  2. Place the notch of the remover under the tick and pull it out carefully.

Cleanup and After-Care

  1. Place the tick into isopropyl alcohol, take a picture of it, and note the date you found it.

  2. If your dog shows any symptoms of a tick-borne illness, your veterinarian might need to see it.

  3. Symptoms include lasting arthritis or lethargy, reluctance to move, swollen joints, fever, fatigue, swollen lymph nodes, loss of appetite, and neurological issues.

  4. Wash your hands and clean your pet's wound with antiseptic.

  5. Do not forget to disinfect your tweezers with isopropyl alcohol.

  6. Monitor the area where the tick was removed to watch for any signs of infection. If the skin remains irritated or infected, schedule an appointment with your veterinarian.

You may also like: How to Remove a Tick from a Dog

How To Prevent Tick Bites?

If you or your pets enjoy spending time outdoors, it's essential to check for ticks regularly. Ticks can move from one host to another. So inspecting all family members, including your furry companions, after outdoor activities in areas with trees, leaves, or tall grass is crucial.

To help keep your pets tick-free:

  • Use a fine-toothed flea comb for combing your pet's fur regularly to check for ticks.
  • Vacuum your living spaces frequently and dispose of the vacuum bags immediately afterward.
  • Trim and maintain the areas of your yard where your dog likes to play.
  • Wash your pet's bedding every week and bathe your pet with a pet shampoo that doesn't contain pesticides.

To take extra precautions, you can consult your veterinarian about using flea and tick preventatives for your pets. These measures will help ensure that both you and your furry friends can enjoy the outdoors while minimizing the risk of tick-related issues.

Final Words!

Knowing the main differences between dog ticks and deer ticks is vital for keeping our pets and ourselves safe. Even though both kinds of ticks can spread diseases, they have different habits and live in different places.

Deer ticks, also called black-legged ticks, can bite people and carry diseases like Lyme disease. They're small and common in certain areas, so we need to be careful when we're outdoors.

Dog ticks are bigger and can be seen more easily. They're found in various outdoor spots and can also make you sick by spreading diseases like Rocky Mountain spotted fever.

To stay safe, you should learn about these differences, check for ticks often, and get advice from vets. Doing these things will help us and our pets stay healthy while enjoying time outside.


Which type of ticks carry Lyme disease?

Deer ticks are black-legged ticks that are known to transmit Lyme disease. So tick prevention is extremely important.

Where do ticks live?

Ticks like to live in damp and shady spots, usually near the ground. They stick to tall grass and short bushes, ready to hop onto their next victim.

Around your home, you might find ticks in the open areas, like in your yard, among your plants, and at the edges of forests and wooded areas.

When are ticks in season?

Deer ticks are usually active from late spring until early fall as long as temperatures are above freezing. However, dog ticks are most active between August and April.

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