Deer and dog ticks are both parasites that can spread disease. They differ in size, the specific diseases they can carry, and where they’re found.

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Deer ticks and dog ticks are both types of ticks. Ticks are parasites — this means they survive by living on a host.

When ticks live on a host, they survive by biting and eating blood. This behavior can spread disease in humans and animals.

Deer ticks can spread Lyme disease as well as a few other illnesses to humans. They are the size of sesame seeds or smaller.

Dog ticks are about double the size of deer ticks with a red-brown shield. Dog ticks can also spread some diseases, but not Lyme disease.

It’s important to remove a tick from your skin immediately and monitor your symptoms following the bite.

Try to prevent tick bites by engaging in precautionary measures when you’re outside or around animals.

While both deer and dog ticks are in the same species, their characteristics differ.

Deer tickDog tick
Appearance Red-orange body with black shield (females), and eight dark legsReddish brown with white shield (females), grooved shield, eight legs and a narrow shape.
SizeVery small: Adults are the size of a sesame seed, and nymphs are the size of a poppy seed.Slightly smaller than a quarter of an inch
Potential health issues– Lyme disease
– babesiosis
– anaplasmosis
– Rocky Mountain spotted fever
– tularemia
– tick paralysis
Locations– Mainly in the eastern, central, and southern United States
– But they have been identified in all 48 contiguous states.
– Prevalent in the east of the Rocky Mountains and along the Gulf and Pacific coasts
– They can live indoors for their entire life cycle
Where you encounter them-overgrown natural areas, including grass, plants, and logs
– on pets that have been outside
– natural areas without tree cover
– walkways and trails
– dog beds and other areas where pets sleep and spend time
– kennels.
When activeOften from late spring through early fall, when temperatures remain above freezing.April through August

Deer ticks

Don’t let the name fool you. Deer ticks, or black-legged ticks, feed on more than just deer — including humans. These ticks live for up to 2 years, and the females will feed off a human in their nymph and adult cycles.

Deer ticks will feed off a few different animals or humans during their lifespan, which is how they spread disease. You’re susceptible to illness from a tick bite because their prior animal hosts may have diseases like Lyme, babesiosis, and anaplasmosis.

Tick larvae feed off of smaller hosts, like rodents and birds, before they reach the stages where they’ll attach to humans. This gives them ample time to contract harmful bacteria that can spread to you.

According to the Minnesota Department of Health, 1 in 3 adult ticks and 1 in 5 nymph ticks have the bacteria that causes Lyme disease.

A tick needs to be attached to you for a full day or 2 before it can spread the disease, but you may be susceptible to other diseases during that time. Ticks may feed from you for up to 5 days.

Dog ticks

Dog ticks are another type of parasite that can transmit disease if they attach to you.

They’re mostly associated with feeding from dogs, but they don’t exclusively prey upon your four-legged friends. These parasites live near homes and can even spend their entire lives inside, which may be up to 2 years.

Dog ticks are nearly double the size of deer ticks, so they may be easier to spot. Adult females are most likely to bite in the spring and summer.

Dog ticks may carry diseases that can make you very sick, including Rocky Mountain spotted fever and tularemia.

Deer ticks can carry Lyme disease, along with other illnesses. Dog ticks can also carry disease, but not Lyme disease.

Lyme disease is a bacteria that spreads when an infected tick encounters your blood stream.

There are a variety of symptoms with Lyme disease. It can begin with a rash and flu-like symptoms. More serious symptoms of untreated Lyme disease include joint pain and conditions related to your brain.

You can encounter deer and dog ticks throughout the United States. Both are prevalent in the northeastern part of the country, but you can also find them in southern states and western coastal states.

Both deer ticks and dog ticks are active in the spring and summer months. Deer ticks are also active in the fall and can find a host in weather that’s above freezing. You may find dog ticks indoors at any time of the year.

Deer ticks and dog ticks may live in brushy or grassy vegetative areas or in ground covering. Dog ticks live in areas that are not covered by trees, but this is not the case for deer ticks, which can be found in many types of wooded areas.

It was thought that ticks were passive organisms that we accidentally picked up as we walked through brush or tall grasses.

In recent years, however, research has shown that ticks actually undergo periods of “questing” in which they behave in certain ways that improve their chances of finding a host to latch onto. Understanding this aspect of their behavior helps us see the importance of taking precautions when outside or around animals.

With ticks being prevalent in the United States, there’s a chance you’ll experience a tick bite at some point in your life.

Keep in mind that not all ticks carry disease and that finding them on your skin early reduces the chance they’ll transmit illness to you.

Make sure you check your body after spending time outdoors or near your pets. Make sure to check your pets and children for ticks as well.

You probably won’t feel a tick bite, but will see it attached to your skin or feel it if it’s on an area of your body that you can’t see, such as your scalp or back. Follow these steps if you have a tick attached to your skin:

  • Remove the tick if it’s attached to your body with tweezers.
  • Use the tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin’s surface as possible.
  • Try to pull it out directly without twisting or jerking your hand. This will ensure that you’ll get the entire parasite out of your body.
  • Clean the bite site as well as your hands after removal.

Don’t try to remove the tick with substances like petroleum jelly or alcohol.

There are several ways you can prevent tick bites:

  • Learn where ticks live and what they look like.
  • Treat pets with veterinary-recommended flea and tick preventatives.
  • Wear long sleeves, pants, closed-toe shoes, and head coverings when outdoors.
  • Use bug spray when outdoors.
  • Stay on trails and avoid areas with a lot of vegetative overgrowth.
  • Examine your body for ticks after spending time outdoors.
  • Shower after spending time outdoors.
  • Examine your pets regularly for ticks.
  • Clean areas where pets spend time, including their beds.

If you develop a concerning rash or flu-like symptoms within several weeks of a tick bite, talk with your doctor immediately.

You may also have these symptoms without ever spotting a tick on you.

One sign of Lyme disease is a bull’s-eye rash that radiates out of the tick bite. You may see this rash even if the tick fell off your body before you spotted it.

If the bite site also starts to ooze or get redder, it may be infected and needs to be treated by a doctor.

Your doctor will treat you for any suspected illnesses caused by a tick bite. Lyme disease can be treated with oral antibiotics.

Identifying ticks on yourself, household members, and pets is an important way to prevent contracting certain illnesses.

Deer ticks carry Lyme disease, but dog ticks can spread bacteria as well.

Deer ticks are very small and dog ticks are just a bit bigger, so be vigilant when you search for them.

Talk with a doctor if a tick bites you to treat potential illnesses quickly. Prevent future tick bites by covering your skin when outdoors and cleaning areas where pets spend time.