Although there are several species, the American Dog Tick is probably the one you are most likely to find on your small breed dog.
These parasites are reddish brown in color and will feed on humans as well as small to medium sized animals such as dogs.
They feed once during each of four life cycle stages. They do not jump on a host but wait for the host to brush up against them.
Fact: Ticks do not jump or fly. They can only crawl.
Then, they attach themselves by embedding their mouth parts on the host. When they are engorged with blood, they drop off their hosts to begin the next stage of their life cycle.
Fact: Ticks go through four life cycles.
The full life cycle of ticks follows the four seasons. Eggs are fertilized in the fall and are nestled in leafs on the ground in the spring. The eggs hatch into larvae which attach to their first hosts when a small mammal passes by.
Fact: Tick larvae have six legs.
After receiving a full blood meal, the larvae drop off their hosts into the protection of the leaf clutter on the ground where they transition to the next stage of the cycle which is the Nymph.
The Nymphs then remain dormant until the following spring when temperatures begin to get warm again.
Fact: Tick Nymphs have eight legs!
In the spring and early summer, Nymphs find hosts to get their blood meals. They wait on the ground in leaf clutter and on small plants until their host approaches. After they attach to their hosts and gorge for a few days, they drop back the ground to molt into their final life cycle – adult ticks.
Fact: Adult Ticks have ten legs? Just kidding! Adult ticks have eight legs just like the Nymphs.
Adult ticks appear in the fall. They climb up vegetation such as tall grass and bushes to wait for their hosts to brush by. After attaching to a host, the adult tick feeds for about a week before dropping off.
Fact: After engorging herself with a blood meal, the female adult tick drops to the ground where she lays thousands of eggs, starting the life cycle of the tick anew.
Ticks can cause discomfort for your small breed dog. Tick-borne diseases such as Lyme Disease and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever can seriously affect the health of your dog and may even result in death.
In addition, since ticks will also feed on human hosts, you are susceptible to tick-borne diseases as well. The National Center for Infectious Disease (CDC) provides detailed information on some diseases that can be transmitted by a tick.