Dogs and their owners who battle the Brown Dog Tick sometimes go to desperate measures ─ including getting rid of their dogs, fumigating their homes, throwing many possessions out or even moving ─ to control the pesky bugs, which breed indoors and hide in places that are practically impossible to reach.
Phil Kaufman, an associate professor of veterinary entomology at the University of Florida Institute for Food and Agricultural Sciences, is one of several investigators who have just published two studies. One shows the tick is resistant to the most commonly used chemical applied directly between the dog’s shoulder blades. The other shows the effectiveness of carbon dioxide as a lure for baiting ticks to bed bug traps.
The first finding, while not good news, is practical. Pet owners and pest control companies know pesticides with permethrin will not control the Brown Dog Tick. The chemical fipronil should work in most situations, but owners should watch for loss of activity of the chemical, such as ticks that appear to be alive and swelling within the month after treatment.
The second finding is critical as Kaufman and other scientists, such as Faith Oi, grapple with getting rid of the Brown Dog Tick.
Kaufman and Oi describe the Brown Dog Tick as “cryptobiotic,” meaning it hides in nooks and crannies of your house where you’d never find them, and they spend about 95 percent of their time away from the dog. But if experts can get the ticks to come to one spot, they can better control them, Kaufman said.
Meanwhile, homeowners can use pesticides to control the ticks, but “the vacuum is your best friend,” Oi said.
Brown Dog ticks can complete their lifecycle inside people’s homes, unlike most ticks, which spend most of their lifetime outside, Kaufman said. One female Brown Dog Tick can lay up to 5,000 eggs in its lifetime and if that is in your home, you could be in for trouble.
“They’re particularly troublesome for people who have cluttered homes, and they drive some homeowners to desperate measures in search of ways to control the tick,” Kaufman said. “Eliminating places where ticks live and breed is the one of the best practices for tick control.”
Homeowners also can help by simplifying their interiors. That allows for more thorough inspections, easier cleaning and pesticide applications, he said. It also allows for more effective evaluation of the treatment after products are applied.
In addition to being pesky, Brown Dog ticks can damage or irritate a dog’s skin. In rare cases, they can cause a fever, anorexia or anemia. If you see these signs in your dog, you should see a veterinarian as soon as possible, Kaufman said.
This research into the brown dog tick has been published in the March 2015 and May 2015 issues of the Journal of Medical Entomology.