American Dog Tick Dermacentor variabilis

American dog ticks are found exclusively in North America, east of the Rocky Mountains, and particularly along the east coast. In contrast to the brown dog tick, American dog ticks are not as reliant on dogs in all of their life stages. However, it is still important to routinely check yourself and your pets to keep this pest and disease vector out of the house.

American Dog Tick Map / Habitat

American dog ticks are found exclusively in North America, east of the Rocky Mountains, and particularly along the east coast.

Tick Map

Visit the CDC website for the most up to date map.

American Dog Tick Habitat:

American dog ticks prefer to live in grassy areas with tall foliage. Large numbers of these ticks may be found in fields, pastures, fresh and saltwater marshes and meadows. The following images are examples of where you might find American dog ticks:

Tick Habitat

Diseases They Can Carry

The American dog tick is known to carry and transmit several pathogens affecting humans, as well as animals. Click on the links below to learn more about the diseases that can be spread through a bite from the American dog tick:

Biology and Feeding Habits

1.) American dog ticks are a 3-host tick and have 3 life stages when they bite animals: larva, nymph, and adult. These ticks are considered a 3-host tick, meaning that one tick will feed from a different host at each of these three life stages.​ Larvae and nymph ticks tend to feed on smaller mammals, while adults favor larger mammals, like dogs, horses, and humans.

American dog ticks feed for 5-14 days, depending on life stage.

2.) All life stages are active in the summer. In northern areas, such as Connecticut or Massachusetts, American dog ticks are typically active from mid-March to mid-August. Adult ticks survive cold periods of the year by overwintering, or lying dormant, in the soil until temperatures warm.

  • Nymphs and adults are most active from March until early September.
  • Larvae first appear in March to May, and again in the late summer around August and September

Visit to see more images of this tick at different life stages.

Tick Check and Removal Guide

Tick Check Guide

Prevention for Pets

Outdoor areas with vegetation that are frequently visited by household pets and humans, like backyards and gardens, should be kept trimmed and properly maintained.

As with the Brown dog tick, it is important to routinely check household pets, especially dogs, and to prevent tick bites through the use of flea and tick medication. These are the common areas on a dog to check for ticks:

  • Inside the ears
  • On the head and neck
  • Between the toes
  • Belly and chest
  • Legs
Dog Tick Check Graphic

Visit the CDC website on Preventing Ticks on Your Pets to learn more.

Note: Cats are extremely sensitive to a variety of chemicals. Do not apply any tick prevention products to your cats without first asking your veterinarian!


  1. Stafford, Kirby C. Tick Management Handbook: An integrated guide for homeowners, pest control operators, and public health officials for the prevention of tick-associated disease. Revised Edition, 2007. The Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station. Available at:
  2. Chan, Wai-Han and Philip Kaufman. Featured Creatures: American dog tick. Entomology and Nematology Department, University of Florida. Publication Number: EENY-443. Available at:

The TickAPP

TickApp Logo

The TickApp is a free smartphone app that offers tick identification resources in the Northeast and Midwest USA. It was developed as a Citizen Science Project from our partners at Columbia University!