Pictures of ticks, including the American dog tick (dermacentor variabilis). I spend a lot of time outside, and I'm a hiker, so I am way too familiar with ticks.
The American Dog Tick, aka Dermacentor variabilis, is the most common tick in the United States. Like its name suggests, it is often found on adult dogs, but it will attach itself to any adult mammal it can find.
American Dog Ticks are brown to reddish brown with black to beige highlights. The adult males average at 3.6 mm in length while the females are slightly larger at 4.5-5mm. When fed, female ticks can increase to about three times their size at 15mm in length.
They are found most often east of the Rocky Mountains, generally in the central part of the United States, but they can be encountered in the Washington and Oregon and have been found as far north as Canada and as far south as Mexico.
These ticks can lay dormant in the soil during the cold winter months, but as the weather warms, they become more active. The American Dog Tick goes through several feeding stages, graduating to larger animals in each stage. Their peak feeding season stretches from mid-April to early September. In search of food, these ticks are drawn to the scent of dogs and they will commonly lay in wait in well-traveled trails where it is easiest for mammals to traverse.
The Dog Tick does not carry lyme disease, but is known to carry rocky mountain spotted fever, tularemia, and can cause Canine Tick Paralysis if attached to neck or near the animals spine. Its removal should be facilatated with tweezers by grasping near the mouth and pulling slowly straight out and away. To prevent passing of any infection do not remove with fingers and wash the affected area with soap and water and be sure to dry it properly. Over the next day, watch for any sign of infection such as redness and swelling.