Ticked off by Little brown Blood-sucking Parasites

Imagine this. You are playing with your dog when you feel lump through its fur. Curiosity gets the best of you, and combing through its fur, you find a loosely attached brown lump with six legs. To your horror, it’s a tick! A blood-sucking parasite, which means weeks of intense grooming, spraying and care for your dog.

My Dog, aka. The Host, seaching for ticks in the grass

My Dog, aka. The Host, seaching for ticks in the grass

If it wasn’t for the fact that I’ve found them trying to suck my blood (Yes! Me!), I might be amused at the incredible adaptations these tiny parasites have to ensure their blood-sucking lifestyle.

Tick hidden in fur

Tick hidden in fur

One of the most common species of ticks in Singapore is the brown dog tick (Rhipicephalus sanguineus) (Irwin et al., 2004). Unlike other ticks, it has the ability to complete its life-cycle indoors, (Dantas-Torres, 2009) allowing it to flourish in an urban Singapore. With adaptations to allow them to take up water vapour from air, (Kaufman, 2010) these ticks are able to hide in cracks in walls while waiting for an approaching feast.

Tick on a blade of grass, waiting for its next host

Tick on a blade of grass, waiting for its next host

As the host nears, it senses air vibrations, temperature and CO2, leading it to extend its appendages to latch onto the host. (Dantas-Torres, 2008) Once on the host (or rather my dog) it plunges its hypostome through the skin, to the blood vessels, secreting chemicals to cement it to the skin (Dantas-Torres, 2008) and prevent blood clotting. (Mans et al., 2004) It also possesses a specialized integument that allows it to gorge itself on blood, swelling to many times its original size without bursting. (Mans et al., 2004)

Unfortunately, Rhipicephalus sanguineus is known to cause diseases such as babesiosis, hepatozoonosis and ehrlichiosis, (Irwin et al., 2004) in both humans and dogs. So, when I find an infestation on my dog, I spend hours a day removing and squishing them fervently.

In the end, ticks might be fascinating, but I still hate them.


– Ben J. Mans, Albert W.H. Neitz (2003). Adaptation of ticks to a blood-feeding environment: evolution from a functional perspective. Insect Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Vol. 34, P. 1–17

– W. Reuben Kaufman (2010). Ticks: Physiological aspects with implications for pathogen transmission. Ticks and Tick-borne Diseases, Vol. 1, No. 1, P. 11-22

– Peter J. Irwin, Ryan Jefferies (2004). Arthropod-transmitted diseases of  companion animals in Southeast Asia. TRENDS in Parasitology, Vol.20, No.1, P. 27-34

– Filipe Dantas-Torres (2008). The brown dog tick, Rhipicephalus sanguineus (Latreille, 1806) (Acari: Ixodidae): From taxonomy to control. Veterinary Parasitology, Vol. 152, P. 173–185

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