Bovis ISSN 2398-2993

Ticks: overview

Synonym(s): Ixodes, Rhipicephalus, Haemaphysalis, Hyalomma, Dermacentor, Amblyomma, Ornithodoros.

Contributor(s): Sophie Mahendran , Hany Elsheikha

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  • Ticks are invertebrate arthropods, belonging to the subclass Acari.
  • Ticks are obligate temporary parasites of vertebrates, including cattle
  • There are 2 types of tick; hard-bodies and soft-bodies
  • The tick lifecycle takes between 2-3 years to complete, depending on the tick species and climatic factors
    • Egg -> 6 legged larvae -> nymph -> 8 legged adult.
    • Adult females can lay thousands of eggs in the environment, with high relative humidity’s increasing survival.
  • Some tick species can act as vectors for multiple pathogens via their blood feeding activities.
    • Pathogens can be transmitted by horizontal transmission (trans-stadial) or vertical transmission (transovarial).
  • Once on the host, the tick actively searches for a favourable place to feed. It secretes a ‘cement’ like substance to help attach the tick to the skin, and inoculates the host with multiple pharmacologically active substances to help maintain blood flow whilst feeding.
  • Ticks often cluster together on the animal, typically around the ears, udder or below the tail.
    • This can lead to open wounds which may attract flies, leading to myiasis, or are subject to secondary bacterial or fungal infections.
  • Tick control can be challenging as much of the lifecycle is spent in the environment, usually in damp vegetation.
    • It is not possible to treat the environment with acaricidal products.
      • Use of pasture-improving techniques (ground drainage, scrub clearance) can reduce tick habitats and therefore cattle exposure.
  • Ticks generally become active in early spring due to the increase in environmental temperatures.
  • There are no licensed treatments for ticks, although the topical and injectable macrocyclic lactones provide some protection when applied at regular intervals during the spring and summer months.

Hard-bodies ticks

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Soft-bodies ticks

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Further Reading


Refereed Papers

  • Recent references from PubMed and VetMedResource.
  • Vannier, Edouard G, Diuk-Wasser M, Mamoun C & Krause P (2015) Babesiosis. Infectious Disease Clinics of North America 29 (2), 357–70 PubMed.
  • Rao Z, Zaman M, Colwell D, Gilleard J & Iqbal J (2015) Acaricide Resistance in Cattle Ticks and Approaches to Its Management: The State of Play. Veterinary Parasitology 203 (1), 6–20 PubMed.
  • Estrada-Peña A & de la Fuente J (2014) The Ecology of Ticks and Epidemiology of Tick-Borne Viral Diseases. Antiviral Research 108, 104–28 PubMed.
  • Pfäffle, Miriam, Littwin N, Muders S & Petney T (2013) The Ecology of Tick-Borne Diseases. International Journal for Parasitology 43 (12), 1059–77.
  • Kiss, Timea, Cadar D & Spînu M (2012) Tick Prevention at a Crossroad: New and Renewed Solutions. Veterinary Parasitology 187 (3), 357–66.
  • Anderson J & Magnarelli L (2008) Biology of Ticks. Infectious Disease Clinics of North America 22 (2), 195–215 PubMed.
  • Colebrook E & Wall R (2004) Ectoparasites of Livestock in Europe and the Mediterranean Region. Veterinary Parasitology 120 (4), 251–74 PubMed.
  • George J, Davey R & Pound R (2002) Introduced Ticks and Tick-Borne Diseases: The Threat and Approaches to Eradication. Veterinary Clinics of North America: Food Animal Practice 18 (3), 401–16 PubMed.
  • Loomis & Edmond C (1986) Ectoparasites of Cattle. Veterinary Clinics of North America: Food Animal Practice 2 (2), 299–321 PubMed.

Other Sources of Information