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8 Things to Know About the Tick Life Cycle

Protecting Your Pets from Ticks: Insights from K9reproduction

Ticks carry many serious diseases with long-term and debilitating effects. The best way to fight back is to prevent ticks year-round, keeping you and your pets safe.

Understanding the Tick Life Cycle

It is important to understand how ticks reproduce and when they are most active. Ticks can harm both dogs and cats, so you need to stop the tick life cycle, ideally before they are able to transmit a potentially deadly disease.

Flea and tick prevention products aim to repel ticks or kill them before disease transmission, which is why they are so important.

The Life Cycle of a Tick

The tick life cycle consists of four stages:

  • Egg

  • Larva

  • Nymph

  • Adult

Larvae and nymphs have six legs, while adult ticks have eight legs. Ticks are bloodsuckers and require a host (and its blood) to survive, molt, and reproduce. For most tick species, they require several hosts to complete their life cycle; for others, such as the brown dog tick, they can spend their entire life cycle on one host (your dog).

  1. Egg: The female tick lays eggs by the thousands, usually under leaves or other types of detritus.

  2. Larva: The larva hatches and attaches to a host, usually a small bird or rodent like a mouse, where it can then pick up deadly diseases and become a carrier.

  3. Nymph: Shortly after feeding, the larva drops off the host, lies dormant up to a year, molts, and becomes a nymph. It then feeds on another host, where it can transmit its disease or diseases, drops off, and lies dormant again for a few months before molting into an adult.

  4. Adult: The adult tick then finds its host—usually a larger animal or human—mates, feeds, and transmits the disease. The male tick remains on its host until done feeding, when it falls off and dies. The female tick usually falls off shortly after mating to lay its eggs. On average, this time frame takes about 2 years to complete.

When it’s feeding, the tick regurgitates digestive enzymes to prevent its host’s blood from clotting so it can continue feeding. During the regurgitation process, ticks transmit diseases to the host. This process often takes more than 48 hours for some ticks, but timing varies and for some tick species it only takes a few hours.

If the tick is found and removed early, the chances of disease transmission are rare. This is why tick prevention is critical to keeping pets safe year-round, since medications are designed to kill the tick or cause it to drop off its host before disease is transmitted.

Preventing Tick-Borne Diseases

Effective prevention strategies are key to stopping ticks from infecting your pets. Here’s what you can do:

  • Use Tick Prevention Products: These products are designed to repel or kill ticks before they can transmit diseases. They come in various forms, including topical treatments, oral medications, and collars.

  • Regularly Check Your Pets: Inspect your pets for ticks after they have been outdoors, especially if they have been in wooded or grassy areas.

  • Keep Your Yard Tick-Free: Maintain your yard by keeping the grass short, removing leaf litter, and creating a barrier between wooded areas and your yard.

  • Stay Informed: Be aware of the tick season in your area and the types of ticks that are prevalent, as this can help you take timely preventive measures.


Understanding the life cycle of ticks and implementing year-round preventive measures can significantly reduce the risk of tick-borne diseases in your pets. By staying proactive and vigilant, you can keep your furry friends safe and healthy. Regular use of effective tick prevention products and routine checks will help ensure that your pets remain tick-free and happy.


*How to Keep Ticks Off Pets

Ticks pose a significant threat to you and to your pets. It is vital that they be protected as best as possible, and the best way to protect is through prevention. Partnering with your veterinarian to find the right flea and tick medication is important for your pet’s health.

Most tick prevention products that come in a chewable tablet like Bravecto and Nexgard, a wearable collar like Seresto, or even a topical like Frontline Plus take several hours before they start repelling and killing ticks. So when planning outdoor activity with your pet, make sure they are protected far in advance.

And because ticks have been found from coast to coast, veterinarians recommend providing year-round flea and tick protection for both dogs and cats, and performing frequent, thorough checks on all pets.


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