This species is primarily a parasite of dogs, but will also readily feed on cattle, horses, humans, and other animals. It is a 3-host tick, with the larva and nymph stages prone to feed on small animals and the adults on larger animals. It is a known vector of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Tularemia, and a form of Ehrlichiosis. It also may cause tick paralysis due to a venom in its saliva. The life cycle can be completed from egg to adult in about 2 months if suitable blood hosts are available, but may extend over 2 years if necessary. Each stage – 6 legged larva, 8 legged nymph, and 8 legged adult – require a blood meal from a vertebrate host, and cannot move on to their next stage without one. Following feeding the tick drops off the host and secludes itself to digest the blood. Finding a host may involve “questing”, in which the tick climbs vegetation in a place where animals may brush past. Larvae may survive 11 months without feeding, nymphs up to 6 months without feeding, and adult ticks may survive 2 years without feeding. Feeding requires from 3 to 10 days on the host and following this the adult female will seek out a secluded location, deposit a mass of several thousand eggs, and then die.
Tick management relies on managing the environment to discourage ticks. This includes keeping grasses mowed short and eliminating rodents that may be nesting on the property and serving as alternate host animals. Excluding larger animals from a property also can reduce the number of ticks present. Pet owners need to be educated on inspecting pets daily for ticks and on the proper way to remove and dispose of ticks. Exterior areas where ticks are present can be treated with a labeled insecticide residual and interior areas also treated carefully. This should involve thorough crack and crevice applications into all possible crevices where the engorged ticks may have secluded themselves following feeding.