If you think you’ve seen a tick, or, worse, think one may have bitten you, it’s important to be able to identify the pest so you know how to proceed with treatment. These descriptions of common tick types will help you determine if you have a tick problem or are just beset with insects that look like ticks.

Like spiders, ticks are part of the arachnid family. They have eight legs and are typically brownish in color. They vary in size, ranging between the dimensions of pinhead to that of a pencil eraser.

This insect is dark reddish brown, about one-quarter inch long and often has a dark red ring around the outside of the body, as well as a darker, shield-like shape on its upper body. The American dog tick is most often found east of the Rocky Mountains, affecting mostly the eastern half of the United States. It can occasionally be found in California and other western states, so always consult a professional for proper identification if you believe you have a tick problem.

This insect can grow to up to half an inch long and is reddish brown all over with no distinguishing marks. It can be difficult to tell if this is a tick or a bug that resembles a tick such as certain types of weevils. The brown dog tick feeds mostly on dogs but has been known to bite other mammals as well. Their bites are usually found between the dog’s toes or behind and inside its ears. They live in tall grass and are found across country.

Soft ticks are characterized by their rounded shape (they look similar to the number “8”). You can tell this tick apart from others because its head and mouth are underneath the body, and two of its eight legs stick out from the front like short fangs. They’re not as hard or as flat as other ticks and usually feed on rodents or birds, so be careful around buildings with large populations of animals.

Regardless of whether you’ve encountered one of the many kinds of ticks or one of the many bugs that look like ticks, you should always take swift action if bitten. Tick bites can cause disease in both pets and humans, so seek medical attention if you suspect you or your pets have been bitten.