Mosquitoes might not seem to be a big problem for furry animals like dogs and cats, but your pets can still get bitten in areas with only thin hair coverage, such as the nose, ears, and belly. Dogs and cats experience the same itching and irritation around mosquito bites as humans, however, a more serious concern is the spread of mosquito-borne diseases, especially heartworm.
Heartworm is a parasite that causes life-threatening heart and lung infection in dogs and sometimes cats. It is carried from one animal to another via mosquitoes and is relatively common in the United States. Protecting your dog or cat from mosquito bites is the best way to reduce the risk of heartworm infection.
Symptoms of mosquito bites
- Constant scratching
- Rubbing ears or nose against a rough surface
- Red welts similar to mosquito bites in humans
- Systemic illness from mosquito-borne parasite infection
- Respiratory difficulty
- Lethargy or depression
- Intolerance to exercise
- Lack of appetite or weight loss
- Vomiting (cats)
Types of animal-related infection carried by mosquitoes
- West Nile Virus
- Eastern Equine Encephalitis
- Systemic Lupus Erythematosus
Mosquito bites can be diagnosed based on signs of itching and irritation as well as the presence of mosquitoes. Bites that carry infection are undetectable from those that don’t, so heartworm is only found through regular testing, or when symptoms of illness are already present.
A small blood sample can be used to detect the presence of heartworm-related proteins. It takes six months for an animal to test positive for infection, so it’s recommended that dogs be tested at least once annually after they are seven months old.
Cats, on the other hand, are not typical hosts for heartworm. In cats, few worms reach the adult stage. Although, the larvae can cause fatal or sudden illness, so it’s important to get your cat tested regularly.
If your dog or cat tests positive for heartworm, chest X-rays or further tests may be ordered to evaluate the extent of the infection.
Insect repellent is often used to reduce mosquito bites in humans, but it can be unsafe for dogs and cats. Any spray designed for humans, especially those containing DEET, may be toxic and should be avoided. Choose a repellant that is tested specifically on your pet, preferably with the advice of a veterinarian.
If your dog or cat is suffering from severe discomfort related to mosquito bites, your veterinarian could prescribe or recommend a treatment to reduce the itching. Otherwise, no treatment is necessary.
Dogs that test positive for mosquito-borne heartworm infection are usually treated with an arsenic-containing medication given in small doses over the course of several months. This medication is not safe to use in cats. No treatment is currently available for cats diagnosed with heartworm infection. However, monthly preventive medication can be given to both dogs and cats and is usually effective at eliminating the risk of infection.
Individual mosquito bites will heal in dogs and cats, but continued exposure increases the risk of infection. Taking steps to make your house and yard as mosquito-free as possible in the summer months can reduce the chance that pets will be bitten. Since no mosquito elimination is foolproof, the best way to manage heartworm infection is with medication and regular testing. It’s important to be consistent and give each dose at the same time each month since missed or late doses can impact the effectiveness of the treatment. Pets should be tested before beginning a treatment plan and after any lapse in medication.
Both humans and pets will benefit from reducing the mosquito population around your home. In order to do so, avoid leaving stagnant water around your house and garden as this represents a great environment for mosquitoes to breed. Even if your dog spends most of the time indoors, mosquitoes can enter the household via open windows or doors, so consider using window and door screens or pet-friendly mosquito repellents to reduce the presence of mosquitoes in the environment.
Protect your dog with year-round heartworm prevention. A complete heartworm plan includes use of preventive medication and regular testing. Discuss the best options for your dog with your veterinarian. Prevention is the best medicine. Although heartworm disease cannot be directly transmitted from one animal to another, it only takes one bite from an infected mosquito for a dog to get heartworms.
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If you are having issues with mosquitoes, give Amco Ranger a call to get a free quote for professional, ongoing defense in your yard. Treatments are tailored to your property and are applied by certified, trained technicians. Give us a call today if you need help getting rid of pests in your home in Cottleville, St. Peters, O’Fallon, St. Charles, St. Louis, and surrounding communities.