It’s that time of year again. The sun’s out, everything’s in bloom, and the number-one summer pest is back: mosquitoes.
Mosquitoes are more than merely annoying—they can carry viruses that might prove fatal for your furry friend. Protect your cats and dogs this summer by learning about the threat of mosquitoes and what you can do about it.
Heartworms are the number-one threat mosquitoes pose to both cats and dogs. As the name suggests, the disease comes from a parasitic worm that infects the animal’s blood vessels, lungs and heart. Adult heartworms place their larvae in an animal’s bloodstream, which mosquitoes then pick up when they bite into the skin. Mosquitoes can transmit heartworm larvae from one animal to the next, which then grow into adult heartworms in their new host.
Heartworm can be deadly in dogs if it’s detected too late. A single dog can carry hundreds of heartworms that damage the cardiovascular and respiratory systems over time. Dog owners should consult a veterinarian if their pup becomes lethargic, develops a cough, vomits frequently or has difficulty breathing. A case of heartworms left untreated will eventually result in death.
Cats get heartworms, too, but the rate of infection is much lower. That’s because their immune systems are designed to kill larvae before they have a chance to mature in their body. Compared to dogs, the chance of a cat harboring an adult heartworm is much lower. Cat owners should still be concerned, though. The end result can be the same—the only difference being there’s no known treatment for heartworms in cats.
Owners can protect their cats and dogs from heartworms by asking a vet to check for the parasite on a regular basis and administering heartworm preventative medication. Prevention is the best defense against heartworms, and regular examinations guarantee you catch the disease early enough to save your pet.
Itchiness and discomfort
Perhaps the most immediate—and annoying—sign of a mosquito bite is the persistent itchiness it causes. Humans aren’t the only ones who have to put up with swollen, itchy bumps for days on end. Our fuzzy felines and canine companions can suffer the effects of mosquito bites, too! What’s worse than experiencing the itch ourselves is watching our poor pets endure it nonstop.
Itchiness itself won’t harm your pet, but it sure is a nuisance! Additionally, persistent itchiness can lead pets to harm themselves by biting or scratching repeatedly. Pet owners should watch out for hair loss or self-inflicted wounds that might become infected if their pet is bitten by a mosquito and routinely scratches.
The potential for discomfort and self-injury is yet another reason why pet owners should do everything in their power to avoid areas heavily populated with mosquitoes whenever possible. A bite here and there is inevitable, but the more discomfort you can prevent, the better.
Pest repellant tips
There are lots of ways to protect your pet from mosquitoes and the diseases they carry. Start by talking to your vet about preventative treatments like heartworm medication to save your pet from potential pest-borne diseases. Pet owners should also consider a flea and tick treatment. Not only do they stop your dog from bringing fleas into the house, but these medicines also usually double as effective mosquito repellents.
Even if your pet is protected from diseases, though, you’ll still want to reduce their interactions with outdoor pests. Create a pet-friendly space in your backyard where mosquitoes won’t want to hang out. Stagnant water is a breeding ground for mosquitoes because it creates the perfect environment for them to lay their eggs. Identify areas of standing water in your backyard and get rid of them, no matter how small. Additionally, consider hanging mosquito traps to reduce their population and the chances of your pet getting bit.
Finally, be cautious about any pest repellents you use on or around your pet. Many bug sprays for humans are toxic to cats and dogs, so do your research before busting out the DEET or essential oils.
You don’t have to let a couple of pesky mosquitoes ruin your fun in the sun! Heartworms and other viruses are a real threat but nothing to fret over as long as your pet is treated with preventative medication and your outdoor space is fortified against little biters. Remember that our loyal, loving pets suffer the negative health effects of mosquito bites and need protection just as much as we do.