Dogs enjoy being outside, so they tend to run into a variety of bugs that love making a home in their fur and irritating their skin. Even dogs that aren’t outside often can come into contact with these pests. Unfortunately, it's hard to tell where the problem is underneath their coats, and it’s not like they can tell you where there may be a bite!
Mosquitoes, fleas, and ticks are just a few of the pests that can cause discomfort and even serious health problems for your furry family members. In order to protect your pup from these pets, it’s helpful to know a bit about them, the signs of an issue, treatment that can help, and how to prevent these pests.
Mosquitoes are annoying little pests that bother a variety of different creatures including people and our pets. With temperatures rising, vector-borne diseases transmitted by the bite of infected arthropods are spreading to wider areas. This includes diseases spread by mosquitoes and ticks, which isn’t great news for us or our animals.
In North America, this can mean more outbreaks of Lyme disease from ticks and West Nile virus from mosquitoes—though not many animals with West Nile virus are reported. However, dogs can contract heartworms via mosquito bite, which is deadly if left untreated. Dogs are prone to mosquito bites just like humans are by being outdoors, but thankfully, their hair does offer a barrier for them.
Fleas are a relatively common issue for dogs as well as cats and other animals. They are tiny, bloodsucking insects that are often hard to spot in a dog’s coat. Dogs can get fleas from other animals, the outdoors, or infested items and areas. However, fleas don’t just cause a dog to itch—they can cause tapeworms or anemia. Tapeworms and anemia are both treatable, but they can be fatal for young animals. Thankfully, fleas don't like cold weather, and there are a lot of treatment options to get rid of fleas. However, it's also important to treat your home if your dog gets fleas, as they can continue to spread if you don’t.
Ticks can transmit a whole host of diseases that can hurt a dog either by biting them or by being ingested while the dog is grooming. This includes Lyme disease, tick paralysis, anaplasmosis, ehrlichiosis, and Rocky Mountain spotted fever, among others. Some of these can be fatal. Like mosquitoes and fleas, a tick will also suck its host’s blood. It burrows itself into the skin, which makes detection and removal difficult, though not impossible. Your dog can get a tick just by being outdoors, so it’s important to be aware of the possibility of your dog getting a tick whenever he spends a lot of time outside.
Signs and Treatment
The signs and treatment for mosquitoes, ticks, and fleas vary depending on the issues surrounding each problem. The most important thing is to pay close attention to your dog’s behavior, check the skin often for problems, and seek treatment as soon as possible.
Mosquitoes: Mosquito bites itch on a dog just like they itch on our skin. If your dog is itching a lot more than normal, check the spot for a bite. Also watch for swelling, fever, breathing issues, and lethargy, as they can be signs of an allergic reaction or mosquito-borne diseases. A simple bite can be helped with soap, water, and dog-friendly antibacterial cream. However, too much scratching can cause infection. A heartworm infestation may not show any symptoms, so if you suspect your dog was bitten by a mosquito, it’s best to visit your vet for treatment.
Fleas: Some signs your pup has fleas include scratching, red spots on the skin, or the appearance of “flea dirt” around your home, which looks like pepper. Fleas can cause tapeworms, which will cause your dog to lose weight. Anemia can also present (mostly in young animals), which will cause them to be lethargic and have pale gums. Treatment is important, so if you expect your dog has fleas, visit the vet and choose which type of treatment works best for you. Some options include shampoo, oral medication, or topical medication. You’ll also want to treat your home to get rid of any stray fleas left behind.
Ticks: Every time your pet goes outside where he may have come into contact with a tick, such as spending time among wood scraps or in the woods, check for ticks by looking through his fur. They like warm, damp places, so check their ears and groin. You may feel a scab, a bump, or notice them shaking or scratching. There are a lot of diseases carried by ticks, so also watch for lethargy, confusion, and swollen joints as they can be connected to tick-borne disease. Treatment for a tick may be as simple as safely removing it, but treatment for each disease will vary, so it’s important to visit your vet right away.
How to Prevent Problems
Prevention is often a lot easier than treatment, so it’s helpful to know how to prevent mosquito bites, flea infestation, and exposure to ticks before it happens.
- Avoid standing water: Mosquitoes lay eggs in and around standing water, so avoid letting your dog drink or play in standing water.
- Know which areas are dangerous: Believe it or not, there are top mosquito cities to know about that have bigger mosquito problems. They also tend to be more active at dusk. Be diligent about fleas in warm weather, and be careful about high-traffic areas for animals like boarding facilities and dog parks. Watch for ticks in grassy or wooded areas while camping or hunting, though you can get them in your own backyard as well.
- Keep your home clean: Many insects not only cause a problem, they also leave behind eggs that can help them spread. This is why it’s important to practice pest control in your home, wash their bedding often, and keep the surfaces of your home clean.
- Use dog-safe repellant: There is mosquito and tick repellent for animals you can use if you know you’re going outside that can help prevent an issue, but never use human insect repellant on a dog.
- Stay up to date on medication: Heartworm, flea, and tick medication can be given in order to prevent issues with each of these insects and the diseases that they can cause. Staying up to date on these medications can help with prevention.
Mosquitoes, fleas, and ticks are bloodsucking insects that do nothing but cause trouble for humans and their furry companions. Not only are they annoying, they can also transmit some scary diseases and cause some serious health risks. This is why it’s important to understand the risks, the signs of an issue, treatment options, and how to prevent them from infecting your dog. If you suspect an issue, make sure you consult with your vet as soon as possible. Stay diligent about protecting your pup, especially in warm weather.