Summer is upon us, and with it comes the many joys of the season. Barbecues, days at the beach, ice cream on a hot afternoon, and…mosquitoes. But when it comes to our favorite furry friends, mosquitoes are not the only nuisance pest we need to worry about. Mosquito season is also flea and tick season. Though fleas are generally more of a nuisance than anything else, both ticks and mosquitoes can carry diseases with life-altering consequences and can even result in death. With this mind, it is important to have a plan in place to protect your beloved pooch from the dangers that could befall him from a run-in with a tick or mosquito.
How do Mosquito Bites Affect Dogs?
Though mosquito bites are typically not painful, they can leave you scratching for days. Our dogs’ fur offers some protection against mosquito bites; however, any area of the body with skin exposed is an ideal feeding ground for a mosquito. This often means that some of the most sensitive areas of a dog’s body are the most likely to get bitten.
When a dog is bitten by a mosquito, it experiences the same reaction as a human would. Once a bite has occurred, a mosquito not only draws blood from your body, it also injects its own saliva back into it. It is the saliva, whose primary purpose is to prevent blood from clotting to allow the mosquito to freely feed from it, that causes the area to itch. In essence, all humans and dogs have a natural allergic response to mosquito saliva which results in swelling of the affected area as well as intense itching.
What Diseases can Mosquitoes Carry?
But itching is not the most serious consideration for a dog who has been bitten by a mosquito. Mosquitoes can carry a vast number of diseases, many of them deadly. These diseases can affect both humans and dogs though some do primarily only affect one or the other.
Here is a list of diseases mosquitoes can pass on to dogs:
Heartworm is a serious condition which affects the lungs, heart, and other organs. Caused by a type of worm which spreads rapidly throughout the main organs of the body, heartworm is both difficult and painful to treat and is most often fatal. It is transmitted through the saliva of affected mosquitoes.
West Nile Virus
West Nile Virus is a life-threatening virus which infects the bloodstream. It is most commonly seen in infected birds then passed on to humans and dogs by mosquitoes who opt to feed on the ailing birds. West Nile Virus is treatable but typically takes months for the treatment to be fully effective. This disease can result in death though most often patients do make a full recovery.
Eastern Equine Encephalitis
Eastern Equine Encephalitis is a condition that primarily affects the brain causing irreversible mental and physical defects. Symptoms of Eastern Equine Encephalitis, also known as EEE or Triple E, are typically seen within three to ten days of infection. EEE is spread through infected mosquitoes.
Systemic Lupus Erythematosus
Systemic Lupus Erythematosus affects the immune system. Finding its origins there, it then begins to spread, ultimately causing impairment in others systems of the body. Though there is a genetic component to this form of autoimmune disease, it is also believed that mosquitoes may be able to transmit it from an infected host to another host.
How to Keep Mosquitoes off your Dog
There is no doubt that the diseases mosquitoes are capable of carrying can seriously impact the quality of your dog’s life and possibly even kill him. As with most illnesses, the best course of action is always prevention.
Here is a list of things you can do to ensure your dog is protected against the spread of disease by mosquitoes:
Avoid bodies of stagnant water.
Mosquitoes most commonly like to lay their eggs in bodies of water that have become stagnant. This, of course, means that there is a more concentrated population of mosquitoes in these particular regions. Though mosquitoes are hardy insects which can thrive in in virtually any environment, including freezing conditions, they are most likely to be found in dormant bodies of water such as ponds, marshes, and swamps.
Protect your dog with an essential oil spray or insect repellent designed for dog use.
Many essential oil blends render your dog an inhospitable host for mosquitoes. Crafting your own blend at home is not only more effective and a better choice for the health of your dog, it is also cheaper. There are no negative repercussions associated with using a properly formulated essential oil blend on your dog.
Alternatively, many pet stores and even veterinarians sell insect repellents that are designed specifically with Fido in mind. It is important for all owners to never use a repellent designed for human use on a pet as many of the leading brands contain chemicals which are harmful and even toxic to dogs.
But best of all, there are some essential oil fragrances that mosquitoes naturally do not like, making them an excellent choice to include in your blend designed to keep them at bay.
Keep mosquitoes out of your home.
Mosquitoes are sneaky little devils! If the opportunity presents itself to enter your home via a screenless window or a hole in the screen of your front door, the mosquito will take it. This, of course, means that both you and your pet will be stalked, leaving you particularly vulnerable when you and your dog are both asleep. So now is an excellent time to repair any holes in screens and make certain your house is free from any areas where mosquitoes could find a way inside.
Make use of citronella candles in your yard.
Citronella works by producing an oil which is toxic to many types of insects. It essentially functions by reducing scents which attract mosquitoes to them. However, citronella gets mixed reviews as to its efficacy.
Plant items in your garden that repel mosquitoes.
Since mosquitoes are powerfully affected by fragrances, you can use this to your advantage to help keep mosquito infestations out of your yard, and thus, away from your pets. Among the plants you could include in your garden to repel mosquitoes are the following: lavender, citronella, catnip. Marigolds, rosemary, basil, and scented geraniums.
Use a heartworm preventative medication.
If you live in an area where it is very difficult to avoid mosquito bites and heartworm is a regular concern, it may be necessary to ask your veterinarian to prescribe a heartworm preventative.
Avoid dog walks at humid times of day.
Mosquitoes thrive in hot, humid, wet environments. For best results, avoid walking when the weather favors those types of conditions.
Yes, mosquitoes are a pest in more ways than one! Since mosquitoes do carry disease, it is important to ensure that Fido is well-protected at all times. Your favorite furry friend will thank you for it!