Buzz Off! the threat of mosquitoes to pets

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Posted by Dr. Kim Smyth on Sep 14 2011

Is there any insect as universally disliked as the mosquito? While mosquitoes are typically only a nuisance to us here in the US, they can be deadly in other parts of the world and are especially dangerous for pets wherever they reside. We’ve talked several times about heartworm disease, which is spread by these pesky bloodsuckers, but mosquitoes are responsible for other diseases, too.

West Nile Virus and Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) are both spread by mosquitoes. They are very rarely seen in dogs and cats, but they can occur. Fever and lethargy are common in infections from both West Nile and EEE, which cause encephalitis and meningitis in both pets and humans.

And let’s just revisit heartworm disease for a minute. Heartworms live in the vessels surrounding the heart and cause heart disease that can progress to heart failure. Heartworms are transmitted when an infected mosquito bites your pet. Heartworm disease has been on my mind a lot lately, because the only FDA product veterinarians have to treat this terrible disease has become temporarily unavailable. So we are stuck with no way to treat heartworms--for now.

However, heartworm disease is so easily prevented just by giving a monthly heartworm preventative like Heartgard, Revolution or Interceptor. Don’t forget to include your kitty in this monthly treat. Heartworms can infect cats, too, and there is no remedy for the disease in cats.

Mosquito bites can also be itchy to us and our pets. What’s more, our pets may be hypersensitive to mosquito bites and end up with severe inflammation and infection from just one bite. Mosquito bites are known to be a common inciting factor for hot spots in dogs, too.

Preventatives are available for heartworm disease, but not for the other conditions we talked about. Do your best to keep the mosquito population down:

  • Limit your pet’s outdoor activity in the early morning or evening, when mosquitoes are worst.
  • Get rid of standing water around your house--this is where mosquito larvae live.
  • If your pet has a hypersensitivity to mosquitoes, there are topical products to repel them available from your veterinarian. Do not use over the counter products meant for humans on your pets, as they can be toxic.

Fall is just around the corner, but until that first frost hits us, take the proper precautions to keep your pets safe from mosquitoes.