Ah summer—the sunshine, the long days, the warm weather—oh, and the bugs.
So. Many. Bugs.
If you’re one of those not-so-lucky people who seem to have a special knack for attracting these tiny terrors anytime you step outside, you know that insects can be quite a nuisance. As you’re swatting and flicking bugs off your skin this summer, remember your pet is also susceptible to bites. Not only can bug bites make your pet miserable, but they can also be harmful to their health. Keep insects from bugging your pet this summer by following our Red Oak Animal Hospital team’s guide to insect bites and stings.
Flea bites in pets
Fleas can consume 15 times their weight in blood, and if your pet is infested with these pests, your furry pal can become anemic. If your pet is allergic to flea saliva, a flea bite can also cause flea allergy dermatitis (FAD), which leads to a severe reaction. When a flea takes a blood meal from your pet, the pest injects saliva into your furry pal’s skin. The saliva contains compounds that trigger a hypersensitive pet to experience an inflammatory response. One flea bite is all it takes to cause an allergic reaction. Affected pets scratch, bite, lick, chew, and rub constantly to help relieve the itching. Hair loss commonly occurs, especially at the base of the tail. Year-round flea prevention is the easiest way to prevent these problems in your pet. However, if your untreated pet falls victim to a flea infestation, you must remove all the fleas from your pet and their environment, which often requires a team effort between you, our veterinary team, and a professional pest control company. For example, many clients ask us which fogger or flea bomb product to purchase, and we can advise choosing one with an insect growth regulator. In addition, our Red Oak Animal Hospital team will prescribe medications to address your furry pal’s itchiness and address any secondary skin infections.
Ticks and pets
Ticks are parasites that can be active year-round and often attach to pets and people when they walk through tall grass or wooded areas. Ticks can attach to any part of your pet’s body, but these pests most commonly latch on to your furry pal’s neck, ears, paws, and the sides of their bodies. Ticks feed on your pet’s blood and can transmit various diseases, including Lyme disease, ehrlichiosis, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, and anaplasmosis, that can be deadly if left untreated. A tick bite does not usually cause a pet to itch, but your four-legged friend can develop skin irritation where the tick has attached. Tick-borne disease signs vary, and may include:
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Poor appetite
- Bruising or bleeding from blood clotting problems
- Liver failure
- Kidney failure
- Heart problems
Check your pet for ticks after spending time outdoors. If you find a tick embedded in your pet’s skin, use blunt-edged tweezers to grasp the tick at the base of its head, as close as possible to your pet’s skin. Avoid grabbing the tick’s engorged body, which could burst. Use smooth, even pressure to pull the tick straight out until you feel it release from your pet’s skin.
Fly bites in pets
A fly bite can cause your pet pain and lead to an allergic reaction. Flies typically bite a pet’s belly and groin areas, causing redness and itchiness. If you suspect a fly has bitten your pet, clean the affected area with warm water and a mild soap (e.g., liquid Dawn or Ivory dish soap). Monitor the bite wound to ensure it doesn’t become infected. In most cases, fly bites heal on their own and do not require veterinary treatment. However, if the wound doesn’t clear up on its own, seek veterinary care to ensure it’s not infected.
Mosquito bites in pets
Mosquitoes pose a significant threat to pets by transmitting heartworms, which are dangerous and potentially lethal parasites. Fortunately, heartworm prevention is highly effective and can safeguard your pet from this deadly condition. However, if an affected mosquito bites your unprotected pet, the insect can transmit heartworms, which grow and develop inside your four-legged friend’s heart and lungs, leading to severe health problems. Depending on the infection’s severity, heartworm disease signs vary. During the early heartworm disease stages, a pet may not exhibit signs. However, as the heartworm larvae mature and the infection progresses, a pet’s signs may include:
- Decreased appetite
- Weight loss
- Difficulty breathing
- Abdominal swelling
Spider bites in pets
While spiders do not commonly bite pets, when a bite does occur, its severity can range from harmless to potentially deadly. Two spider species are dangerous to humans and pets: the black widow and the brown recluse. Black widow spiders are a black, and have a hallmark red or orange hourglass mark on their abdomen. Brown recluse spiders are yellow-brown, and have a violin-shaped marking on their back. If either of these spider species bites your pet, seek veterinary care immediately.
Bee stings in pets
Bee, wasp, and hornet stings can cause your pet pain. However, as long as your pet is not allergic and has not been stung on the nose, face, or neck, applying an ice pack should be sufficient treatment. However, if your pet exhibits allergic reaction signs, they are experiencing a veterinary emergency, and you should ensure they receive medical care as soon as possible. If your pet has been stung, monitor them for allergic reaction signs, which include:
- Extreme swelling
- Breathing difficulty
The best way to protect your pet from bug bites is to ensure they receive year-round parasite prevention. If you need to refill your pet’s parasite preventive products, or you are concerned about a bug bite your pet has sustained, schedule an appointment with our Red Oak Animal Hospital team.