Keep Your Dog Safe From Mosquitoes This Summer

Sleeping dog on concrete cement

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The summer weather brings a lot of opportunities to have fun outside with your pup, but it also brings mosquitoes. When the mosquito population goes up and dogs start spending more time outdoors, the potential for mosquito bites is much higher, and that can be quite dangerous. If you live in an area with a warm climate and a mosquito season that lasts all year, the risks can be even greater. Luckily, there are some steps you can take to prevent your dog from being bitten by mosquitoes and things you can do to treat mosquito bites. Here are some of the dangers of mosquito bites for dogs, some preventative measures you can take, and some ways to treat mosquito bites on dogs when you spot them.

Mosquito Bite Dangers For Dogs

A German Short Haired pointer covered in mosquitos in the middle of summertime

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Mosquitoes can carry and spread plenty of nasty diseases to both humans and dogs. Luckily for our pups, there are a lot of human diseases that are spread through mosquito bites that are not contagious to canines. However, there are still dangers to look out for. The following conditions can be caused by mosquito bites in dogs.

1. Heartworms

Heartworm is a potentially life-threatening parasite that can be spread by a single mosquito bite. Once the parasite’s larva enters the bloodstream, it can cause major problems in the heart, blood vessels, and lungs. Adult worms can grow to a foot in length and live in dogs for seven years. Up to 250 can live in one dog. Make sure your dog is treated to prevent heartworm before the start of mosquito season. Here are some symptoms of heartworm.

  • Coughing
  • Fatigue
  • Difficulty Breathing
  • Weight loss
  • Bulging chest
  • Collapse

2. West Nile Virus

The West Nile virus in humans can be quite serious, but the effects are generally milder in dogs. That said, the symptoms can be quite severe for some dogs, especially those with compromised immune systems, meaning puppies, seniors, and dogs that are already suffering from a medical condition or receiving immunosuppressant drugs. Rarely, dogs can develop encephalitis, a potentially life-threatening condition of inflammation in the brain. The symptoms of West Nile virus are sometimes mistaken for those of influenza. Here are a few of the symptoms of West Nile virus that appear in dogs.

  • Fever
  • Muscle pain
  • Weakness
  • Skin rash
  • Swollen lymph nodes

3. Allergic Reactions

Most dogs, like humans, will get a swollen, itchy bump at the site of a mosquito bite. However, some dogs may suffer from a more severe allergic reaction that requires immediate medical attention. If your dog shows signs of a severe allergic reaction after being bitten by a mosquito, contact your veterinarian or emergency veterinary hospital right away. Here are some symptoms of a severe allergic reaction in dogs.

  • Swelling, especially of the face
  • Hives
  • Loss of appetite
  • Lethargy
  • Difficulty breathing

4. Rare Diseases

Although rare, there are other diseases that can be spread through mosquito bites, and you should always stay vigilant and take precautions to avoid them. Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) and Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE) are two such diseases. Again, dogs with compromised immune systems, including puppies, seniors, and dogs with medical conditions or medications that affect the immune system, are at greater risk. If you notice abnormalities in behavior or cognition, or if any unusual symptoms appear in your dog, contact your veterinarian right away.

Tips To Protect Your Dog From Mosquito Bites

A black Newfoundland and Golden Retriever mixed-breed dog surrounded by swarming mosquitoes.

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When it comes to diseases spread by mosquitoes, the best solution is prevention. There are many ways to reduce the chances of your dog being bitten by mosquitoes, even during the summer when you and your pup want to spend more time outside, and there are steps you can take to prevent diseases from infecting your dog if they do happen to get bitten. Here are some tips to protect your dog from mosquito bites.

1. Update Heartworm Treatment

Whatever course of heartworm treatment you and your veterinarian have decided to provide to your dog, make sure it is up-to-date and your dog is protected. Some dog owners choose medication, while others rely on natural solutions, but whatever you prefer, make sure your dog is treated. Heartworm can kill dogs, so it is very important that you take preventative measures. There is no perfect way to prevent all mosquito bites, and heartworm prevention treatment may be your dog’s last line of defense.

2. Stay Indoors When Possible, Especially During Peak Hours

Mosquitoes are most active at dusk and dawn, so it may be best to walk your dog at other times of day when the mosquitoes aren’t so aggressive. Keep your dog inside as much as you can, and make sure that the doors and windows are closed. If you have any screens, make sure that they are in good shape and repair or block any holes that mosquitoes may be able to get through.

3. Use Dog-Safe Insect Repellent

Do not use human insect repellent on your dog. There are several insect repellents on the market that are specifically designed for dogs, and your veterinarian can recommend some that will be appropriate for your pooch. There are also some natural solutions that may work for your dog, too, and you should discuss these with your vet. Some natural insect repellents for dogs include lemon eucalyptus oil, geranium oil and soybean oil, thyme, clove oil, and neem oil. Again, you should NOT use any of these products without first consulting your veterinarian.

4. Get Rid Of Standing Water

Mosquitoes breed in standing water, which includes puddles, ponds, outdoor dog bowls, and bird baths. Anywhere that rain water or irrigation water can pool and collect can be a mosquito haven. If you have any of these on your property, be aware that they are breeding grounds for mosquitoes, and your dog is at much greater risk for bites. You may want to consider reducing the number of places where water can pool on your property.

5. Grow Plants That Repel Mosquitoes

There are several plants that act as natural mosquito repellents, and planting a few on your property may reduce your dog’s chances of getting bitten. Some plants that are known to repel mosquitoes include lavender, catnip, basil, lemon balm, peppermint, and rosemary. There are other plants that can repel mosquitoes, but they may be toxic to dogs. Always do your research before gardening in your yard if you have a dog.

Treatment For Mosquito Bites On Dogs

Dog scratching

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Even if you take precautions, mosquito bites can happen. If your dog is bitten by a mosquito, keep an eye out for any unusual symptoms, especially those listed above, and take your dog to see the veterinarian if anything is out of the ordinary. In the meantime, it is important that you treat your dog’s mosquito bites and reduce itchiness. An itchy dog can scratch and chew at mosquito bites, which can cause further injury and secondary infections.

There are dog-safe ointments for mosquito bites on the market, and for severe itchiness, your vet can provide steroids that may reduce the itching. However, many dog owners prefer to treat mosquito bites naturally, and you should ask your veterinarian about those options, as well. Some natural treatments to reduce itching caused by mosquito bites on dogs include milk of magnesia, oatmeal and water, and baking soda and water. As always, do not use these products without consulting your veterinarian. If all else fails, you may wish to consider giving your dog an Elizabethan collar (AKA the cone of shame) to prevent further injury or infection.

How do you prevent mosquito bites for your dog? What kinds of treatment have you found to be effective? Let us know in the comments below!

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