To us, mosquitoes are annoying insects that cause us to itch. To our dogs, they can be life threatening through various diseases. It is important to learn what these diseases are, and how to keep your dog safe.
Mosquito bites are itchy, irritating, and uncomfortable for your cat or dog. In addition to being a nuisance, bites can lead to disease. As mosquitoes feed upon many animals, they carry and spread diseases. For your cat or dog, the main potential threats from mosquitoes are insect bite hypersensitivity, heartworm disease, and the West Nile virus.
Insect Bite Hypersensitivity
Some cats will develop an extreme allergic reaction to mosquito bites, beyond redness and irritation. With mosquito bite hypersensitivity, lesions and ulcers appear on your cat's skin. In extreme cases, your cat may also run a fever and have swollen lymph nodes. Cortisone steroids can be used to treat cases that do not resolve themselves but in many instances, just separating your cat from mosquitoes and further bites is a sufficient response, and will resolve the allergic response.
Mosquitoes act as carriers of microscopic, parasitic larvae that pass into your cat or dog’s skin during a bite. Once there, the parasites travel into the bloodstream and mature into heartworms. Growing up to a foot in length, heartworms are capable of living for several years. Both cats and dogs are vulnerable to heartworms, but dogs experience more severe problems from the parasites. Worms grow bigger, and have a longer life cycle, within dogs. Heartworms disease is difficult to diagnose, especially since symptoms do not necessarily appear right away, and can be fatal. Heartworms can be prevented in both cats and dogs with chewable tablets, injections, or topical solutions. Talk to your vet about a heartworm test and preventative prescription. The diseases is easy to prevent and difficult to treat.
West Nile Virus
The West Nile virus originated in Africa, but has spread throughout the world. Carried by mosquito bites, the virus generally does not cause any symptoms in cats. Dogs may show flu-like symptoms, like a fever, listlessness, or swollen lymph nodes. Since there is no known treatment for the West Nile virus, the only thing to do is manage any symptoms your pet displays. Currently, West Nile virus is not considered a major threat for dogs or cats.
These illnesses have the potential to be uncomfortable, and even potentially deadly, to your pet. Help your cat or dog avoid getting bites from mosquitoes by using repellent. Don’t let your pet near standing water, and keep your pet inside during the early morning and early evening hours when mosquitoes tend to bite most.