Pesky Pests that Bite Pets

By Dr. Laura Hady

As temperatures increase, we tend to spend more time outside with our pets. However, our fun times can be marred by the bugs, insects and plants that thrive in the warmer weather.  The following are some tips to protect our furry friends from these pests.

  • Mosquitos – Mosquitos love warm, wet areas. Just a single bite from one of the 60 species known to carry heartworm can result in a full-blown heartworm infection for your dog. Your veterinarian can test for heartworm disease and prescribe a year-round monthly heartworm preventive – ideal since the date of each year’s mosquito-killing hard frost is unknown. Also, remember that even if you don’t have mosquitos in your neighborhood, your pet can be bitten in areas near the Bosque and in other neighborhoods across the city. Clinical signs of heartworm disease include coughing, exercise intolerance, and weight loss.
  • Fleas – For every flea that you see on your pet, there are at least 99 more in the environment. That is why it is important to treat your entire household for fleas, including cats. Wash pet beds and your linens in hot water on a regular basis to kill the eggs. Consider placing a flea collar in your vacuum bag to kill flea eggs that have been sucked up during the cleaning process. Your veterinarian can recommend the best oral or topical monthly flea preventive for your pet. Many commercial pest companies can spray the yard.  Sand fleas can bite both pets and humans, with some humans having an allergy to a compound in their saliva. Fleas can transmit viruses through bites and tapeworm eggs if they are ingested by your pet. While fleas can be found all over the body, they tend to be easier to observe on the ear tips as black spots. Please let your veterinarian prescribe and recommend which treatment and shampoos are safest.
  • Ticks – Ticks can transmit a variety of diseases, including Lyme disease, Ehrlichia, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, and tularemia, all of which can also affect humans. You may not see ticks until the females turn from dark brown to tan when they become engorged with a blood meal. Severe tick infections can cause anemia or liver disease, and certain ticks found in the mountains can cause paralysis of your dog. Do not remove ticks from your pets with your fingers. Use forceps to get the entire head, or see your veterinarian. Chewable pills and topical preventive treatments can be given to your pets. Newer preventives such as Nexguard, Simparica, and Bravecto protect against both ticks and fleas.
  • Bee and wasp stings – Our pollinating friends such as bees and wasps go to work during the spring. As the fly about, they sometimes double as live toys for pets that try to catch them and play with them. Unfortunately, bee and wasp stings can be life-threatening. If you notice hive-like bumps on the skin or swelling near the mouth, nose or eyes, call your veterinarian immediately. Treatment typically includes an antihistamine and a steroid injection. If anaphylactic shock occurs, epinephrine and intravenous fluids will need to be given. With each subsequent sting, a pet may have a worse reaction. In that case, your veterinarian may prescribe an EpiPen that has the correct dosage for your pet if you are traveling or not near a veterinary clinic.
  • Foxtails – Foxtails, sometimes called cheat grass, speargrass and needlegrass, are the sharped, barbed, seed head (or awn) from grassy plants or wild barley. These plants are more hazardous in the late summer and fall when they dry out and the awns become prone to dropping. The most likely location that their tiny barbs attach to an animal’s fur is between the toes, but they may lodge in the nose, ears and mouth. When not removed, they can migrate throughout the body, causing infection and inflammation along their path. So, owners should also check between the toes and brush their pets on a daily basis during the warmer months.

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