beasties that bite

dog scratching header

Mosquitos, ticks and fleas — oh my! These creepy crawlers may be small, but they’re a big nuisance to our pets. Not only do they cause discomfort by way of itchy bites (especially pets with flea or mosquito allergies), but they can also transmit serious and even fatal diseases.

Pets infested with fleas not only scratch up a storm (particularly those sensitive to flea saliva), but they can develop secondary skin infections in response to just one bite. Fleas also transmit bacteria that can lead to illness, including:

  • Hemotrophic mycoplasmosis: A red blood cell infection in cats
  • Cat scratch fever: Can lead to illness in carrier cats and people who are scratched by them
  • Tapeworms: Intestinal parasites that can cause gastrointestinal upset and anemia
Ticks are notorious for transmitting Lyme disease, but they also carry a multitude of other diseases, including:
  • Anaplasmosis: Affects red blood cells and can cause symptoms similar to Lyme disease
  • Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever: Actually occurs in the East Coast, Midwest and Plains regions of the United States
  • Babesiosis: A red blood cell parasite that can cause anemia and severe disease in some cases

Finally, mosquitos are known for pestering us on warm summer nights, but it’s the heartworms they transmit that are the real concern for our pets. Heartworms are often deadly for dogs and cats. While there is treatment for heartworms in dogs, it can be hard on them and is very expensive. Unfortunately, there is no treatment for heartworm disease in cats.

Buzz Off
How can a pet parent keep those buzzing, jumping, biting bugs at bay? Monthly oral and topical preventatives are available for both dogs and cats to protect against heartworm disease and limit their exposure to fleas, ticks and mosquitos.
Many pet parents mistakenly think such preventive steps are only necessary in warm weather, but applying them year-round should be a no-brainer. Pet owners who live in mild climates have to contend with hungry bugs all year, but even a few warmer-than- average days in colder climates are enough to put pets at risk.
Likewise, “indoor-only” pets are not automatically outside the danger zone. It only takes one mosquito bite to transmit heartworms, and more than one pet parent has heard that familiar buzzing in their home. Monthly treatments are your pet’s best defense.
You can take prevention one step further in the case of Lyme disease, which takes at least 24 hours for the tick to transmit. Checking pets daily, especially after they have been in the woods or high grass, can help spot ticks before they spread sickness. A Lyme vaccine is also available for dogs, so ask your veterinarian whether she recommends it.
Remember, when it comes to backyard pests like fleas, ticks and mosquitos, your pets deserve that ounce of prevention!