PET HEALTH CORNER: Four summer bugs to look out for

by | General Pet Care |

Summer is great for a lot of things, but maybe people would not say bugs are one of them. There are a number of bugs that can be specifically bad for our pets, so Dave Wilson, director of Shelter Health & Wellness at the Ontario SPCA is going to tell you what to look out for, and how to treat it. Check out this Pet Health Corner blog on the top bugs of the summer; mosquitoes, fleas, ticks and flies.

Four summer bugs to be on the lookout for

1. Mosquitoes

Mosquitoes can definitely be annoying for our pets as well as us, and cause local irritation, but Wilson says the major concern is that they can transmit heart worm.

“Heart worm isn’t just a disease of Southern Ontario anymore, it’s everywhere,” he says.

Wilson suggests that all dogs be on heart worm medication during mosquito season. If the animal contracts the disease, he says treatment is costly, lengthy, and has health risks involved.

“If you don’t treat them, it’ll eventually kill the animal, it’ll cause the heart to fail,” he says.

2. Fleas

Wilson says adult fleas only spend 5 per cent of their life on an animal, then 95 per cent spent off it, digesting food and laying eggs.

“The only reason they jump on the animal is to get a blood meal. They need blood to reproduce,” he says. For more details on what fleas are and how they can be attracted to your pet, see our previous blog, “Fleas and how to beat them.”

There’s a variety of products to prevent fleas, Wilson says, including products applied by mouth, or to skin. He says there are some treatments where the flea doesn’t even have to bite, just land on the skin.

Because flea bites are irritating, Wilson says the animal will bite and scratch to relieve it, which can cause secondary skin trauma and lead to a skin infection. He says he’s seen a heavy flea burden in young animals that actually caused them to suffer from anemia because the blood loss was so great.

But Wilson says the biggest concern with fleas is that they can transfer tape worm.

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photo credit: SCHAFE ZIEGE UND IHR WÄCHTER via photopin (license)

3. Ticks

Wilson says the biggest problem with ticks is that they can transmit Lyme disease. To learn more about what ticks are and where they can be found, check out “The Truth about Ticks.”

Again, there are a number of different products available, and Wilson says the main thing is to find a product that’s specifically effective.

“The big thing with tick control is definitely speaking with your veterinarian and choosing a product that is effective for the tick that carries lyme disease,” he says.

If you live in a heavily forested area, Wilson says to check your pets thoroughly after each walk for ticks in their fur.

He says there are some insect repellants that can be used to repel ticks, but before using them it’s important to speak with your vet.

“These insect repellant products are designed for human use, not for animal use,” he says.

4. Flies

Biting flies like horse and deer flies like to bite thin skin with lots of blood, like around the ears, Wilson says. He says this can cause a lot of itching and irritation which draws more blood, and attracts more flies.

This cycle, Wilson says can lead to secondary skin infections where the skin is sore, infected and crusted with blood. He says you can talk to your vet about pet-friendly fly-repellant to use on your dog or cat.

“That’s where you really have to work with your veterinarian to choose the product that works for your pet but also works for your lifestyle,” he says.

Wilson says this applies to all four categories. Some medicine is taken by mouth, others chewable, others applied to skin. He says working with your veterinarian, it’s important to find a method that fits your lifestyle, pet, and needs well.