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Mosquitoes and Pets: How to Protect Pets from Mosquitoes

Mosquitoes and pets do not mix. Your pets are not immune to mosquito bites – they can suffer as much as you do. But when it comes to mosquito bites, pets face some risks that humans don’t. The biggest threat pets face from mosquito bites is heartworm, a potentially deadly infection. Knowing how to protect pets from mosquitoes is not just about comfort, it’s about the health of your furry friend.

Why Mosquitoes Bite

Mosquitoes generally feed on plant nectar, which is very short of protein! Female mosquitoes need protein for to develop their eggs, which they get from the blood meals they take. The blood is not food source and the mosquitoes get no nutrition from it. That’s why only females bite – the males live on nectar.

There are over 3,500 described species of mosquito, and there may be more that have not yet been cataloged by science. With so many types of mosquitoes, it is not surprising that their biting habits vary widely. There are mosquito species that attack almost every type of creature. Many mosquitoes go after mammals, but other go after birds, reptiles, and even some fish.

Unfortunately, the most common mosquitoes in the United States are all mammal-seekers. That includes humans and their pets. Mosquitoes will suck the blood of any warm-blooded animal – you, your dog, your cat, and even your horse. That’s why it’s important to keep your pets in mind with your mosquito control system.

The Threat of Heartworms

Microfilaria

Microfilaria (400x magnified) By Joelmills (en wikipedia) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC BY-SA 2.5 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5)], via Wikimedia Commons

The greatest threat to pets from mosquito bites is heartworm. Heartworms are spread mostly by mosquitoes. Heartworms often infect wild mammals, including foxes, coyotes, wolves, and even sealions. As humans spread further into the suburbs and rural areas, many pets are not far from these wild animals.

In a wild animal infected with heartworms, the adult heartworms produce microscopic offspring that live in the blood of the animal. When a mosquito bites an infected wild animal and takes a blood meal, it takes in the offspring, called microfilaria, along with the blood. It takes 10 to 14 days for the microfilaria to mature inside the mosquito until they become infectious. Once they have reached that stage, any animal the mosquito bites can become infected with the heartworms, including you favorite pet.

Symptoms of Heartworm Infection in Dogs

Unfortunately, there are few signs of heartworm infection until the disease has progressed to a pretty serious stage. The best way to protect pets is with heartworm medication, which can prevent the initial infection. But once a dog is infected the infection will progress with few symptoms until it’s nearly too late.

The first noticeable signs of heartworm disease in a dog include a mild persistent cough, an unusual unwillingness to exercise, and unusual fatigue after only moderate levels of activity. An infected dog might also lose its appetite and could lose weight. As the disease progresses and the heartworks spread and grow, more severe symptoms can appear. A dog may seem to have a swollen belly from fluid that collects in the abdomen.

If the heartworm infection in a dog goes untreated, the worms will grow and multiply until they block blood flow, causing acute cardiovascular failure. Its breathing will become labored, its gums will turn white, and its urine may be bloody or coffee colored. A dog in this state needs immediate surgical attention to remove the worms or it will die.mosquitoes and pets: mosquito control image

How to Keep Pets Safe

Mosquitoes can be more than just an annoyance for your pets. Here are some mosquito control tips on how to protect pets from bites.

Keep Pets Indoors: Mosquitoes are most active early in the morning, just as the sun is rising and from dusk into the evening. They don’t like it sunny, and prefer it slightly dark and with low wind. If possible, keep your pets indoors early in the morning and from dusk onwards. Alternatively, put them in an enclosure fitted with a screen, such as show to the right.

Keep Away From Swarms: Mosquito control 101 is to keep pets away from areas where mosquitoes tend to swarm. Most people know where these areas are around their neighborhood, but, when walking your dog, look for still ponds and marshes, standing puddles and anywhere else known to be bad for mosquito bites. Your pets suffer just as much as you do!

Basic Mosquito Control: Mr. Mister has written many times about Atlanta mosquito control on this blog. Basic mosquito control involves clearing away any containers that can hold standing water: cans, pails, old tires, blocked gutters and the area around drains and downpipes. By taking these simple actions you can protect yourself, your family and your pets from being bitten.

Water Butts and Wet Lawns: Water butts are a dream for many mosquitoes, so include them in your mosquito control program. Cover them in fine mesh to prevent mosquitoes getting in and laying eggs on the water surface. Damp lawns, that are not spiked to allow rainwater to drain away, can also harbor mosquitoes and their eggs. Your cat or dog can get bitten when these eggs develop into larvae and then adults. Spike lawns to allow standing water to drain away.

Change Feeding Bowls: If you pet spends a lot of time outdoors, then make sure you regularly clean out the feeding and water bowls. A mosquito can go through the entire lifecycle in 4-14 days depending on the climate and species. It is not impossible for a bowl left for 5 days in wet, warm weather to produce hundreds of mosquitoes.

NEVER use DEET: NEVER use DEET on animals. This is dangerous to your pets, and its safety with humans is not yet sure. Mr. Mister does not use DEET in any of our mosquito control systems. Picaridin is safer for humans, but not for your pets. Citronella and eucalyptus oil may be safer but get the advice of your vet before using any mosquito repellant on your pet.

Mosquitoes Indoors: Mosquitoes can easily get indoors, but you can reduce the likelihood by using screens on your windows and doors. Homes with damp basements can be home to mosquitoes over winter and that suddenly appear indoors in spring. Make sure your basement is dry and check under the sink – dark, dank areas can be a mosquito heaven!

Mosquitoes and Pets: Best Mosquito Control Systems for Pets

Mosquitoes and pets do not mix, and the best mosquito control systems for your pets are also the best for you. Right now, in winter, is the best time to clear up your yard and make sure that you remove all standing water and also prospective dark hiding places for the insects. Check out your attic and basement, and any other places that might be damp and breed mosquitoes.

Follow the above advice and you will have done all you can to protect your pets from mosquito bites come spring. However, when spring is near, contact Mr. Mister and we can arrange to set up a mosquito misting system for you to protect your yard and home 24/7. We will also first check out your yard and treat all areas to remove existing infestations.

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