As pet parents, we all know how important it is to protect our furry family members from fleas and ticks but keeping them safe from mosquitos doesn’t seem to come up as often. Of course, mosquito bites are just as uncomfortable for dogs and cats as they are for us. The real issue with these pests is their ability to transmit diseases. Fortunately, keeping our pets free from mosquitos is easier than you might think. In this article, we’ll discuss the mosquito in all it’s disgusting glory. We’ll go through its life cycle, talk about some of the diseases caused by mosquitos, and best of all, show you how to prevent mosquitos from bugging your pet.
Mosquito Bite Side Effects
We all know that mosquito bites can feel very uncomfortable, but they can also cause lots of problems for you and your pet. The most common disease transmitted by mosquitoes is Heartworm. Heartworm happens when a mosquito bites an already infected host animal, then transmits the larvae to a new victim, which could be a dog or cat. Once inside a dog or cat’s body, the heartworm larvae will mature into adults over a 3 to 4-month period. If they grow big enough, heartworms can seriously damage a pet’s lungs, major arteries, and eventually, the heart. Heartworm is treatable if caught early enough, but treatment is always time-consuming and expensive. Fortunately, we can easily prevent our pets from contracting this disease.
Another increasingly common mosquito-born illness is the West Nile Virus. This illness originated in Africa but has become more prevalent in other parts of the world, including the United States. The virus generally doesn’t cause problems for cats, but dogs may exhibit flu-like symptoms. These include fever, listlessness, and swollen lymph nodes. Currently, there is no known cure for the West Nile Virus. All we can do is treat the symptoms.
Cats in particular can develop allergic reactions to mosquito bites. Symptoms of such a reaction may include the appearance of skin lesions and/or ulcers, swollen lymph nodes, or fever. Cortisone injections may be needed to treat extreme cases, but most of these reactions will eventually resolve themselves. Dogs may develop hot spots as a result of constantly scratching mosquito bites. These sores look disgusting, but can be treated with a number of sprays, shampoos, or other medications.
The Mosquito Life Cycle
Learning about mosquitoes will make it much easier for you to protect your pet. While there are thousands of mosquito species worldwide, they all have a few things in common. For instance, they all need to live in shallow water or moist soil. They all have a strong preference for warm, humid climates, and they all require a blood meal before they can lay eggs.
The mosquito life cycle has four stages: egg, larvae, pupae, and adult. This life cycle is quite brief, lasting only days in ideal conditions.
Female mosquitos can lay anywhere from 40 to 400 eggs at a time. They float on the surface of the water, either alone or in groups called “rafts.” Depending on the species, the eggs may be laid directly on the surface of still water, along its edges, in tree holes, or in areas prone to flooding from rain, irrigation, etc., The eggs hatch and become larvae within 48 hours.
Mosquitos in the larval stage must live in water to survive. In most species, the larvae hang suspended just below the water surface because they require air in order to breathe. An air tube, called a siphon, extends from the larva’s posterior and acts as a snorkel. The larvae feed on aquatic microorganisms during this phase. As they feed, larvae outgrow their exterior covering and form new exoskeletons, casting off the old ones. This process, which is called molting, happens four times. The larval stage lasts anywhere from four to fourteen days, depending on species, water temperature, and food availability.
While in the pupal stage mosquitos do not feed. They spend their time resting and growing, very much like a butterfly would, except that the end result isn’t nearly as attractive. Generally, they spend around 2 days in this third phase, growing until the cocoons break open, allowing the adults to emerge.
The newly emerged adult mosquitoes rest on the surface of the water while waiting for their wings to dry and their bodies to harden. Males usually emerge before the females. Male mosquitos feed only on plant nectar as adults. Only the females take blood meals, which are required for mating and egg development. While males typically live for just one week, a female with an adequate food supply can live for up to five months. The average life span for female mosquitos is around six weeks. Generally, she will mate and lay eggs every six or seven days.
The Power of Prevention
You’ll be able to keep mosquitoes from bugging your pet by using a high-quality preventative, just like with fleas and ticks. When choosing a flea and tick preventative, be sure the product you choose also kills or repels mosquitoes. These products help keep mosquitoes away from your pet to begin with. If they do land on him, the medication will kill them quickly, so your pet doesn’t get infested. Here are some key things to know about mosquito preventatives.
- They come in many forms, including topical, Collars, sprays, and pills.
- Make sure the product you choose kills mosquitoes on contact. These products are most efficient when it comes to preventing bug bites.
- If you have a dog, use prevention for If you have a cat, use prevention specific to cats
- Purchase a product designed for your pet’s size and weight. For example, if you have a large dog, purchase a preventative for large dogs within their weight parameters. –
- No matter which product you choose, follow the directions carefully.
If you’re not sure which type of prevention to try for your dog or cat, here are a few things to keep in mind. Topical products, which come in little tubes that you squeeze on your pet’s back, are the most commonly used. They need to be applied each month. Flea collars are probably the most convenient. They last for several months at a time, which makes life easier for you, but the collars can come off, which could be a problem if not noticed right away.
Many flea collars will repel mosquitos, not kill them on contact like a topical product, so read the packaging carefully. Flea sprays need to be applied weekly but work well in conjunction with a topical product or collar. Pills can sometimes be easier to give your pet, but they don’t kill on contact. That means mosquitoes won’t die unless they actually bite your pet.
If you’re a pet parent that has concerns about chemicals, there are natural preventatives available for dogs and cats. We strongly recommend using a flea preventative year-round, even if you live somewhere with a dry climate or cold winter. This is especially true if you travel with your pet, board him, or take him to dog parks.
Another way to protect your pet is to keep them on a regular Heartworm prevention schedule. Since heartworm is transmitted by mosquitoes, giving your pup her monthly pill is a great way to keep her from contracting this debilitating disease. Heartworm preventative is available from your veterinarian. We strongly recommend year-round heartworm prevention as well, just for safety.
Treating Mosquito Infestations
Keeping your pet current on his regular prevention is the best thing you can do when it comes to mosquitoes. Fortunately, these pests don’t infest our dogs and cats like fleas do, so treatment isn’t nearly as complicated. Dogs and cats may exhibit redness or swelling at the sight of a mosquito bite, but this generally goes away after a few hours. Using topical creams containing hydrocortisone may help your pet deal better with the itching. If your fur kid has an allergic reaction to a mosquito bite, your vet may recommend medicated baths, sprays, or a cortisone shot to fight the reaction.
Treating Your Yard
Mosquitoes don’t typically infest our homes, but they certainly love hanging out in our yards, especially in warm or damp weather. Since they require water for most of their life cycle, getting rid of any standing water will go a long way when it comes to controlling the mosquito population on your property. Here are a few steps you can take.
- Get rid of all standing water to prevent egg laying. Empty bird baths, clean rain gutters, and get rid of leaf litter. Try to prevent excess water from collecting in potted plants as well. If not, empty the canister outside whenever possible. If there are bodies of water you can’t drain, you can apply an insecticide in those areas designed to kill mosquito eggs and larvae.
- Treat your home with an insecticide. Whether you call the exterminator or do it yourself, you’ll need to treat your home with some sort of insecticide. Make sure the product you use kills fleas in all stages of the life cycle. Be sure to read the label and follow all directions carefully. Do your research before you begin this process if you’re planning to do it yourself. Hiring a professional exterminator will likely give you the best results. Give special attention to flower beds, mulch beds, ornamental plants, and ground cover. When treating plants, be sure to spray under, as well as over, the leaves. This is important because mosquitos like resting on the shaded undersides of leafy plants. Try treating your yard during the warmest parts of the day for maximum efficiency may need to water your yard in order to activate the insecticides, so be sure to read the instructions carefully!
Hopefully, this article has helped you learn about mosquito prevention and control. If you have questions about which product to use on your dog or cat or anything else related to mosquitos, please contact us. We’re here to help your dog or cat live a happy, pest-free life!