The merciless mosquito thrives in warm, humid conditions and lives and breeds in standing water. Any pool of water that has been stagnant for three days is a prime habitat for this dangerous parasite. Female mosquitoes can lay up to 300 eggs at one time, and their offspring usually stay within 300 feet of where they hatched. This means that most mosquitoes you see in your yard were actually born in your neighborhood!
Mosquitoes use heat-sensing receptors in their antennae to locate warm-blooded prey, like your dog, and then they move in for the attack. Contrary to popular belief, mosquitoes don’t really feed on blood—the females just collect it so that they can use its protein for their developing eggs. However, mosquitoes are responsible for transmitting a variety of serious—sometimes fatal—diseases to pets, including:
- Heartworm:Transmitted by a bite from an infected mosquito, heartworms are found throughout the United States and Canada. Heartworms live in the heart, lungs, and large blood vessels, where they can grow up to a foot long! When a mosquito bites a pet who already has circulating microscopic worms (known as microfilaria), the insect becomes infected and can then transmit the worms to another pet.
Both adult and immature heartworms may exist for years without causing symptoms. By the time coughing and difficulty breathing appear, pets are seriously ill. Treatment, which is aimed at killing adult as well as microscopic worms, has many potential complications—even death in cases of especially heavy infestations. Fortunately, heartworms are preventable with medication.
- Hot Spots: Mosquito bites are itchy, and if your pet continually licks, scratches, or bites at an irritated area of skin, he or she can develop what is known as a “hot spot.” These damaged, red areas are devoid of hair, with thickened skin, and an oozing, pus-like surface. Treatment begins with controlling the underlying cause—in this case, the mosquito problem!
- West Nile Virus: West Nile virus is a mosquito-borne illness that causes meningitis and/or encephalitis, sometimes resulting in death. It can also present as fever with related symptoms (sweating, chills, nausea), or quite commonly, not cause any obvious symptoms at all. Mosquitoes pick up the virus when they bite infected birds, they then transfer the virus to the next animal they bite—like your pet. There is currently no vaccine or cure available for West Nile.
You can control mosquitoes in a few ways. First, change stagnating water in places like birdbaths and wading pools every 48 hours to prevent mosquitoes from breeding, and spray the yard with a yard tick control, which kills or repels them. Protect your dog with a Spot On® treatment or spray that contains an insect-growth regulator, which disrupts the mosquito’s breeding cycle. Mosquitoes are most active at sunrise and twilight, so use extra care and repellent before venturing out at these hours for outdoor activities for dogs and cats.