People expect to get mosquito bites in warmer months, but are you aware that they attack your dog, too? We and our four-legged companions are ringing the dinner bell when we go outside unprotected. These pesky, biting mosquitoes are equally as irritating to your dog as they are to you, but there are different risk factors to consider where your pooches' health is concerned. There are more than 200 different species of mosquitoes in the U.S.
, and they will find you wherever you live. They can be a year-round concern in southern states where high temperatures and humidity are present for much of the year. Not only do mosquitoes spread disease such as West Nile virus, they are really annoying pests.
They can cause skin irritation and allergic reactions in many dogs. It may come as a surprise to some that the biggest risk factor is canine heartworm disease, which results from parasitic worms living in the heart and pulmonary arteries of dogs and other mammals (including wolves, coyotes, foxes and other wild canids). The disease is not spread directly from dog to dog. This serious, potentially life-threatening condition can only be transmitted by the bite of mosquitoes! Spread of the disease therefore coincides with the mosquito season.
Dogs infected with heartworms can live several years before manifesting any symptoms. As a result, the disease is typically diagnosed in 4 to 8 year old dogs, and is seldom identified in a dog under 1 year of age. This is because the young heartworms (larvae) take up to 7 months to mature following the initial infection, and the adult worms can live up to 5 years. Some dogs will not show any specific symptoms. However, the most obvious indicators are cough, exercise intolerance, abnormal lung sounds, difficulty in breathing, enlargement of the liver, fluid accumulation in the abdominal cavity and abnormal heart sounds. Most dogs can be successfully treated for heartworms if the disease is detected early.
If you suspect your precious pooch may have heartworms, seek the advice of a qualified veterinarian immediately. It only takes one mosquito bite to transmit the heartworm parasite - and long hair offers no protection! Even if your dog spends most of it's time indoors, there will still be times when you take them for a walk or let them go outside to play or use the bathroom. The good news is that heartworm infection can be prevented by simply giving your dog a monthly pill prescribed by your veterinarian. Before beginning a prevention program, though, a blood test is necessary to determine that your dog is not already infected. This is typically done during puppy hood. If the blood test is negative for heartworms, the prevention pill should be given monthly from early spring until the end of December in cooler climates.
It may also be given to your dog year round. As a safeguard, many veterinarians recommend annual or biannual screening tests even when preventative medication is being administered. Why take a chance with your 'best friend's' health when prevention is so simple? Make sure your companion lives to a ripe old age. With more people enjoying the great outdoors with their canine companions, those dinner bells are ringing loudly. Keep mosquitoes from chewing on your dog by using one of the many repellents available from your vet - and don't forget to use mosquito repellent to keep them from nibbling on you, too.
Janet Winter is a web designer, travel agent and writer on many topics. She has a deep love for animals and delights in providing helpful resources and unique products for your pampered dogs at APamperedDog.com.