If our pets could talk, I’m sure we would hear a bunch of complaining about the variety of pests that can bother them. It’s no fun feeling itchy all the time, and can make the most good-natured pet grouchy. Unfortunately, we are coming into the peak season for skin irritation, and bugs and parasites are some of common causes. Itching should be properly investigated to establish the cause, but bug irritation can be one of the easier skin problems to prevent and treat.
Late spring and summer is obviously a peak time for insects like mosquitoes, biting flies and ticks—but we also see irritations caused by ants, spiders, bees and wasps due to bites or stings. I’m sure many of you have seen your pets trying to hunt insects. Recently, my own dog Merlin had to be distracted from an angry wasp that he was playing tag with at the window. Bites and stings can cause significant local irritation, especially in tender areas such as the mouth, and on some occasions can cause allergic reactions, which may require medical attention. Being observant and deterring cats, dogs or other nosey pets from playing with these insects can certainly avoid some pain and possibly a preventable vet visit.
Mosquitoes affect our pets in the same way that they affect us—small, sneaky bites can cause incessant itching. Some pets can also have allergies to mosquitoes that cause itchiness all over the body. It’s true that having a furry coat can help, but determined mosquitoes can make their way through dense fur—and bare bellies, armpits or ears are especially prone to bites. Keeping pets inside during the busy mosquito times of dawn and dusk, and avoiding thick vegetation can help. Human bug sprays can be very toxic to pets (some causing seizures and even death!), so please don’t use any human preparations. In fact, dogs are luckier than humans in the prevention of mosquito bites—there is a monthly topical treatment available from your veterinarian for dogs that stops mosquitoes and ticks from landing on them.
Last weekend, we were at an evening campfire and the mosquitoes were terrible. We had a smoky fire, full length clothing, and bug spray, but still they were driving us crazy. Our host’s large, very furry dog was also finding them annoying and wouldn’t settle down. The only happy animal that evening was our Merlin, who had his topical treatment applied for the month. It was like he had a mosquito-repelling force field around him—he was completely unaffected!
Summer is also a busier season for traveling out of the area with pets. We are quite lucky in the Peace Region to have a low risk of flea infestations, but in most other locations, pets are regularly treated to prevent fleas. Fleas are well-known to cause itchy pets—but did you know that fleas love to jump? Even a quick, friendly sniff between two animals at a campsite or dog park could have you bringing home unwelcome guests from your holiday. Prevention is the best cure for fleas. Travelling out of our area also increases the risk of illnesses spread by insects that bite. Heartworm and tick borne illnesses are contractible in many areas of the country, but can be avoided by preventing tick and flea bites in the first place. There are also more exotic diseases spread by insects further afield, so if you are traveling this summer, consider a travel consultation for the areas that you will be exploring.
Don’t let your pets suffer through the summer with constant bugging, or put them at risk of insect-borne diseases. Practice prevention to minimize negative effects of bugs by contacting your veterinary team for advice on the right prevention for your furry family.
Dr. Katharine North has been a resident and active participant in the Fort St. John community since her family immigrated to Canada from the United Kingdom as a child. Dr. North spent many hours at the North Peace Veterinary Clinic as a student and joined the practice as a veterinary associate upon graduation.