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Keeping Your Dog Protected From Mosquitoes
It is important to keep mosquitoes away from our dogs and other pets. Most of us are aware of the danger mosquitoes pose to our bodies but, what about the danger to our dogs? Mosquitoes are a far greater risk to our dogs than to us.
Other than being annoying and causing itchy bites, mosquitoes can transmit heartworms. In fact, there is no other way a dog can get heartworms. A heartworm is a parasite that lives in the heart and arteries of an infected animal. When a dog has heartworms that are left untreated he can develop heartworm disease and heartworm disease is a potentially fatal disease.
How Does the Mosquito Transmit Heartworms?
First a mosquito must bite an animal that is already infected with heartworms. The mosquito will then ingest the larvae of the heartworm. Then the mosquito with the larvae in it’s body unknowingly helps the larvae to develop and grow inside his own body. The mosquito then bites your dog and the infected larvae stays in your dog’s skin or tissue for around 2 months while it grows and develops into an adolescent heartworm. Up until this point a preventative given to your dog should kill the larvae. So as long as your dog is treated before the larvae hits his bloodstream, you may never know that he has been infected. However, at the next stage, around 4 to 5 months, the adolescent or developing adult heartworm will enter your dog’s bloodstream and heart. Once the heartworm enters the bloodstream it cannot be prevented only treated. Once the heartworm reaches his full adult stage after about 5 to 6 months it is considered an adult heartworm often reaching twelve inches long and is capable of producing it’s own larvae for 5 to 7 years but, only if there is a male and female heartworm present. The entire process from the original bite until the full grown heartworm is taking a tole on your dog’s arteries and every other organ and tissue it comes in contact with, therefore the earlier you are able to eliminate the larvae, the better.
Oddly enough, the babies that are produced by the adult heartworm called, microfilariae cannot cause heartworms all on their own, they actually have to pass through a host, which is the mosquito's body. The larvae has a limited amount of time to be sucked up by the mosquito so if there is no mosquito to feed on the larvae, the cycle can be stopped. Therefore, treating your yard and any other area where your dog can be bitten is important at all stages. Areas where the weather is hot and humid are most susceptible and should be treated year around, not just in the Summer months.
Keeping Mosquitoes Away
First of all, prevention is always best and the best way to prevent mosquitoes is to make your yard unattractive to them. Eliminate all areas that are wet or moist and keep a close check on areas that do not drain well after each rainfall.
Research has shown that one of the most obvious attractants, often used by scientists to attract mosquitoes for research is carbon dioxide. Therefore, when your dog is active and breathing harder he actually becomes more attractive to mosquitoes. We certainly want our dogs to remain active, so it is pertinent that he be treated to keep him from becoming a buffet for the hungry little beasts.
Another major attractant of mosquitoes is strong body odor especially when combined with moist, warm skin. Mosquitoes will seek out dogs that smell bad. One of the best ways to prevent your dog from having body odor is to bathe him frequently. Try not to use a dog shampoo that has a high perfume content as this also attracts mosquitoes. A topical repellent made especially for dogs is the best choice to apply to your dog. There are several flea and tick treatments like Advantax that also contain mosquito repellant as well.
Some dogs have an actual allergy to the mosquito bite. The first sign of a mosquito bite allergy is if your dog bites at the bitten area, often until it bleeds. When your dog has an allergy to mosquitoes, the mosquito bite will swell and appear more like welts than the typical mosquito bite and will stay swollen and irritated for several days. One of the risks associated with mosquito bite allergies is that the bite may become infected. An infected mosquito bite can cause inflammation and lead to other health concerns. If you believe or fear that your dog might be allergic to mosquitoes it is best to have him tested by your veterinarian, where he can have his blood analyzed to determine his exact allergy.
Education Is The Key
Because the mosquito can pose threats to you and your dog it is best to prevent and treat early on. If you can do your part to help make your yard safer for your dog and other dogs in your area then we may be able to cut down on the number of dogs that die of heartworm disease each year. Educating yourself and those around you to the risks that mosquitoes pose is the best way to start.