Bugs, insects, and arachnids may be tiny, but these pests can cause big problems for your pet. Issues range from minor irritation and swelling to life-threatening diseases and anaphylactic reactions. As you head out to enjoy summer fun with your four-legged friend, study up on how to protect them from bug bites and stings.

Flea problems in pets

Although fleas are one of the smallest bugs that can irritate your pet, they can cause serious problems if your furry pal has allergies. Flea-allergic pets are hypersensitive to a protein in flea saliva, and will break out in an itchy, scabby rash from a handful of flea bites. These pets will lick, chew, and scratch until their skin is raw and oozing in reaction to flea bites, and can develop secondary skin infections. Pets who ingest fleas while trying to soothe their itchy skin also can contract a tapeworm infection. Infected fleas harbor tapeworm larvae, which then can infect pets once ingested. 

Fleas are also troublesome because it is difficult to eradicate eggs and pupae—immature flea life stages—from your home. The tough shell on these life stages are virtually impenetrable to pesticides, which makes it possible for fleas to linger in your home for months. 

Tick problems in pets

Not only does finding a tick attached to your pet give you a creepy-crawly feeling, but it also doesn’t help that these bloodsucking pests can transmit a multitude of serious illnesses that can have lasting effects. Some of the most common diseases transmitted by ticks include:

  • Lyme disease
  • Rocky Mountain spotted fever
  • Anaplasmosis
  • Ehrlichiosis
  • Babesiosis

Tick-borne illnesses can lead to lameness, fever, lethargy, and lack of appetite, and may progress to clotting disorders, neurologic problems, or kidney failure. Prompt removal of any ticks you find on your pet can prevent disease transmission, so check your furry pal thoroughly for ticks after a trip outdoors.

Mosquito problems in pets

Mosquito bites can cause intense itching in people and pets alike, but the bites also can pass on heartworms. This blood-borne parasite can grow up to a foot in length and block blood flow through your pet’s heart, ultimately proving fatal. While treatment for heartworm disease is available for dogs, no approved treatment exists for cats. With the potentially fatal consequences of heartworm disease for pets, year-round prevention is a must to keep your four-legged friend safe.

Fly problems in pets

Although flies seem as if they’re simply an annoying pest as they buzz around your head, their bites can cause incredible pain in pets. Not only can your furry pal develop a large welt from a fly bite, but they also may suffer from flystrike, which occurs when fly larvae (i.e., maggots) invade your pet’s skin. Botflies also can cause Cuterebra infections, which occur when Cuterebra larvae, or warbles, develop in tissues under the skin. 

Spider problems in pets

While spider bites can cause discomfort for your pet, most won’t cause serious problems. However, bites from widow or brown recluse spiders can develop into an emergency situation. 

If your pet is bitten by a black or brown widow, they can develop:

  • Muscle pain and cramping
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Tremors
  • Agitation

Clinical signs also may progress to cause muscle rigidity, rapid heart and breathing rates, and abdominal pain.

If your pet is bitten by a brown recluse, they can develop:

  • Tissue necrosis at the bite site
  • Fever
  • Lethargy

In rare cases, kidney and clotting abnormalities also can occur.

Bee problems in pets

Bees, wasps, and hornets can swarm and attack your pet if they feel threatened, resulting in multiple painful stings that may cause an anaphylactic reaction. If a bee stings your pet, the stinger will be left behind, and can continue to inject venom until it is safely removed.

When a bug bite becomes an emergency for your pet

Bug bites and stings generally only cause swelling, inflammation, and irritation at the site, but some pets can suffer more severe allergic reactions. If your pet develops any of the following signs, head to Columbia Pike Animal Hospital for emergency treatment:

  • Extreme facial swelling
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Pale gums
  • Trembling
  • Weakness

Pets who are incredibly itchy also may require urgent care to soothe the irritation before their scratching and chewing lead to a secondary skin infection or trauma.

How to prevent bug bites in your pet

A wide variety of pesticides are available, but many are unsafe when used on or around pets. To safely protect your pet from bug bites, try the following tips:

  • Treat your yard — Treating your yard can be done safely by following label instructions on pet-safe products that tackle various environmental pests.
  • Avoid nests and hives — When letting your pet explore outside, keep them away from nests, hives, and other areas where insects might lurk.
  • Apply insect repellent — Avoid using insect repellents that contain DEET or various essential oils, as these ingredients can be hazardous to pets. Before dousing your pet in repellent, ask our veterinarian for a recommendation.
  • Administer parasite prevention — Year-round parasite prevention can protect your pet from fleas, ticks, and mosquitoes, and a multitude of intestinal parasites. Certain preventives also can repel biting insects.

Bug bites and stings can turn into an emergency situation if your pet suffers an anaphylactic reaction. Our Columbia Pike Animal Hospital team is always here for your pet, as our doors are always open. Call us for help treating your pet’s bug bites.