If you own a dog, you’re probably well acquainted with parasitic insects. You’ve likely spent hours of your life combing for fleas and checking for ticks.
While you’ve likely accepted that dealing with pests is part of the dog-owning experience, it’s essential to know how and why your dog is affected by them, as well as the potential dangers that they pose.
Fleas are by far the most common bug that dog owners encounter. These resilient tiny insects can be found just about anywhere where there’s humidity and shade, such as grass, sand, bushes, and piles of fallen leaves.
Fleas are opportunistic hunters, and they will use their incredible jumping ability to hop onto any furry animal that comes within reach. Once attached, a flea will make its way through the fur down to the skin to drink the animal’s blood, causing itching, irritation, and even anemia in more severe cases.
Once fleas make their way onto your pets, they can be hard to get rid of. Fleas reproduce at an alarming rate as a single female flea can lay up to 50 eggs per day. While many of these remain on your pet’s fur, most of them will fall off into the fibers of your carpet, creating a potential infestation without you even knowing about it.
If your furry friend likes to explore in tall grass or wooded areas, you’ve likely found a tick or two hitching a ride on their skin. Ticks are small parasitic arthropods that, like fleas, feed on the blood of their host until their body becomes swollen and engorged.
Fortunately, when a female tick has consumed enough blood, she will drop back to the ground to lay her egg ticks, so there is little threat of a tick infestation as long as you are checking your dog’s fur frequently. However, males don’t intentionally drop off their hosts and remain attached indefinitely or until removed.
In addition to all of the same symptoms as flea bites, ticks have been known to carry some pretty serious diseases, such as Lyme Disease and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever.
While common mosquitoes can be a nuisance for humans, these flying pests can have life-threatening effects on canines. The danger lies not in the mosquitos themselves but rather in the parasites they carry.
When a mosquito bites a dog, it can pass on the larvae of heartworms. These larvae make their way through a dog’s bloodstream to the heart or lungs, where they mature and grow into worms reaching lengths of over twelve inches! It goes without saying that a parasite anywhere near that size can have a fatal effect on a dog.
Fortunately, it’s possible to kill heartworm larvae before they become dangerous. Dr. Louise Murray, the Vice President of the ASPCA Animal Hospital in New York City, says: “The best way to avoid heartworm disease is to give your dog heartworm preventive, a once-a-month oral or topical prescription medication.”