By Tammy Gordon, Coachella Valley Mosquito and Vector Control District
and Doug Kunz, DVM, Medical Director, VCA Desert Animal Hospital
One of the joys of pet ownership is the time we get to spend with them outdoors. Walking our dogs in the early morning with a slight breeze and the sun cresting the mountains is a serene and meditative way to start the day. But one tiny sound can really ruin that revered time together and cause immediate feelings of irritation and dread: the sound of a buzzing mosquito.
Mosquitoes are annoying, but they can also spread disease to both people and pets. Just one bite from an infected female mosquito is enough for a person to develop diseases like West Nile virus. Symptoms include fever, headaches, and body aches. Hospitalization is required in some cases, and rare, serious cases can be fatal.
Additionally, an invasive mosquito is quickly establishing itself in urban areas across the United States. This problematic pest brings with it the potential to spread diseases like dengue, chikungunya, and Zika.
The major concern of mosquitoes with dogs is heartworm disease. Once a dog gets heartworm disease from a mosquito, the treatment is complicated and has serious side effects. As the heartworms are killed, they can break apart and form clots in the blood vessels that can be life threatening. Prevention is much better than treatment.
Heartworm disease is easily preventable by giving a monthly preventative treatment. But, as veterinarian Dr. Doug Kunz points out, “The most important reason to treat our dogs monthly is to prevent the establishment of the dog heartworm locally. If a visitor brings a pet that has heartworm disease to our area, a mosquito can pick up the heartworm when she blood-feeds and then potentially transmit them to other dogs. The more local dogs are protected, the less likely heartworm disease will be established.”
The best defense against mosquitoes is to prevent mosquitoes from breeding near you or entering your home, and preventing you and your pet from the mosquito’s dangerous bite.
Horses can also be affected by mosquito borne illnesses such as West Nile virus or Western Equine Encephalitis. West Nile virus, in particular, is fatal in 33% of infected horses that exhibit clinical signs. Prevention is very important for the health of the horses. Horse owners should consult their veterinarian for vaccination recommendations.
You can protect yourself, your furry friends, and the fur babies of your neighbors by practicing a few easy steps.
Cats can get heartworms after being bitten by an infected mosquito; however, they are not as susceptible to infection as dogs.
Prevent mosquitoes in the first place.
Mosquitoes need water to lay eggs. They only need one tablespoon of water to accomplish this. To prevent mosquitoes, prevent having a desirable habitat in your yard and use water responsibly.
■ Pet dishes should be cleaned and refreshed daily.
■ Containers that hold water for more than a few days are mosquito breeding sources. Water that collects under potted plants is the number one breeding source we find.
■ Check lawn drains around your home for water and debris. Clean them regularly.
■ Swimming pools and fountains require working pumps and regular maintenance.
Protect yourself from mosquito bites.
■ Dusk and dawn are when mosquitoes are most active. Limit outdoor activities.
■ Wear insect repellent that contains EPA-registered ingredients such as DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus, or IR3535. Note: Essential oils, repellent bracelets, and mosquito repelling plants are not an effective way of protecting yourself against mosquitoes.
■ Cover up. Wear long sleeve shirts, long pants, socks, and shoes when outdoors.
■ Check window and door screens to prevent mosquitoes from entering your home.
Protect your animals from mosquito bites.
Ask your local veterinarian about preventative treatment—this is your pet’s best defense against mosquito-borne illnesses.