Do Mosquitoes Bite Dogs?

Do Mosquitoes Bite Dogs?

Lazy summer evenings are the perfect time to relax on your porch or patio, reading a book or chatting with friends while your dog snuggles up next to you. Unfortunately, mosquitoes tend to be frequent party crashers on these otherwise enjoyable summer nights. 

As you swat a mosquito biting your arm or wave away a mosquito buzzing in your ear, you may find yourself wondering: do mosquitoes bite dogs? Let’s find out!

Do Mosquitoes Bite Dogs?

Yes, mosquitoes bite dogs on a regular basis. Female mosquitoes must consume blood to produce eggs. While there are some species that prefer to feed on reptiles and birds, many mosquitoes feed on mammals. Their preferred food source can include people, dogs, and other animals.   

Mosquitoes locate their animal hosts in a variety of ways. The most well-known method by which mosquitoes find their hosts is the detection of carbon dioxide, which all animals release when breathing (1). However, mosquitoes can also use other odors and oils produced by their animal hosts to locate their next meal.

Unfortunately, a thick coat does little to protect dogs against mosquitoes. Even double-coated dogs tend to have unhaired areas around their belly and groin. Therefore, these dogs are also susceptible to mosquito bites and mosquito-borne disease.

Do Dogs Get Itchy From Mosquito Bites?

Mosquito bites are notoriously itchy in people, and they can also cause itching for dogs. 

Many dogs are allergic to proteins that are found within mosquito saliva. When mosquitoes feed, they inject a small amount of this saliva to help the blood flow freely. This exposure to mosquito saliva proteins can trigger itching and inflammation in dogs who are bit by mosquitoes. 

What Do Mosquito Bites Look Like on Dogs?

Like their human companions, dogs often experience redness, swelling, and itching at the site of a mosquito bite. However, these lesions can be subtle; they may be less obvious than human mosquito bites. Bites that occur on haired areas may be especially difficult to see.

Mosquito Bites on Dogs: Risks to Know

While itching and swelling are unpleasant consequences of a mosquito bite, they pale in comparison to the risk posed by heartworm disease. 

Heartworm disease is a parasitic infection that spreads through the bite of mosquitoes. When an infected mosquito bites a dog, microscopic heartworm larvae are injected into the dog’s tissues. These larvae migrate through the tissues and enter the bloodstream, gradually maturing into spaghetti-like adult heartworms. Adult heartworms lodge in the vessels surrounding the heart and lungs, causing inflammation and interfering with blood circulation. Without treatment, heartworm disease can be fatal in dogs. 

Mosquitoes can also transmit other diseases, such as tularemia and West Nile virus. Fortunately, these infections are rare in dogs. However, they can be serious when they occur.  

In a dog allergic to mosquito bites, these bites can trigger a significant reaction. Affected dogs may develop hives, generalized itching, and inflammation of the skin. In some cases, dogs may scratch themselves until they damage their skin barrier, allowing a secondary bacterial infection to develop.

How to Treat Mosquito Bites on Dogs

The biggest risk associated with mosquito bites is heartworm disease. Therefore, the most important treatment for mosquito bites is to ensure that your dog is on an effective, year-round heartworm prevention. Talk to your veterinarian about the best heartworm prevention option for your dog. 
If your dog has skin inflammation caused by mosquito bites, reach out to your veterinarian for guidance. Your veterinarian may prescribe a short course of oral medication or medicated shampoo to alleviate itching. Your veterinarian may also recommend a physical exam, to check for a skin infection and other problems that may be causing skin itching and inflammation. Your veterinarian can also help you distinguish between flea bites vs. mosquito bites on dogs.

How to Prevent Mosquito Bites on Dogs

Human insect repellants, which often contain DEET, should not be used on dogs and cats. However, mosquito repellant for dogs may be helpful.  

Permethrin is an insect repellant that is safe for use in dogs. Some topical parasite control products contain permethrin, which can help reduce the risk of mosquito bites on dogs. However, permethrin is highly toxic to cats. If you have cats in your home, talk to your veterinarian before using a preventative that contains permethrin. 

The best way to prevent mosquito bites is to limit the number of mosquitoes around your home. Remove standing water that mosquitoes use for breeding, overturning pots or dishes that may collect rainwater. Use citronella candles when spending time outdoors on your patio but avoid citronella plants (which may be toxic to dogs). Essential oils can also help ward off mosquitoes, but they should not be applied directly to pets due to the risk of toxicity.   

While dawn and dusk often mean pleasant weather for dog-walking, they are also the most popular feeding time for many mosquito species. Limiting your dog’s outdoor time at dawn and dusk can help reduce the risk of mosquito bites. 

Finally, ensure that your dog is receiving year-round heartworm prevention. Heartworm disease is the most significant risk associated with dogs and mosquito bites, and it only takes a single bite for a dog to become infected. No amount of environmental control or carefully timed dog walking can completely eliminate the risk of mosquito bites, but heartworm prevention can at least eliminate the risk of heartworm disease.

Reference

Reference

  1. Torgan, Carol. “How Mosquitoes Detect People.” National Institutes of Health. Dec. 2013. Retrieved from

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