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Articles > Dogs

Mosquitoes, Fleas and Biting Insects

Topic: Summer Care

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Filed under Dogs
Tags: Fleas, Ticks, Mosquitoes, Medical, Allergies

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Dogs are much more fortunate that humans when it comes to natural defenses against mosquitoes and other types of biting insects. Their coat, even if it is only short, acts as a natural barrier between the insect and the dog's skin. Dogs with very thick, heavy double coats are largely very protected from mosquitoes and biting insects, however the areas that are exposed such as the lower abdomen, the nose and even the eyes and lips can all be stung and bit, resulting in severe reactions in some dogs.

Fleas are actually more of a problem on the heavy coated dogs since there is more hair to protect the flea once it is on the dog's body. The very short, sleek coats are much easier to manage for owners and flea control is also more manageable. Fleas are a real problem for all dogs, not just because of the irritation but also because of their very allergic saliva and the possible issues with tapeworm issues from infected fleas.


Virtually all inhabited areas of the world have some problems with fleas, especially on pets such as dogs and cats. The ideal temperature for a flea is between 65 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit, with a humidity of up to 85%, just the conditions that are present throughout most of the world at least through the summer months. Indoor heating in houses also helps prolong the flea life cycle in northern areas and in the more southern climates these insects will be problematic all year round.

Fleas, unlike many insects, don't fly but they do jump long distances. Fleas don't actually attach to the surface of the dog's skin unless they are feeding, the rest of the time they are moving around on the dog's skin. They tend to favor the warmer, moist areas around the legs and the belly areas of the dog. Fleas may be seen crawling in and through the coat on lighter colored dogs but may be very difficult to see on dark haired pets. The most common symptom of fleas is scratching and licking, along with dark grainy pepper like granules on the skin known as flea dirt. This flea dirt is actually the waste material from the flea feeding on your pet's blood.

Historically flea medications could only kill adult fleas, which meant that treatment couldn't do anything about the eggs or larva. More modern options allow the adult flea to live, but produce eggs that cannot hatch. Through these types of monthly applications the flea population is relatively quickly eliminated from your home by treating only the dog. There are options for also treating the whole environment and the pet and they can also work very well either alone or in conjunction with other forms of treatment. In general just using flea powder, flea spray or a flea collar on a dog is not an effective management or control method for flea infestations.

Flea saliva is very irritating for dogs and can quickly lead to hot spots, lesions and infected areas on the skin. Keep these areas clean and dry and consult your vet for antibiotics that may be required to treat larger areas that are problematic. Corticosteriods and antihistamines can also be used to prevent severe allergic reactions in the short term.


Mosquitoes can be a huge problem in some areas of the country and in specific seasons and years. Wet spring and early summer months followed by hot weather is the most beneficial to mosquito numbers, resulting in more problems with both allergic reactions and mosquito borne diseases.

One of the most serious and problematic diseases carried by mosquitoes is West Nile Virus. While the actual rate of infection of West Nile Virus in dogs is very low, there are reported cases. The biggest issue with mosquitoes is that they carry heartworm, which is one of the preventable parasitic infections. Most monthly topical flea medications will also treat and prevent heartworm. If you are traveling to an area where heartworm is a concern be sure to treat your dog at least one or two months in advance or talk to your vet. Some of the monthly topical flea applications also work to repel mosquitoes, which is also beneficial and supports the heartworm preventative monthly medications.

There are several herbal or holistic types of mosquito repellent oils, sprays and powders that are very easy to apply and highly effective. Be sure to check with your vet as to what products they would recommend. Some dogs may be sensitive to essential oils and serious side-effects and toxic reactions have been reported. Avoid using human mosquito repellent, especially if it contains DEET, as this can be toxic even in small quantities to dogs or cats.

Keep your dog inside in the early morning and dusk hours when mosquitoes are most active. Avoid walking in wet or damp areas and also stay to the sunny areas out of the shade or out of wooded spaces. Drain ponds or pools that form around the dog's kennels or play area and remove large or small containers of stagnant water. Planting certain herbs and flowers will also help to naturally repel mosquitoes and will also help absorb moisture.

Biting Insects

Bees, wasps, hornets and other biting insects are typically less problematic for dogs than humans as dogs seem to know to stay away from these flying menaces. However sometimes a dog will get stung and will have a significant allergic reaction. Watch for signs of swelling, excessive licking, scratching or even biting at the area. If the bite is on the mouth or around the eyes, the dog may rub their head or scrape their head along the ground, resulting in further injury.

Sprays and antihistamine gels can be used to help relieve the irritation of the bite, but consult with your vet before using any human products. With moderate to mild swelling and irritation cold compresses will relieve some of the pain or itching, allowing the natural antibodies produced by the dog to remove the poison. Get the dog to a vet as quickly as possible to avoid any further complications or reaction.

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