Summer is a great time to play outside with your dog. The grass is green and inviting and the weather is great – what better time to throw a ball with your dog or go on an hours-long walk? Unfortunately, all this natural beauty and the extra exposure to the outdoors comes with some risks: mosquitos. And your dog can be affected, too. So you may know all the go-to remedies in treating mosquito bites on people, but do you know how to treat mosquito bites on dogs?
While fleas and ticks get the most attention, mosquito bites could cause everything from itching and discomfort to death in dogs as well. The experts at Hartz (makers of flea and tick collars and more) recommended that if your dog has a mosquito bite on their ear or nose, you should treat it with antibacterial cream so it doesn't become infected. If you notice your dog scratching a lot and you see signs of a mosquito bite, veterinarian Michele King recommended on Wag! to bathe your dog in cold water to relieve the itching. Dr. King cautioned that if you see signs of an allergic reaction, like facial swelling or trouble breathing, you should seek veterinary care as soon as possible.
Crazy as it sounds, if you are seeing swelling or extreme itchiness, experts say you can give your dog Benadryl to help relieve his symptoms. While according to Dr. King, it's safe to administer an antihistamine to a dog, if it doesn't help and the dog still is itchy and uncomfortable, it's probably a good idea to call the vet. CertaPet recommends 1 mg of Benadryl for 1 pound of body weight.
In some ways, the best treatment might be prevention. No, this doesn't mean spraying your dog with your kids' bug spray every time you go for a walk. In fact, this could be the worst thing you can do. Human-intended bug sprays might be effective for us, but they’re toxic for our furry friends. The main ingredient in most bug sprays, DEET, can cause dogs to have extreme toxic reactions, including vomiting or seizures (if ingested), conjunctivitis or corneal ulceration (if it gets in their eyes) when dogs are exposed to it, according to the ASPCAPro.
Since you're probably stocking up on flea and tick products this time of year anyway, check out ones that also are made to repel mosquitos. Similarly, check with your vet before trying any natural insect repellents, like essential oils. These may be a solution on humans, but don't assume they're equally safe for your dog.
Hartz also suggested keeping your dog inside during the early morning and late evening hours, when the mosquitos are the most active, and to do a check of your backyard and remove all standing water, where mosquitos breed.
The mosquito bite concern goes far beyond wanting to make sure your dog isn't too itchy and doesn't scratch a bite enough so that it becomes infected. Neither of those are good things, but none are as dangerous as the possibility of getting heartworm. When a dog that is infected by heartworm gets bitten by a mosquito, that mosquito can spread heartworm to another dog it bites, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA).
How do you know if your dog has heartworm? The AVMA said coughing, lethargy, loss of appetite, and difficulty breathing are all common symptoms. "You may notice that your dog seems to tire rapidly after only moderate exercise," they noted. If this seems to be the case, you should take the dog to the vet and get it checked out.
It's much easier to prevent heartworm than to treat it. The ASPCA recommends your dog be tested for heartworm each spring, and that there are preventative medicines the dogs should be taking year-round to prevent infection. Talk to your vet about the different options, including injections or chewable tablets.
At the end of the day though, if your dog gets bitten by a mosquito, odds are you won't even notice, and if you do, now you know what to do about it.