Various biting and stinging bugs can make your pet miserable, and can also cause a multitude of health issues. Our Town & Country Animal Hospital team describes common bugs that may harm your pet, and teaches you how to better protect your four-legged friend from bites and stings. 

Fleas and pets

Fleas are tiny pests with an impressive jumping ability that allows them to leap from the ground onto their host. The cat flea, the most common species that infects pets, has a flat, oval-shaped body and is a dark reddish-brown color.

Bite signs: Flea bites appear as small, raised red or pink bumps, and the surrounding inflammation level depends on your pet’s sensitivity to flea saliva.

Problems: While flea bites generally cause mild discomfort, some pets can be incredibly allergic to a protein in flea saliva. A pet who is allergic to fleas becomes so intensely itchy that they chew and scratch themselves raw. Additionally, if your pet ingests a flea while grooming or chewing, they can develop a tapeworm infection. 

Treatment and prevention: Treating a flea infestation is challenging. The immature stages are impervious to environmental treatments, so, without proper treatment, the eggs will continue to hatch and develop into adults that infect your pet. Preventing your pet and your home from becoming flea-infested is much easier and more economical than treatment. The single best way to avoid flea problems is by administering high-quality flea prevention medication to your pet year-round.

Ticks and pets

Ticks commonly hop aboard your pet by crawling up tall grass, weeds, or bushes, then stretching out their legs to grab the next warm body that walks by. Once a tick attaches to your pet, disease transmission can take hours or days, so prompt removal is essential for preventing illness.

Bite signs: Tick bites form small red bumps that can scab over after the tick is removed or crawls away. Bumps generally resolve on their own after a few days, unless they become infected.

Problems: Ticks can transmit numerous pathogens, the most notorious of which cause Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, ehrlichiosis, anaplasmosis, and babesiosis. If the tick’s mouthparts remain after the body’s removal, a local skin infection can also develop.

Treatment and prevention: If your pet has been infected with a tick-borne illness, antibiotics generally resolve the signs, although the pathogen may harbor in your furry pal’s body and resurface during stressful times. Keep your pet safe by preventing tick-borne illnesses through the administration of year-round tick prevention.

Mosquitoes and pets

Mosquitoes irritate pets and people alike, and can create a multitude of problems ranging from itchy allergic reactions to life-threatening disease.

Bite signs: Mosquito bites on pets appear similar to bites on people, popping up as small, red bumps. These bites can be incredibly itchy, causing your pet to lick, chew, and scratch a great deal.

Problems: The most significant mosquito-borne threat to your pet’s health is heartworm disease which can be fatal in cats and dogs. 

Treatment and prevention: While heartworm treatment is available for dogs, no treatment exists for cats. Minimize your pet’s mosquito bite risk by applying a pet-safe insect repellent. In addition, you must administer year-round prevention to protect your furry pal from heartworm disease. 

Flies and pets

Numerous fly species irritate pets, and can be divided into biting and nonbiting types. Each type has the potential to transmit bacteria and viruses, whether they feed on blood or bodily secretions. 

Bite signs: Fly bites vary in appearance depending on the species. Black flies, for example, cause a bull’s-eye pattern on a pet’s belly and inner thighs where fur is thin. Some flies like feeding on ear tips and can cause festering wounds filled with fly larvae.

Problems: When flies feed, they can also deposit eggs in open wounds, which can lead to flystrike. Cuterebra infections can also develop when botfly larvae infiltrate your pet’s skin.

Treatment and prevention: Pet-safe insect repellent and certain parasite preventives can protect your pet from biting insects.

Spiders and pets

While many spider species exist, widow and recluse spiders pose the most dangers to your pet. Widow spiders have an hourglass-shaped mark on their abdomen; whereas recluse spiders have a violin-shaped mark on their back.

Bite signs: Black widow bites are initially moderately painful and can be red and swollen; whereas brown recluse bites are generally not painful at the time of the bite. However, a brown recluse bite can form a blister that develops into a bull’s-eye lesion surrounding a dark area of tissue necrosis.

Problems: A black widow’s bite can cause muscle pain, vomiting, diarrhea, tremors, and rapid heart and respiratory rates. A brown recluse’s bites generally only causes a localized tissue reaction, but can also lead to fever and lethargy.

Treatment and prevention: Antivenin for black widow bites is available, and typically resolves signs within 30 minutes after administration. No antivenin is available for brown recluse bites, so supportive care consisting of wound cleaning, cool compresses, and immobilization is performed.

Bees, wasps, hornets and pets

Bee, wasp, and hornet stings can cause your pet significant discomfort and may lead to a severe allergic reaction. Being able to recognize these stinging insects’ species can help guide your pet’s treatment. Bees are often fuzzy with round bodies; whereas wasps and hornets have shiny shells and streamlined bodies.

Sting signs: Swelling, redness, and pain develop at the sting site.

Problems: While stings can cause your pet pain, they can also lead to labored breathing, vomiting, diarrhea, or seizures, which require emergency treatment.

Treatment and prevention: Removing a bee’s stinger by scraping it out with a credit card will halt venom transmission. You can make a paste of baking soda and water to soothe the irritated area on your pet’s skin.

If a bug bites or stings your pet, they may need veterinary treatment to stop an allergic reaction or to minimize their discomfort. If your furry pal has been attacked by a biting or stinging pest, call our Town & Country Animal Hospital team.