A woman pets her dog in the back yard
A woman pets her dog in the backyard

Mosquitoes and Dogs: How to Keep Your Pet Safe

Mosquitoes can be a huge nuisance, causing annoying and itchy bites. But did you know these small bugs pose a big risk to your dog? While the mosquito bites themselves may not bother your dog, mosquitoes can transmit heartworm disease to pets. Read on to learn how mosquitoes can impact your dog and what you can do to cut back on the risk.

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A dog stands on the back porch

Do Mosquitoes Bite Dogs?

Yes, mosquitoes do bite dogs. These parasites are attracted to dogs the same way they are attracted to humans. Most mosquito bites on dogs occur on their backs or flanks. Mosquitoes can bite at any point in the year, and at any time of day, but most bites happen at dusk. Although your dog may not feel a mosquito bite, the real danger lies in the fact that mosquitoes can transmit heartworm disease.1

Signs of Mosquito Bites on Dogs

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In most cases, your dog will not notice a mosquito bite.1 If your dog is affected by mosquito bites, you may see these signs:

 

  • Scratching, licking, or biting at the site of the bite

 

  • Rubbing their ears or nose against a rough surface

 

  • Red bumps or welts on the skin, like mosquito bites on a human

 

Although these bites can be a nuisance to both humans and dogs, the real danger of mosquitoes lies in the disease transmission. Mosquitoes are a vector for heartworm disease, which can have devastating effects on your pet.

A mosquito on a dog's skin A mosquito on a dog's skin

Flea Bites vs. Mosquito Bites

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How do flea bites compare to mosquito bites on your dog? While mosquito bites typically occur where there is a large surface area on your dog’s body (like on their back), flea bites are usually more hidden. Fleas tend to bite near your dog’s head, neck, perineum, and tail base.

 

Furthermore, flea bites tend to bother dogs much more than mosquito bites. Your dog may not even notice a mosquito bite. However, flea saliva can be extremely allergenic and cause a lot of itching and discomfort in your pet. For this reason, flea bites are much more noticeable on dogs than mosquito bites.

 A dog scratches itself in the park A dog scratches itself in the park

Can Dogs Get Sick from Mosquito Bites?

When you think about diseases that are transmitted by mosquitoes, one may think of the ones that are most dangerous to humans: West Nile virus or Zika virus. But in fact, these diseases are extremely uncommon in dogs. The most dangerous mosquito-borne illness to dogs is heartworm disease, and it only takes a single mosquito bite to transmit it.

When a mosquito bites an animal that has been infected with heartworms, it picks up the heartworm larvae. When that same mosquito bites your dog, those heartworms are transmitted onto the skin near the mosquito bite. After the mosquito leaves, the larvae actively migrate into the bite wound infecting your dog.1

Heartworm disease is a serious threat that can cause permanent damage to your dog’s heart and arteries of the lungs. In the most severe cases, heartworm disease can be fatal to dogs. It’s important for pet owners to recognize the signs of heartworms in dogs, and to schedule an appointment with your vet if your dog displays any of those signs.

Diseases That Mosquitoes Carry

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Although small in size, mosquitoes pose a huge threat to both dogs and humans alike. They are known carriers of several potentially deadly diseases, including1:

 

  • Heartworm disease
  • West Nile virus
  • Zika virus
  • Yellow Fever virus
  • Venezuelan Equine Encephalitis virus
  • Malaria
A mosquito on a plant A mosquito on a plant

Tips to Prevent Mosquito Bites on Dogs

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Because of their prevalence, it’s extremely difficult—if not impossible—to completely prevent mosquito bites. However, there are things you can do as a pet owner to reduce your dog’s risk of being bitten by mosquitoes.

 

  • Remove stagnant sources of water (such as water fountains, water bowls, or small swimming pools), as mosquitoes breed and thrive in standing water.
  • Add screens to all windows and doors to keep mosquitoes from entering your home.
  • Treat your yard with pet-friendly mosquito repellent.
  • Mow tall grass where mosquitoes could be hiding.
  • Keep your rain gutters clean, dry, and unclogged.
  • Consider replacing your porch lights, or other outdoor lights, with mosquito-repelling “bug lights."

 

Do not use mosquito repellent that is designed for humans on your dog, as this could be toxic to your pet.

A lawnmower cutting the grass A lawnmower cutting the grass
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A woman gives her dog a Heartgard Plus chew

Final Tip: Use Monthly Protection

It’s nearly impossible to prevent mosquito bites but with the right monthly protection, pet owners can take steps to prevent heartworm disease in dogs. When given consistently every month, HEARTGARD® Plus (ivermectin/pyrantel) prevents heartworm disease in dogs as young as 6 weeks of age.