Dogs, cats, and even horses are all at risk of disease infestation through mosquito bites. We know that horses can not live indoors with us, also some dog and cat owners have animals that live outdoors. With this kind of outdoor living environment these animals are all 98% more likely to be bitten and infected by mosquitos, not to mention the risk of flea and tick infestation. Not only are horses, cats and dogs susceptible to mosquitos bites, but ferrets can also be harmed and contract disease from mosquitoes.
Indoor dogs are 45% less likely to be bitten by mosquitoes. Indoor cats are 75% less likely to be bitten, but living inside in no way eliminates the chances of being infected. All indoor dogs must go outside several times a day so the chances of contact are still very likely.
When it comes to dogs the risk of disease transmitted by mosquitoes is a very serious issue. Since dogs need to go outdoors so often it leaves them very susceptible. Heartworms and West Nile virus are the two main threats to dogs via mosquitoes. Heartworms are terrible threat. Once a mosquito has bitten an infected animal with heartworms, it moves to another animal to feed. The infected mosquito implants the larvae and it then enters through the animals skin. The larvae then grow and after about three months they will migrate to the animals heart where they will grow into the adult stage. An adult heartworm can reach the length of up to 14 inches. It only takes 6-7 months, in dogs, for the full process from bite to adult heartworm to take place. The process takes 8 months for cats.
Adult heartworms obstruct various large blood vessels leading from the heart to the lungs. In the worst cases the worms begin to fill the right ventricle of the heart. Most dogs do not show any signs of infection. Some dogs may lose the appetite, lose weight, and the usual first sign is a cough. Severe infestation will cause the dog to lack endurance, show accumulation of fluid in the abdomen causing a ‘pot-bellied’ effect, sudden death can occur in elevated circumstances due to heart failure.
West Nile virus is also a concern for animals coming in contact with mosquitoes. Fortunately there is a WNV vaccine for horses that will eliminate the worry for horse owners. Dogs and cats do not have this luxury of a vaccine but the onset of WNV in dogs is not as traumatic as heartworms. The treatment for dogs is closely related to the treatment for animals infected with a viral agent. It will usually only take a few weeks to eradicate the virus from a dog or cat. Testing for WNV is more a chore than helpful and by the time a testing site is located and returned the treatment has usually already succeeded in healing the animal. Signs of WNV in dogs are similar to those seen in horses. Signs of WNV are incoordination, depression, decreased appetite, difficulty walking, tremors, abnormal head posture, circling, and convulsions.
All in all it is best to use the prevention method where it is available. If the vaccine is available it is recommended and if there is a topical treatment that can be used to repel then use it. Do what you must to keep your beloved pets safe and they will repay you will health and happiness.