The summer season brings warmer weather, which in turn brings legions of biting and stinging insects. These pests bug not only people, but also make pets miserable. Pet owners most commonly associate fleas and ticks with their pets, but mosquitoes, spiders, flies, ants, bees, and wasps can also bother pets as well as people. 

The Midtown Veterinary Hospital team knows that insect bites can sometimes lead to serious problems. We want pet owners to be prepared, so we are providing our guide to summer insect bites and stings in pets.

Fleas and ticks in pets

Fleas and ticks are the most common biting insects you’ll find on your pet. Fleas are small, winged insects that can jump on your pet, take up residence, reproduce, and complete their life cycle in the environment and on your pet’s skin. Fleas bite your pet constantly, producing an annoying itch, and some pets develop flea allergy dermatitis (FAD), a widespread allergic reaction that causes extremely itchy skin and hair loss.

Ticks do not live on your pet but attach for hours or days to take a full blood meal. While attached, a tick can transmit serious diseases, including Lyme disease, ehrlichiosis, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, or anaplasmosis. After the tick detaches or is manually removed, their bite site often becomes a small, inflamed bump that stays for several weeks. Occasionally, tick bites become infected or cause a local allergic reaction.

Insect bites and stings in pets

Mosquito bites affect pets and people similarly, causing a small, itchy bump that lasts for a few days. But, mosquitoes can cause a bigger problem—they can transmit heartworms, which is an infection that will cause serious heart and lung disease or death if left untreated.

Your pet’s reaction to other bug bites and stings depends on their individual tolerance. Fly and spider bites are particularly irritating and may cause a local skin infection that requires veterinary treatment. Bees and wasps inject a venom that causes temporary pain and swelling at the site, and a subset of pets may develop a systemic sting allergy.

Insect-induced allergies in pets

Insect allergies can manifest in two different ways.

  • Delayed hypersensitivity reaction — The first causes a long-lasting rash around the bite site, possibly causing infection if your pet chews or licks the area. This delayed hypersensitivity reaction occurs hours or days after the bite.
  • Acute hypersensitivity reaction — The second type is an acute hypersensitivity reaction that ranges in severity. A mild acute allergic reaction often causes itchy hives all over the body, as well as facial swelling, while a severe reaction may include vomiting, diarrhea, breathing difficulties, and shock or collapse. This severe reaction is also known as anaphylaxis

Both insect allergy types are treated with antihistamines and steroids to quiet the storm of inflammation. However, they differ in their urgency. An acute allergic reaction, which could progress to anaphylaxis, is always an emergency, while a delayed reaction can be addressed a few days later when the rash is visible. 

How to recognize and treat insect bites in pets

Bug bites and parasite infestations can be difficult to distinguish from seasonal or environmental allergies in pets. Both are common problems during the summer months, and both lead to itchy, red, irritated skin, hair loss, and bumps. Simple bug bites typically resolve in a few days, but any skin change or abnormality that lasts longer, including redness, persistent bumps, oozing, or scabs, requires veterinary treatment. We can examine your pet’s skin and perform several specialized tests to determine whether your pet suffers from generalized allergies, a skin infection, a parasite infestation, or an insect bite or sting. Treatments for your pet’s skin problem depend on the underlying cause and may include oral medications or topical shampoos, sprays, or creams.

Preventing parasites and insect bites in pets 

The best protection from insects that you can give your pet is an effective monthly flea and tick preventive that will continuously kill fleas and ticks. Most prevention products are also effective against other parasites, including lice and certain mites. Heartworm disease prevention is also important, but will not prevent mosquitoes from biting. 

If your pet is frequently bothered by mosquitoes and flies, use a pet-safe repellent that you wipe or spray on their fur in addition to their monthly preventive. Ensure you choose a product made specifically for pets, because human products are often pet-toxic.

This summer, help your pet feel comfortable and stay healthy with effective monthly parasite prevention and pet-safe bug repellents. Contact the Midtown Veterinary Hospital team if your pet experiences an acute insect bite allergy, or to discuss the best parasite preventives for your individual pet’s needs.