Common Insect Bites In Dogs

Knowing how insect bites can affect your dog allows you to take better care of your four-legged friend.
Common insect bites in dogs

There are a number of common insect bites in dogs that can harm your pet, including from mosquitoes, fleas, bedbugs, ticks as well as bites from bees and wasps. When an insect bites, it fills its saliva with specific components that allow it to eat.

The insect’s saliva contains a cocktail of ingredients that have been methodically refined over millennia. These include anti-coagulants and vasodilators, as well as certain anesthetics. In addition to causing allergic reactions, they can also spread a number of different diseases.

Severe allergic reactions to insect bites in dogs

Some animals are extra sensitive to certain insect bites, and may get a reaction from these. In severe cases, they may experience anaphylactic shock. It happens when the immune system reacts extremely strongly to bites.

Although anaphylactic shocks associated with insect bites are rare, it is important to keep track of changes in behavior, shortness of breath or swelling of the skin. If you notice any of these symptoms, seek veterinary advice as soon as possible.

Mosquito bites and heartworm infection

Heartworm in dogs is a serious parasitic disease caused by Dirofilaria immitis –  worms, which live in the blood vessels and heart of the infected animal. Unfortunately,  there are also no laboratory tests that can confirm a heartworm infection.

The disease is spread by mosquito bites. When a mosquito bites an infected animal and sucks out blood, the blood contains the precursor to worms. The parasites continue to develop inside the mosquito, until they reach the larval stage.

When the mosquito flies on to bite a new dog, the dog becomes infected by the parasite. Once inside the dog , the worm can grow up to 30 cm in length, and damage the lungs as well as the arteries and heart. Although there is treatment for the disease, the most effective method is to try to prevent mosquito bites and keep the number of mosquitoes down.

Insect bites in dogs: ticks and Lyme disease

If your dog has been bitten by a tick, it is best to remove it as soon as possible to reduce the risk of a tick-borne infection such as Lyme disease. The bacterium that causes the disease is called Borrelia burdogferi.

The owner can try to avoid Lyme disease by protecting his animals from parasites. If the dog has been bitten, the most important thing is to treat the dog as soon as possible. The probability of an infection increases if the tick is allowed to remain on the dog for more than 48 hours.

Ticks and babesia

Babesia is another (rare) disease caused by unicellular parasites of the genus  Babesia. Dogs usually become infected through tick bites.

The disease can also be spread via blood transfusions from an infected donor, or via congenital transmission. The incubation period is usually around two weeks, but the symptoms can be quite mild. In some cases, it  can take months or even years before you get a diagnosis. 

Close-ups of various parasites.

Insect bites in dogs – flies and myiasis

Stinging flies and vomiting flies can also infect your dog with parasites such as myiasis. The flies lay eggs in the victim’s skin, usually in open wounds. Within a few days, the eggs will hatch into larvae that crawl over the surface of the skin, or drill deeper into the tissue where they cause swelling and bacterial infections.

Depending on where on the body the infection is located, myiasis can be classified as cutaneous, ophthalmic, atrial or urogenital. All vertebrates including humans can get an infection, and they occur all over the world. However, the problem is worst during wet seasons.

Sand flies and leishmaniasis

The cause of leishmaniasis or oriental abscess is a unicellular organism that infects dogs and certain rodents in many parts of the world. It is most common in the countryside, especially in South America and around the Mediterranean. It is usually the sandfly that spreads this parasite.

People can also get leishmaniasis. However, it is  important to remember that you cannot get the infection directly from an infected dog.

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