Bugs are all around us, and living alongside them sometimes can feel like a battle. Most people are well-versed in preventing bug bites on themselves, but may not take the same precautions to protect their pets. The Neighborhood Veterinary Centers team in Richmond knows that everything is bigger in Southeast Texas, including the bugs, so we’re sharing tips to help pet owners learn to recognize, treat, and prevent bug bites on their pets.

Common pet bug bites

Any bug that bites has the potential to bite your pet, but parasites are the most common pests. Fleas infest pets and live on their skin and fur, biting constantly to feed on their animal host’s blood and sustain their life cycle. Ticks bite and attach to take a blood meal in order to molt to their next life stage, and can transmit disease to your pet in the process. Mites are only visible under a microscope, but they may inhabit your pet’s ear canal or live deep inside their hair follicles.

Mosquitoes also frequently bite pets—and people. They are found in every state and around the globe and can transmit heartworm disease to your pet. Other bugs that could bite or sting your pet include ants, spiders, bees, and wasps. Fly bites are also common if you live in a rural area or near other animals that attract them.

Recognizing bug bites on pets

Bug bites can look a lot like other common skin problems, including allergies and infections, and vary depending on the type of bite. Single bug bites usually appear as a flat or raised red spot and may be swollen or tender. Multiple red spots can indicate a skin infection, allergic rash, or bug bites. The best way to determine whether bugs are your pet’s problem is to schedule a visit with our team. We can conduct tests to rule out infections or allergies, check for skin mites, and look for evidence of fleas.

Allergic bug bite reactions in pets

Allergies are extremely common in pets and may occur as a result of food, environmental, or bug-related triggers. Bug bite allergies typically show up on the skin, but they also can lead to a systemic response. Here are some possible allergic reactions bug bites can trigger:

  • Flea allergy dermatitis — Flea saliva triggers this common allergy, leading to extreme generalized itching and hair loss.
  • Local allergic reaction — A rash, swelling, or redness may form around each bug bite or sting site.
  • Systemic allergic reaction — Full-body hives and facial swelling are the most common symptoms of a systemic allergic reaction. Rarely, this can progress to anaphylaxis and cause difficulty breathing, vomiting, diarrhea, low blood pressure, shock, and collapse.

Treating bug bites on pets

Always check with our veterinary team if you aren’t sure what is causing your pet’s skin problem. If you’re certain bug bites are the problem, you can ask our team to determine an appropriate over-the-counter antihistamine dose, or to recommend a mild steroid or antibiotic cream to relieve itching and prevent infection. Oatmeal- or aloe-based pet shampoos also can help soothe itchy skin. Flea, tick, and mite infestations are treated using prescription parasite preventives.

Allergic reactions usually require a veterinary visit to resolve and should be addressed quickly in the case of a systemic reaction. Your pet may require injectable or oral medications to treat the problem.

Preventing bug bites on pets

Preventing the most common bug bites requires a multimodal approach. We recommend the following prevention strategies for pet owners:

  • Flea and tick prevention — All pets benefit from the year-round application or administration of a topical or oral flea and tick preventive. These typically are given monthly or every three months and provide long-lasting protection from parasites.
  • Mosquito repellent — You can buy pet-safe bug repellents made from natural ingredients from your local pet retailer or online. Apply these according to the label directions and reapply frequently to maintain efficacy. Never use human products on your pet, because they may contain ingredients toxic to your four-legged friend.
  • Avoidance — Staying away from bugs is another solid prevention strategy. Avoid wooded or grassy areas when possible, stay in the middle of paved trails, and keep pets inside at dawn and dusk when mosquito activity is high.

Don’t let bugs ruin your pet’s favorite outdoor activities or infest your home. Contact the Neighborhood Veterinary Centers of Richmond team if you have questions about parasite and bug bite prevention, or schedule a visit if your pet develops skin problems this summer.