Summertime Pests: The Mosquito

outsidecatanddogWe’ve reached the month of May, a time of sunny days, bright flowers…and lots of pests.

It’s the time of year when all kinds of insects start setting up camp in our yards or inside our homes. One of the most bothersome of such creatures is the mosquito. Bites from these insects can be quite uncomfortable—for both humans and pets.

But the mosquito is more than just a nuisance.

The insects can transmit a variety of viruses when they bite humans and animals. In recent years, there have been cases of eastern equine encephalitis, West Nile virus, and La Crosse encephalitis in North Carolina, according to the NCDHHS Division of Public Health.

Pet owners should especially be concerned about Dirofilaria immitis—better known as the heartworm.

Transmitted through the bite of a mosquito, these parasites mature and reproduce in the bodies of our pets, including cats, dogs, and ferrets. Adult heartworms make their home in an animal’s heart and lungs. And, according to the FDA, the worms can live five to seven years inside dogs and two to four years in cats!

It can take some time before heartworms cause obvious signs and symptoms in pets, but the parasites are definitely not to be ignored. The results of heartworm infection can include heart failure, lung disease, organ damage, and death.

So what can you do to reduce the chance of you or your pets getting sick?

You may opt to use insecticides to help control the mosquito population, but keep in mind that they can have environmental and health impacts on you, your pets, your neighbors, and beneficial insects like bees. It may be best to talk with a professional about your concerns if you’re thinking of using a chemical approach to mosquito control.

Here are some other tips:

1) Eliminate standing water as much as possible.

Standing water is the main breeding ground for mosquitoes. Empty outside containers—including buckets, water bowls, flower pots and planters, and birdbaths—on at least a weekly basis. Pools should be kept clean and covered. Water storage containers need to be covered as well.

2) Maintain clean gutters, garages, and outdoor areas. Mosquitoes love dark and humid spots.

3) Keep your grass and shrubbery trimmed.

4) Ensure your pets receive a heartworm preventative all year long—yes, even in winter.

Prevention treatments can only kill heartworms during their larval stage, so it’s vital to stop these parasites in their tracks early on. Annual heartworm testing is recommended too. There are multiple preventatives available now, including topical solutions, oral pills, and an injectable option. Your veterinarian can help you decide what’s right for your furry pals.

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