By Patti Greco
Bugs like mosquitoes, ticks, and even flies can cause severe illness or worse.
Cause for concern: Mosquito bites can lead to heartworm in cats and dogs. While symptoms can be hard to detect, they include sudden respiratory problems like difficulty breathing and a persistent cough that requires immediate medical attention. Ticks are a common external parasite that can transmit fatal illnesses, such as Rocky Mountain spotted fever (watch for depression, weakness, tremors, or seizures) and Lyme Disease (symptoms usually occur two to five months after the tick bite and include a fever of between 103 and 105 degrees, shifting leg lameness, and swelling in the joints). Flies are unlikely to spread disease, but they will, on rare occasion, lay eggs on a cut or fecal-stained fur, which can lead to an under-the-skin maggot infestation that could be fatal. If you smell a strong, foul odor coming from a wound, head to the vet.
To keep your pet safe: Do daily checks for bites, ticks, and sores. If you notice a tick, remove it with tweezers by the head or mouth parts, right where it entered the skin. Do not grasp the tick by the body, as you do not want to crush it and force harmful bacteria into your pet's bloodstream. Then apply an antiseptic to the bitten area. Ask your vet for preventive heartworm medicine and, while you're at it, get a recommendation for an anti-tick spray and a pet-safe fly repellent.