pet parenting

Save Your Pet from the Sting of the Suckerfly

Some tips for protecting the furry ones from Florida's unofficial state bird

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Now that summer’s in full sweat … er … swing, our worst outdoor annoyances are back with a vengeance—mosquitoes! They swarm on evening walks, steal blood and leave an itchy reminder of their dirty deeds. Most of us know mosquitoes are but a nuisance, but many kinds of these nasty little buzzer bugs also carry diseases. Protecting your pet from this threat is key to keeping canines and felines safe and bite-free all season long.

Davi’s Do This, Not That Mosquito Guide

DON’T use human insect repellent on pets. Bug spray intended for people is OK for people, but it’s toxic for pets. The main ingredient in most insect repellents is DEET, which can make pets vomit, can irritate their skin deep under their fur, and even cause seizures. And because dogs like to lick their owners, make sure your skin is DEET-free when they do, or they could suffer serious side effects.

DO apply bug sprays made especially for dogs. When it comes to mosquito protection, the safest, healthiest and smartest way is to use products made for animals. Bonus: Most of these sprays are formulated to prevent not only attacks by mosquitoes, but ticks, fleas and other biting insects. Another method to deter mosquito bites is to use a topical preventive that contains permethrin. Cat Owner Alert: NEVER use these products on cats, because permethrin is highly toxic to felines.

DO remove standing water around the house and yard. Mosquitoes need water to live. The first step in mosquito birth control is to restrict their access to water. It takes standing water only one inch deep to breed hundreds of mosquitoes. Since they lay their eggs in places like birdbaths, buckets, unused flower pots and the like, it’s especially important to empty these vessels and leave them clean and dry. Be sure your pet’s water bowl has only the freshest water at all times.

DON’T walk outside during peak mosquito activity times. You can hear that whiney buzz before you feel the proboscis piercing your skin. And they care not whose skin they’re on, releasing their toxic saliva as they suck your blood. They’re most active at dawn and dusk, and many can do kamikazes all night. I’ve spent a night or two swatting at the bloodsuckers with my tail only to find a welt on my forehead. The death vectors rarely feed during the day unless it’s cloudy, so do outdoor activities accordingly.

DON’T ignore natural remedies. If you’re not comfortable putting chemicals on your pet, there are plenty of natural remedies that work just as well. Products made from lemongrass, citronella, geranium and peppermint give your furry friend a fighting chance against biting insects without harming their skin. Make your own effective repellents! Just dilute and mix these oils together.

If given the choice between a dog’s skin covered by a hairy coat and a human’s relatively naked flesh, it’s likely most mosquitos would zoom down on the human. But mosquitos do bite dogs and cats, and dogs with very short hair, like me, can get vampired on a lot. Even if your dog is on a monthly preventive treatment regimen, make every effort to avoid exposure to mosquitoes. Mosquitoes are mere summertime pests, but year-round serious health hazards.

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Davi the dachshund would love to bite the bloodsuckers back, but he’s been raised up right.

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