It’s summertime and the bugs are out in full force. Unless you live in the most arid climate imaginable, you’re likely to be suffering the sting of the insects in your midst...
...and so are your pets.
But let’s be clear: It’s not the stings and the welts that do the most damage. It’s the infections these bugs can spread. Heartworm disease in both dogs and cats. West Nile for you and your horses. Infectious encephalitis, hemobartonella, tick-borne diseases. Need I go on?
That’s why you really need to think about keeping your pets protected. And it’s not enough to use your veterinary-quality flea and tick preventatives (though Advantix is one product that claims to offer some mosquito protection). You need some extra protection when the bugs are out in full force.
To that end, here are my tips:
#1 Avoid dusk and dawn. Here's when many bugs are most active. Avoiding these times of day like the plague may just help you avoid one.
#2 Feel the breeze. Keep moving. Pick a windy day for your long walk. Or, better yet, train a fan on your pets. They'll appreciate the cool air––and the breeze that keeps bugs off them.
#3 Trap or zap 'em. Here's a product that uses the reverse approach to my fan trick––sucking the insects into its "SkeeterBag" and keeping them off your pet in the process. You can also use the standard bug zapping lights.
#3 Scents to keep them away. Citronella works. The candles are especially nice, as are the torches that burn the citronella oil. Lemon and eucalyptus oils will also ward them off. Avon's Skin-So-Soft is also notorious for its bug-off properties. Some of these [well-diluted] oils and creams can also be used directly (on dogs only) to keep bugs away, but I prefer this approach...
#4 The bandana trick. This is where you apply scents like lemon, eucalyptus and citronella to a bandana, collar or leash and not directly to your pet. This is a great tip since some pets (especially cats) are uniquely sensitive to the liver-toxic effects of essential oils.
#5 Products for pets. Lots of products work, but most of them are NOT for cats. They usually contain pyrethrins or permethrin, which can be very toxic to our kitties. Advantix monthly spot-on, Pet-Guard gel and even one bandana product called the "Ex-Officio" Insect Shield all contain these chemicals. And they do work.
#6 Never use DEET. Here are its dangers.
#7 Cover 'em up. Try using clothing for your pets––loose cotton if it's hot out. This is especially helpful with horse flies, since it seems nothing else works for them.
#8 Always use heartworm preventative medication monthly. For dogs and cats.
OK so those are my tips. What are yours?
Dr. Patty Khuly