Helping Your Dog With Pests

Summer brings with it tons of sun, fun, and outdoor activities. Unfortunately, it also is a time where our pets are exposed to a variety of pests, many of them lurking in places unseen. Here are five that are especially annoying—and dangerous.

Table of Contents

  1. Fleas
  2. Ticks
  3. Mosquitoes
  4. Botfly
  5. Sarcoptes Scabiei Mite


It’s nearly impossible to avoid fleas for an entire season, and for good reason. They can be found anywhere in the country (though found in greater numbers in warmer areas with high humidity) and they multiply like crazy. In fact, according to the American Animal Hospital Association, just one flea can multiply to 1,000 fleas in your home in just 21 days. Additionally, they can cause itching, scratching, hair loss, and scabs on our pets, as well as anemia, plague and tapeworms, among other things.

If you see your dog scratching vigorously or biting aggressively at themselves, it’s time for a bug check. Start by looking around your dog’s ears, at the base of his tail, and on his tummy. Part the hair and look for brown, flat, oval bugs about 1/8 inch long. Keep your eyes peeled because a startled flea can jump quickly into the air and land several inches away. Frequently you won’t actually see a flea, but you can see flea dirt stuck in the dog’s hairs. This “dirt” is flea excrement, a crumbly black material that consists mainly of digested blood. You can identify flea dirt by placing a drop of water over the dirt, letting it soak up the water for a minute or two, and then smearing the dirt on a piece of white paper towel. A reddish smear confirms that it is, in fact, flea dirt.

If you identify a flea or flea dirt, the only thing that will give your dog relief is ridding his body and your house of those pesky pests. With the many safe anti-flea products that are available today, there is no longer any reason for your dog to suffer with fleas.


A lovely day out in the woods, exploring with man’s best friend and breathing fresh air. These are the joys of summer. Unfortunately, ticks like these spots, too, and they don’t mind hanging around to wait for warm-blooded travelers like you and your pet to hitch a ride on. Some of the more serious diseases that ticks can transmit to your pet include Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Lyme disease, ehrlichiosis, and babesiosis.

If you live in an area where ticks are prevalent (most of the United States except the Southwest and Alaska), it is important that you check your dog for ticks every day, at least during tick season (which is during the spring and summer months). Carefully remove every tick you find.

If your dog enjoys the outdoors (and most dogs do), apply a product that prevents ticks from attaching to the skin. Be sure to get advice from your veterinarian on which product is best, because new products enter the market all the time. Also, continue to check your dog from head to toe every time he comes in from outside. The places you’re most likely to find ticks are around your dog’s face, eyes, and ears, although they really can be anywhere. Be sure to look inside the ears, too!


Even your indoor pets are at risk for some of the miseries brought on by mosquitoes, since mosquitoes can still get inside on occasion and can bite through screens on windows, where cats tend to rest. Of course, mosquitoes cause itchy bumps, and that is painful enough, but there are also some serious and life-threatening diseases to wary aware of. Heartworm, a roundworm that can infect both cats and dogs, is a silent killer that can be easily treated if caught in time. Then there is the Saint Louis Encephalitis (SLE), which attacks the brain, and the West Nile Virus (WNV), too.

Although your dog’s fur or hair offers some protection against mosquito bites, he is still vulnerable in places where his skin is exposed, for example, his ears and nose. As with humans, a bite from a mosquito can result in everything from an annoying itch to more serious parasitic diseases. In dogs, heartworm disease is the primary concern.

Keeping water bowls filled with fresh water, no stagnant water around and grass short can help with deterring mosquitoes from being in your yard.  Staying indoors when mosquitoes are at their worst can help you and your dog.

Treat bites on the ears and nose with an antibacterial cream to keep them from becoming infected. See your veterinarian if the bites do not heal or appear to be getting worse.


Also called the Cuterebra, the botfly hangs out in grass, latching onto warm-blooded animals that are passing through. Symptoms of botfly infection include seizures, aggression, blindness, and warbles (or lumps) in the skin where the botfly has taken up residence. In cats, the cuterebra larva typically travels to the brain.

Dogs become infected with a botfly larva when they come into contact with a blade of grass that has a maggot on it. The dog’s movement against the blade of grass stimulates the maggot to crawl onto the dog. The maggot then crawls around on the dog until it finds an orifice in which to enter.  In the northern U.S. the disease is seasonal, with most cases occurring in late summer and early fall when the adult flies are active. Seasonality is less determined in areas with warmer temperatures, where flies are active through longer periods of the year.

While sometimes removed surgically, bot fly larva are most often removed with at-home treatments.  Treatment depends on when the condition is discovered. If the condition is diagnosed before the warble leaves the skin, the warble will be removed and the injured tissues will be debrided or surgically removed. Antibiotics are usually prescribed to combat any secondary bacterial infection.  If the condition is noticed after the warble has left the skin, the infected area is cleaned and debrided and antibiotics prescribed.

Sarcoptes Scabiei Mite

Most prevalent in the summer months, the condition caused by this mite, also referred to as scabies or mange, is more of a nuisance than a danger. Of course, any condition that results in open wounds is dangerous because it opens the body to bacterial invasion. The most common risk of exposure comes from contact with other animals and outdoor activities.

Treatment is the same as treating for fleas, but more aggressive, with quarantining, and thorough baths.