Mosquitoes are a type of fly that live off nectar and juices from plants and the blood of other animals. They are typically crepuscular, which means they are active at dawn and dusk, but we all know that mosquitoes can be nuisances at any time during the day depending on what you are doing and where you are. The saliva of the mosquito when it bites its host is what causes the itchy rash we experience when in contact with them. If you’ve ever noticed that mosquitoes seem to target some people more than others, you are right. Past research has shown that mosquitoes prefer humans with Type O blood, heavy breathers, those with higher body heat, skin bacteria, or those who are pregnant or carrying a beer. Some mosquitoes, particularly those carrying Zika seems to enjoy the smell of feet as well, so beware of open-toed shoes when in heavily mosquito-infected areas.
Because mosquitoes live off the blood of other animals, they can cause the spread of many serious diseases such as West Nile virus, malaria, Zika virus, and dengue fever just to name a few. The prevalence of diseases being spread by mosquitoes is getting worse every year which is a cause for concern and a huge reason to try to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes as best you can this summer. Utilizing repellents and wearing lose fitting pants, long-sleeved shirts, and shoes are the best ways to avoid being bitted. For information on which repellents work best and other information on avoiding mosquito bites, visit this article from NPR.
Mosquitoes are also responsible for spreading heartworm to our dogs. Heartworms are worms that live in the heart, lungs, and blood vessels of infected animals. They can live in dogs and cats, and in wild animals such as wolves, foxes, and coyotes. Once inside a new host, the heartworm can take 6 month to mature into an adult, and then can live in the host for years. The animal can continue acquiring heartworms, which means an animal can have several of these worms in their body at one time. The longer the worm is allowed to live inside a dog, the worse the symptoms get. Heart failure or other severe cardiovascular events can occur if not detected or treated. Symptoms of heartworm disease include a mild cough, fatigue, lethargy, and decreased appetite. To protect your dog from heartworm, the easiest thing to do is to be proactive. Give your dog a monthly heartworm preventative year round, and include heartworm testing in your annual visit with your veterinarian.