When you have a dog or puppy, it’s pretty inevitable that they’ll experience bug bites at some point, no matter what type of environment you live in.
At the same time, there are many preventative measures and easy ways to manage insect and bug bites that your vet can help you with. If you notice your dog has bug bites, don’t panic. A quick vet visit will ensure your pet gets relief fast and can even help prevent future bites.
Before we get into how to manage bug bites on your dog, let’s break down what we mean by bug bites, because it can get a bit confusing. Although fleas and mosquitos are technically insects, not bugs, we’ll still include how to manage and prevent them here. Ticks are arachnids and not technically bugs or insects, but a tick bite is one of the most common bites your dog will face, so we’re going to break down care for that as well.
Here’s everything you need to know about managing and caring for bug bites on your dog, according to Dr. Yui Shapard, BVM&S, MRCVS, and medical director at Pawp.
Common bug bites on dogs
The most common bug bites found on your dog will depend on where you live, as the type of creepy crawlers your dog will encounter differs from city to suburban environments and different climates.
In general, though, the most common bug bites vets see are from ectoparasites, or parasites that attach or bite onto the skin. This includes fleas, ticks, mites and mosquitoes.
“Depending on the geographical location or the environment your dog is in, spider bites, ant bites, and fly bites are also quite common,” Dr. Shapard says.
What to do if your dog has a bug bite
First, ask yourself if your pet is on a parasitic preventative medication. You can get these prescribed from the vet for fleas, ticks, and heartworm. If your dog is on these medications, caring for the bug bite would depend on how severe that bite is.
“For bites that do not cause any immediate reactions or significant problems, bug bites can be cared for by simply keeping the area clean and monitoring for further problems,” says Dr. Shapard. If your dog is overly scratching, placing a cone around them can prevent self-inflicted damage.
“You can also always contact Pawp's licensed veterinary professionals on what to do if you are unsure about the bug bite and whether it is worth taking them in for a physical exam,” says Dr. Shapard. If a vet visit is needed, they’ll prescribe an anti-inflammatory or anti-itch medication.
If your dog is not on a parasitic preventative medication or if you suspect your dog missed a dose, you should contact your vet for further instructions. You can use this guide from Dr. Shapard as a starting point:
Flea bites: You will likely need to have your dog vet-treated for fleas and disinfect your home from fleas. Have your vet conduct a stool test to see if the fleas caused any tapeworms.
Tick bites: Your dog should be closely monitored and bloodwork should be conducted at the vet’s office for tick-borne diseases, including Lyme Disease, Ehrlichiosis, and Anaplasmosis.
Mosquito bites: Your dog should have a heartworm test done from the vet to make sure they did not contract heartworms from the bite.
How to prevent bug bites on dogs
The easiest way to prevent bug bites on your dog is to have them on a preventative medication that protects against infection from fleas, ticks, and heartworm, which is carried by mosquitos, explains Dr. Shapard.
“Some products also help prevent bites from lice and biting flies such as K9 Advantix II, so if you live in an area where biting flies and lice are common, this is a great preventative to have on board,” she says.
There are insect repellents available for pets, but these are not foolproof, says Dr. Shapard.
Think you see a bug bite on your pup? Chat with the vet team at Pawp and we can point you in the right direction. We're here to help 24/7.