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Mosquito Bites and Your Cat

    In addition to causing potentially irritating bites, mosquitoes can spread diseases to your cat.

    Along with the warm and humid days of summer comes the mosquito. Although cats seem to be guarded against mosquitoes by their fur, they are vulnerable to bites on their ears and noses. As with humans, a mosquito bite can result in everything from an annoying itch to more serious parasitic diseases. In felines, mosquito bite hypersensitivity and heartworm disease are the primary concerns.

    • Lethargy
    • Coughing
    • Vomiting
    • Breathing difficulty
    • Fainting
    • Sudden death

    Mosquito bite hypersensitivity. This condition results from the cat’s immune system reaction to a mosquito bite. In cats, this exhibits lesions, scaling or raw ulcers in the area of the bite. Hair loss and pigment changes in the affected area are also typical. Often, the pads of the feet will be thickened, swollen, tender, and red. Swollen lymph nodes and fever may also occur. Severe mosquito bite hypersensitivity is treated with oral or injected corticosteroids. Milder cases often resolve independently if the cat is protected from additional bites.

    Feline heartworm disease. Heartworm disease is a severe parasitic condition caused by a worm, Dirofilaria immitis, which lives in infected pets’ blood vessels and hearts. The disease is spread from dog to cat by mosquitoes. When a mosquito bites an infected dog, the withdrawn blood can contain heartworm offspring. When the mosquito bites a cat, the offspring are passed through. Inside the cat, the heartworm can grow into a parasite up to a foot in length. Cats usually do not have a heavy worm burden (3-5 worms), but even this small number can kill a cat.

    These symptoms are also associated with other feline diseases, so diagnosis is difficult. A blood test is required to confirm the diagnosis, but it can be difficult to diagnose in a cat.

    Mosquito control. Both conditions above can be addressed partly by keeping your cat indoors and controlling the mosquito population in your local environment. The following preventative measures will help to minimize bites for both you and your pets:

    • Remove sources of stagnant water around the house and garden. Mosquitoes breed and thrive in standing water.
    • Change water bowls frequently.
    • Fit windows and doors of your home with screens to prevent mosquitoes from entering.
    • Use insect repellants with caution. Products with DEET are not recommended for cats, and many repellants with essential oils have not been tested for effectiveness or safety.

    Bite treatment. To prevent infection, treat bites on the ears and nose with an antibacterial cream. See your veterinarian if the bites do not heal or appear to worsen.

    Heartworm treatment. It would be best if you spoke to your veterinarian about the need for preventative therapy for heartworm. Never use canine heartworm medicine for your cat. Drug dosage levels vary from species to species. Treatment should always be under the direction of your veterinarian.

    Controlling the mosquito population around your home will benefit both you and your cat. For your cat, additional prevention in the form of heartworm treatments is recommended.

    Safe Insect Repellents for Cats

    Cats are another story. They metabolize drugs and chemicals very differently from humans and dogs, and “safe” compounds for us may be pretty toxic for cats. Plus, they are good groomers, which leads to possible ingestion and absorption through the skin.

    While some “natural” products are available for cats (compare prices), it is always best to check with your veterinarian first. Many natural preparations contain essential oils, and some of these oils are toxic to cats.

    “This advice we are giving is not our own; it is copied from other sites; we are not vets; we are just sharing advice.”