After a long, cold winter and more days spent indoors than out, most of us welcome the warmer temperatures of spring.
Humans aren’t the only ones who like to bask in the sunshine, though. Insects that have gone dormant during the winter, emerge in the spring and can cause problems for your pets.
Dr. Lori Teller, a veterinarian and clinical associate professor at Texas A&M University’s College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, said there are plenty of these bothersome biters out there, but there are just about as many ways that you can protect your four-legged friend.
Here are five pests that can become a problem for your pet during the warmer months.
Teller said fleas are the most common insect that becomes more problematic in the spring and summer. She said these jumping, biting bugs can cause a plethora of problems for your pet – everything from mild itching to an infection.
"We’ll see dogs and cats losing their hair, scratching themselves so badly they get secondary infections," Teller said. "They are a true nuisance to our pets and sometimes even to the humans that live with them."
Teller said there are lots of great products – both over the counter and prescription -- that can help ward off fleas.
"They do a really great job of controlling fleas and minimizing the itch and even the secondary problems that can affect our dogs and cats," Teller said. "Of course, that means that we don't have fleas in our bed if we share our bed with our pets."
Most pet owners are familiar with the maddening scurry to rid your home of fleas if they hitch a ride inside on the hair of your dog or cat. Teller said one way to help that effort along is to vacuum right before you set off a flea bomb or the exterminator sprays.
"That agitates some of the flea eggs and flea larva and gets them to hatch out and makes them more susceptible to the chemical," Teller said. "Of course, throw away that vacuum bag once you vacuum, just to help prevent any potential reinfection if something survived at all."
Teller said that in Texas, it’s not uncommon for fleas to be a year-round problem because of the typically mild winters.
The stingy bite of a mosquito and the itchiness that follows is not uncommon in the summer, and pets aren’t immune to these bothersome bugs.
Teller said heartworms are the most prevalent mosquito-borne disease that affects pets.
"Especially in Texas and along the South, and that, if left unchecked, can eventually be fatal," Teller said.
For humans, preventing mosquito bites takes just a spritz of bug repellant. Teller said it’s not so simple for pets.
"There's no great mosquito repellent," Teller said. "There are a couple of topical flea products that help repel mosquitoes, but in general, the best we can do is protect our pets from heartworms."
That comes in the form of monthly pills or a once-yearly injection.
Teller also suggested avoiding walks during dawn or dusk, when mosquitoes tend to be more active.
Small dirt piles begin to appear when the weather starts to warm thanks to ants becoming more active. In southern parts of the U.S., those ants can be of the stinging variety, widely known as fire ants.
If your pet wanders into one of these piles, it can lead to their paws being stung. Teller said most of the time these bites will just be an itchy annoyance for your furry friend.
"So, it’s not something that usually requires antibiotics unless your animal is scratching so much that, then, you get a secondary bacterial infection," Teller said.
Teller recommended talking to a veterinarian to determine which topical anti-itch treatment is best for your pet.
Teller said ticks can be a big problem for people and pets alike. She said these pests are common in wooded areas but are becoming more prevalent in urban areas.
"Most of the flea products available also help prevent ticks," Teller said. "It's also important to remember that ticks carry so many diseases, and, you know, if the tick drops off your dog or cat and jumps onto you, then you are at risk for getting those diseases as well."
5. Bees and wasps
Spring is prime pollinating season, and that means insects performing that work, such as bees and wasps, become much more active.
Teller said dogs, more so than cats, love to chase and catch these flying bugs. That can lead to stings, sometimes inside the mouth.
According to Teller, mild swelling is common if your pet gets stung. However, if you notice problems with breathing or moving around you should have your pet seen by a veterinarian immediately.
"I wish I could say that dogs learned their lesson from that, but they don’t," Teller said. "They will be right back out there trying to catch bees and wasps again."