How To Identify, Treat And Prevent Common Bug Bites On Dogs & Cats

It’s not hard to love summer, when the days are long and the weather ideal for hiking, camping, and long walks with cats or dogs. Unfortunately, our favorite season is also rife with safety hazards, including flies, mosquitos, and other biting insects that love nothing more than to feast your pets while they play outdoors.

Fortunately, there are ways to protect dogs and cats from all the bugs seeking to ruin their summer fun. Read on for tips to identify, treat, and prevent common bug bites on cats and dogs.


Photo: Flickr/Rayaah

Fleas are a problem year-round, but this blood-thirsty parasite is more active than ever during summer months. Not only do flea bites — which look like a cluster or line of pimply red bumps on your pet’s skin — cause extreme discomfort and itching, they’re also extremely contagious, making early treatment a must.

How do I prevent flea bites?

Fleas don’t cause long-term disease, but they’re so easy to catch (and difficult to get rid of) that prevention is the best way to keep fleas at bay. Fortunately, the Animal Rescue Site store carries everything you need to keep your pet flea-free, including flea collars, flea tags, and — in case your pet already has flea bites — flea treatments for dogs and cats. Read more about flea treatment and prevention here.

Photo: The Animal Rescue Site store

Advantage II® Cat Flea Treatment
K9 Advantix II Flea/Tick Control (2-Dose)


Photo: Pixabay

Ticks are another worry for pet owners in summer months, because these dangerous parasites — in addition to bites — can leave your cat or dog with dangerous diseases. Ticks love hiding in tall grass, woods, shrubs, and other forested areas where they can latch onto your unsuspecting pet’s fur while he plays outside.

Diseases transmitted by ticks

According to the CDC, ticks can transmit more than a dozen diseases, including:

  • Lyme Disease
  • Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever
  • Ehrlichiosis
  • How can I protect my pet from ticks?

    Photo: Pixabay/The Animal Rescue Site Store

    The serious implications of tick bites mean you should always check your pet’s fur for ticks after she’s been playing outdoors. (If you have an outdoor cat, ticks are an excellent reason to introduce your pet to a safer life inside). If you find a tick, make sure to remove it immediately, and contact your vet if the tick can’t be fully dislodged from your pet’s skin. It’s also wise to outfit your dog with a tick collar or preventative tick treatments to ensure these deadly critters stay away. Visit the Animal Rescue Site store for tick collars, tick shampoo, and other products to protect your pet from tick bites.
    SonicGuard™ Tick & Flea Guard Tag
    Zenpet™ Tick Twister® Pro
    Flea & Tick Treatment for Extra Large Dogs
    Advantage Flea & Tick Treatment Dog Shampoo


    Photo: Flickr/Robert Couse-Baker

    Mosquitos aren’t just annoying — these ubiquitous blood suckers carry dangerous diseases, too. But unlike humans, dog and cats can’t just cover themselves in DEET, which is toxic for animals. Unfortunately, this puts dogs and cats in a difficult quandary, because mosquitos — in addition to leaving itchy bites all over their body — can also transmit West Nile Virus and potentially-fatal heartworm disease.

    Safe insect repellents for dogs

    Photo: The Animal Rescue Site Store

    This looming dilemma inspires many pet owners to seek out natural mosquito repellents to protect their animals from bug bites. We also sell an insect repelling dog bandana in the Animal Rescue Site store. Meanwhile, you can help your pet avoid mosquito bites by refraining from walking or hiking together around dawn or dusk, when mosquitos are most active, and avoiding standing water (like lakes, ponds, and even containers with rainwater) where mosquitos breed.


    Photo: Flickr/ Dani0010

    Mites describe a variety of different arthropods, but they’re united in their ability to inflict itchy suffering in dogs and cats. Though more common in dogs, dog mites (aka scabies) can provoke itching, hair loss, and mange in both animals. Meanwhile, ear mites lodge deeply inside your pet’s ear canal, causing itching, discomfort, and pain.

    How can I tell if my cat or dog has mites?

    Most mites are nearly invisible to the naked eye, but they’re also uncomfortable and contagious, making early detection and treatment essential. Make an appointment with your vet if your dog or cat is displaying the following symptoms.

    Signs your dog or cat might have mites:

  • excessive itching or scratching
  • shaking head or pawing at one ear
  • patchy fur, hair loss
  • dandruff
  • irritated, raw or scabby skin
  • crumbly discharge in fur or ear
  • Bees, Wasps & Hornets

    Photo: Flickr/ Fractality

    Summer is known for beautiful foliage, but those blooming plants also increase the odds your pet will get stung when she stops to sniff that pretty flower. Nor will your pet’s fur coat protect him from these painful encounters, especially because curious pets are usually stung by bees, wasps, and hornets on their nose, mouth, face, or paws.

    What to do if your dog is stung by a bee, wasp, or hornet

    The good news is that bee, wasp, and hornet stings – though likely to cause mild irritation, pain, and swelling – aren’t usually dangerous for pets. Remove the stinger with tweezers, then reduce swelling by applying an ice pack, a paste of baking soda and water, or by giving your pet an oatmeal bath. But while most dogs and cats quickly recover with these home treatments, other pets have severe allergic reactions — especially if they’ve been stung multiple times. It’s important to monitor your cats and dogs for signs of anaphylactic shock, which can be deadly if left untreated. Contact your vet if your dog or cat is displaying any of the following symptoms after being stung.

    Signs of anaphylactic shock in dogs:

  • Facial swelling
  • Hives
  • Vomiting
  • diarrhea
  • Pale gums
  • Severe itching
  • Gasping, wheezing, or difficulty breathing
  • Drooling and agitation
  • Ants

    Photo: Flickr/Judy Gallagher

    Ants are much more than those unwanted guests at every summer picnic. They also deliver bites and stings causing everything from mild irritation to extreme pain. There are many different types of ants, but the fire ant – which pesters people and animals across the Southeastern U.S. states — is the most consequential. Not only does this aggressive creature deliver a painful sting with burning that lasts for days, fire ant “bites” include venom that can trigger a severe allergic reaction. Ant bites usually appear on legs and paws, but they can appear all over your pet’s body, especially if your pup has been lying down.

    What to do if your dog is stung by a fire ant

    If your pet has been bitten or stung by an ant, quickly move him to a different location (in case he’s standing on or near an ant hill, thus inviting the whole colony to attack). Once he’s in a safe place, brush all the ants from his fur. It may seem counterintuitive, but don’t dunk your dog in the bath to drown these unwanted creatures. Yes, the water will eventually kill the ants, but they’ll frantically bite and sting your pet first. Most pets recover from ant bites with the help of an ice pack and soothing ointment, but others may have a severe allergic reaction. Monitor your pet for the symptoms of anaphylactic shock mentioned above.


    Photo: Facebook/Kenzie Estelle May Thacker

    These pesky creatures come out in full force in warm weather, which explains those mysterious red welts on your pet’s belly. Fortunately, fly bites (which usually appear on your pet’s ears, groin, stomach and places with delicate skin) often look worse than they are, but the real challenge is keeping your pet from scratching. Keeping your dog and cats clean, putting screens on your windows, and clearing your yard of any waste, compost, and standing water (where flies breed) will help keep these annoying pests away. If your pet is bit by flies, a topical anti-bacterial ointment can help with itching and prevent infection.

    As Spring starts, we are getting more and more phone calls about red bites on your dogs stomach. We wanted to give…

    Posted by Morinville Veterinary Clinic on Thursday, May 23, 2019

    Can I give my dog Benadryl?


    Summer bug bites are a common problem for dogs and cats, but you may already have a solution in your medicine cabinet. Similar to how it works with us humans, Benadryl can help quell itching and allergic reactions in our pets. But though vets often prescribe Benadryl for itchy dogs and cats, don’t give Benadryl to animals before consulting with a veterinarian, who can help you determine if (and how much) Benadryl is safe for your pet. Read more about using Benadryl for dogs here.

    When to contact your vet

    Hopefully, this list will help you identify, prevent, and treat common bug bites on dogs and cats. But while most common bug bites can be treated at home, contact your vet if your cat or dog is displaying signs of a severe allergic reaction. You should also contact your vet if your pet seems unusually sensitive or susceptible to bug bites. Your veterinarian will be able to prescribe a stronger treatment to help you and your pets safely enjoy this summer outdoors.

    Additional Resources

  • How To Protect Your Dog Against Ticks
  • Here’s What You Need To Know About The Explosive Rise Of Heartworm And Lyme Disease This Summer
  • How Much Benadryl Can I Give My Dog?
  • Natural Mosquito Repellent For You and Your Dog
  • Ear Mites: Are These Unseen Critters Causing Your Dog’s Itching?
  • How To Spot Dog Fleas, Find Relief, And Rid Your Itchy Dog Of Fleas For Good
  • Vet Explains Why More Pet Owners Are Finding Red Circle Spots And Bites On Their Dog’s Stomachs
  • How to Transition Your Outdoor Cat to Safer Life Inside
  • Help Rescue Animals

    Provide food and vital supplies to shelter pets at The Animal Rescue Site for free!