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If You Could Talk To The Animals...

Have you ever seen the original 1967 movie, Dr. Doolittle? If your answer is yes, then you probably fondly remember the lyrics from the song If I Could Talk To The Animals written by Leslie Bricusse.

If we could talk to the animals, just imagine it …
Think of all the things we could discuss
If we could walk with the animals, talk with the animals,
Grunt and squeak and squawk with the animals,
And they could squeak and squawk and speak and talk to us

What If we could talk to our animals, our pets? What would they have to say? I am sure they would complain about not getting enough treats, but would they express their dislike for nuisance insects like mosquitoes and ticks that plague the backyard? Why of courserous — and with good reason! Not only do mosquitoes and ticks cause discomfort to our pets, they also make them vulnerable to a multitude of mosquito and tick-borne illnesses. Most proactive pet owners know the dangers of heartworms and Lyme Disease. However, animals are susceptible to other vector-borne illnesses and more than just cats and dogs are at risk.

So, just like Dr. Doolittle, Mosquito Squad of Chester & Delaware Counties wants to teach you everything we know about animals. Or, at least everything we know about keeping your West Chester, Newtown Square and the Mainline-area pets safe from the threat of mosquito and tick-borne illness!

Canine Mosquito & Tick-Borne Illnesses

The list of diseases that mosquitoes can transfer to dogs includes parasitic infestations, viral infections, and bacterial infections. Canine heartworm (Dirofilaria immitis) is probably the most well-known parasitic infestation that dogs can get from the bite of an infected mosquito. The disease is actually caused by a roundworm. Dogs and sometimes other animals such as cats, foxes and raccoons are infected with the worm through the bite of a mosquito carrying the larvae of the roundworm. In addition to this dangerous illness, dogs can also contract West Nile Virus, Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) and Tularemia from mosquitoes among others.

Ticks can also make Man’s best friend sick. The tick-borne illnesses that affect dogs include Lyme Disease, Anaplasmosis, Ehrlichiosis, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Babesiosis, Hepatozoonosis and Bartonellosis for starters.

Feline Mosquito & Tick-Borne Illnesses

Cats are at risk for many of the same mosquito and tick-borne illnesses that affect dogs. These include heartworms, West Nile Virus, Eastern Equine Encephalitis and Lyme Disease, Babesiosis, Tick Paralysis and Tularemia. Cats are usually more affected by Tularemia than dogs. This condition, commonly referred to as rabbit fever is caused by a bacteria carried by 4 varieties of ticks in North America and fleas can also transmit this illness.

Ticks can also cause Haemobartonellosis in cats, which is also known as feline infectious anemia. Treatment for Haemobartonellosis includes antibiotics which must be given for several weeks, and in some animals, transfusions may be necessary. Cytauxzoonosis is another tick-borne disease found in cats; although it is more commonly reported in the south central and southeast U.S. Cats with cytauxzoonosis may develop anemia, depression, high fever, difficulty breathing, and jaundice. Cytauxzoonosis is hard to treat and often unsuccessful. Cats that are able to recover may be carriers of the disease for life. There is currently no vaccine for this disease, along with many others on this list, making tick prevention of the utmost importance.

Equine Mosquito & Tick-Borne Illnesses

Believe it or not, horses, donkeys and ponies can be at risk for vector-borne illnesses too! They are not immune to the equine pathogens mosquitoes carry. Unless immunized against specific mosquito-borne viruses, known as arboviruses, a horse is at risk of contracting Eastern, Western, and Venezuelan equine encephalomyelitis (EEE, WEE, and VEE) viruses and West Nile virus, which can cause fatal neurologic disease. As these names suggest, certain encephalitides are more prevalent in particular regions, whereas West Nile Virus is endemic, or found regularly, throughout the continental United States. While dogs and cats are susceptible to West Nile, horses are more likely to become ill from West Nile virus than other mammals. Most will recover with supportive medical care, but up to 40% will die from the disease.

Eastern Equine Encephalitis virus and Western Equine Encephalitis virus are in the same virus family (Togaviridae) and genus (Alphavirus). Both viruses are known for causing encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) in horses. EEE is an extremely virulent virus, with fatality rates of 70-90% in nonvaccinated horses, while WEE is less so, with fatality rates of 20-50%.

There are three main tick-borne diseases that can strike horses; these are Lyme Disease, Equine Piroplasmosis and Equine Granulocytic Anaplasmosis. Most notable of these three is Equine Granulocytic Anaplasmosis because it is transmitted by deer ticks but by a different bacteria than the bacteria responsible for Lyme Disease. It also tends to occur in young horses, often under four years old. At this time, there are no vaccines labeled for use in horses for tick-borne diseases. Protecting your horse from ticks is the best way to prevent infection.

Vector-Borne Illness In Less Common Pets

Less common pets, livestock and exotics can be at risk along with dogs, cats and horses. For example, Eastern Equine Encephalitis affects poultry and pigs, and Western Equine Encephalitis can affect poultry as well. Tick-borne Anaplasmosis can affect cattle, sheep, goats and other mammals.

Llama, Vicuna and Alpaca are at risk for West Nile Virus.

Some of the furry favorites Chester & Delaware county residents often keep as pets include rabbits, gerbils, mice, hamsters, chinchillas, ferrets, hedgehogs and guinea pigs. Rabbits, especially those kept outdoors are susceptible to tick infestations and illness. These include Ehrlichiosis, Lyme Disease, Tularemia, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and Tick Paralysis. Myxomatosis is an often fatal disease that can infect wild and domestic rabbits commonly spread through insect bites, including mosquitoes.

Ferrets, even if kept primarily indoors, are at risk for heartworm along with other mosquito and tick-borne illnesses. It is always a good idea to check with your veterinarian to learn which illnesses exotics and rodents are at risk for in your particular area.

An Ounce Of Prevention…

When it comes to protecting your pets — whether your best friend is a horse, dog, goat or chicken — the old saying an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure rings true. Since no vaccine or cure is available for many of the vector-borne illnesses that affect pets, treating the symptoms of each illness is our pets only fighting chance once infection occurs. It is up to us as proactive and loving pet owners to prevent the source of infection and reduce the chances of our beloved animals getting sick. For dogs and cats, using spot on or oral preventatives are available — make sure to check with your vet to advise on which is best for your pet. For horses and other equine make sure to discuss the availability and benefits of choosing to vaccinate your animal for Western and/or Eastern Equine Encephalitis.

We Have To Speak For Our Pets

Since we are unable to talk to the animals, we have to speak on their behalf. This means learning and practicing mosquito and tick prevention methods to keep them happy and healthy As is the case with all pets, it is very important to manage their environment in a way that prevents and controls sources of disease. though the type of pet you have may differ, many common sense practices are the same across the board. These include:

  • Keeping your pet clean and groomed in order to detect and remove ticks in a timely manner.
  • Conducting frequent inspections for ticks after a trip outdoors.
  • Keeping your yard clean and mowed to discourage the presence of mosquitoes and ticks.
  • Inspect your property often and discard any items that hold the potential for pooling water to discourage mosquito breeding.
  • Keep outdoor watering stations filled with clean, fresh water daily.
  • Contact your mosquito and tick control professional to discuss a treatment program that best suits your needs.

Contact Mosquito Squad of Chester and Delaware Counties today to learn more at (610) 674-0799, or via email at [email protected].

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