Dog Pests All Pet Owners Must Know

Dog Pests include more than fleas and ticks.

by Mark Stanford |Updated 04-10-2024

What comes to mind when someone mentions dog pests?  Do you think about fleas and ticks?  How about  mosquitoes, flies mites or lice? 

All of these are potentially dangerous insects that can carry disease or make our furry friends miserable. 

But what about other flying insects?  We don’t always consider stings or bites such as a wasp sting or a Bee Sting as dangerous until it is too late. 

Swarming insect bites can make us very uncomfortable at best and at worse can be life threatening. 

Dog Pests

What about out little pets?  A few bites from wasps on a curious puppy can be deadly.  Let’s face it puppies and many inquisitive adult dogs are fascinated about moving insects-- and dogs don’t understand the risks that these bugs pose when they try to play with them.

Janice's Personal Experiences with Dog Pests

I've had my share of near collisions with flying insects lately and it has taught me that anyone with a pet needs a professional exterminator, no matter where you live.

My first experience was with hornets building a nest on my front porch.  Since I'm used to seeing hornet hives hanging from higher places, I wasn't expecting one that had been build just underground.

My tiny Shih Tzu was the first to discover it and luckily she was faster than I was at getting away.

My second experience happened this summer when I walked onto my deck.  An angry swarm of wasps were setting up a home just under the deck and I happened to walk near their construction site.  

Luckily the back door was not far as I raced back inside and my dogs were smart enough not to follow me out.  

I only sustained about 8 bites, but it took nearly the entire summer to heal.  

Can you imagine what would have happened if a little dog had been bitten that many times?

Insects that are Dog Pests

Fleas, a Very Common Dog Pest

What are some of those dog pests that we should know about so we can take steps to reduce or eliminate the threat.

All pet owners are very aware of fleas. Those who own a pet, especially cats and dogs, have most probably dealt with fleas at some point in their pet’s life.

Treating the pet is definitely the first point of action when you notice the signs of an infestation, but bedding and furniture must be dealt with too, to avoid future repetitions of a flea problem.

Fleas can make your dog miserable if he has a flea bite allergy, but they are also very dangerous because they carry diseases such typhus and plague to people.

Depending on where you live, fleas can be a year-round problem and once they find the inside of your home, it is not easy to eradicate them.

Dog Pests:  Ticks 

Ticks are another common pest that pet owners come into regular contact with.

These parasites will suck the blood from your pet, and can also carry potentially deadly diseases that can be passed on to you.

Ticks live in many different climate zones and are prevalent in forested and grassy areas, even our own backyard.  Ticks infect dogs with a variety of different diseases including Ehrlichiosis, Anaplasmosis, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and Lyme Disease.

Another difficult aspect of the tick problem is that once symptoms appear the disease has often already progressed to a severe state.

Tick borne illnesses need to be treated even before symptoms appear, so it is very important to check your dogs regularly and remove them immediately.

Dog Pests:  How Do Flies Affect Dogs?

Flies do not pose a major risk to dogs as do some other insects, but we all know how annoying flies can be when they are buzzing around our head.  Puppies and young dogs may try to eat one or two and that is ok, but a large quantity of flies are going to cause stomach upset.

Sometimes dogs that stay outside when it is hot and the flies are active stand the chance of being bitten numerous times by large flies.  This can cause some nasty scabbing and bleeding.  Horse flies tend to enjoy the dog's ears, his soft belly area and his rectum. 

Not only unpleasant to the dog, fly bites can cause even more problems. When some flies land on the dog, the may lay eggs on the skin or fur especially around areas where the dog may have a wound or cut. 

Once the eggs hatch into maggots, they can bury into the skin causing severe irritation and infection. When this happens, the first thing that must be done is to remove the maggots, a very unpleasant task.  Often the dog will need to be sedated and a veterinarian perform the task.

Keeping the dog inside will keep the flies away.  If your dog's ears do get bitten by flies, you will want to add a bit of petroleum jelly or antibiotic salve to help heal.  Dogs can also use insect repellent when outside

Bee and Wasps Stings

Did you think that only people could be stung by a bee or wasp?  It is never a pleasant experience but it can be deadly to a small puppy or dog. 

Puppies are particularly at risk because they are so curious and the game of chase, especially if they are chasing something as small as an insect can be highly arousing.

Since puppies and dogs investigate their world through their noses, the first thing to get stung is often the nose, tongue or throat if the dog tries to swallow it. 

These are the most dangerous because the poison can block the dog's airway. The real problem with bee or wasp stings is the amount of poison that is injected.

One sting will cause pain and swelling, but if your puppy or dog gets stung multiple times or stung inside his mouth, it's time to transport to the nearest emergency vet. 

Look for signs of a severe allergic reaction including:

  • Crying 
  • Nervous running in circles, 
  • Salivating
  • Swelling around the area
  • Scratching, rubbing, licking, pawing, or chewing
  • Severe signs include: hives, vomiting, difficulty breathing
  • Collapse
  • Pale gums

Vomiting, collapse, difficulty breathing and pale gums are signs of anaphylactic shock, and the dog requires immediate veterinary intervention.

How to Treat Bee and Wasp Stings at Home

If your dog is not showing any of the above signs of anaphylactic shock, you may be able to treat at home assuming you continue to monitor the dog very closely.

  • Locate the area of the beesting and remove the stinger if it is a bee sting.
  • Make a thick paste of baking soda and water and apply to the affected area.
  • Cover that with a cold compress to prevent swelling.
  • Give a dose of an antihistamine. According to Dr. Jessica Vogelsang, DVM (PetMd), the standard dosage for oral Benadryl is 1 mg per pound of body weight, given 2-3 times a day. Most drug store diphenhydramine tablets are 25 mg, which is the size used for a 25 pound dog. You should be able to safely give your 13 pound dog 1/2 pill and your six pound dog, 1/4.  Call your vet first if you have any concerns.

Mosquitoes are Nasty Dog Pests

Those pesky mosquitoes are everywhere in warm climates and we all know how mosquito bites affect us: Redness, intense itching, and sometimes swelling.  We often forget that dogs can be bitten too and experience the same type of irritation.

More importantly, though mosquitoes carry disease, the most common one for dog lovers is Heartworm disease.  But that is not the only illnesses that mosquitoes carry, West Nile Virus, Eastern Equine Encephalitis, and Systemic Lupus Erythematosus are others.

We'll never rid the world of mosquitoes (in my opinion) but there are ways to help reduce the possibility of getting bitten.  

Avoid standing water anywhere your dogs might mingle outside including outdoor water bowls and bird baths, small puddles that don't drain and even tarps that collect water.

Plant citronella plants around your deck or porch or use candles especially at night.  Use an insect repellent on yourself and spray your dog at the same time. But, don't use human insect repellent that contains DEET. DEET can cause vomiting, seizures, and skin irritation when sprayed on dogs.

Don't walk your dog during those peak hours when mosquitoes are most active, dusk and dawn.

Homemade Mosquito Repellent To Prevent These Dog Pests from Harming You or Your Dog

You can also make your own insect repellent with just fresh lemons and water.

Ingredients and Supplies:

  • 6 whole lemons cut up
  • One quart water
  • Saucepan
  • Spray Bottle


  1. Add six cut up lemons to a quart of water and bring to a boil. 
  2. Let steep for 2 hours and allow to cool.
  3. Strain out any pulp and seeds and put in a spray bottle. 
  4. Don't spray directly on your dog's face but you can spray a little on your hands and rub gently into the hair making sure not to get too close to his eyes. 

This repellent works good on people too, but be sure not to spray on open sores.

Rodents are Dog Pests Too

Rodent (Rat)Rodents also pose a significant risk to pets

When we think about dog pests, we first consider fleas and ticks and then mosquitoes, but rodents such as mice and rats can pose great health risks to you and your pets.

Many of our cats and dogs will chase a rat or mouse, but what if that rodent turned round and bit your pet? Or, your dog catches and eats that mouse?

Rodents transmit dangerous diseases, and one bite is all it takes to infect your pet.  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), rodents can pass on many very serious diseases including Plague and Leptospirosis.

Problems with Rodent Dog Pests:  Can Dogs Get Plague?

Plague, also known as the Black Death or Bubonic Plague is caused by a bacterium called Yersinia pestis. Without treatment, it can be fatal to both humans and pets.

You might think that Plague went out with the Middle Ages, but it is still around today in some parts of the world, including the western United States including the states of Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, Wyoming, west Texas, Arizona, Idaho, Nevada, California, Oregon and Washington. 

Often when plague has been identified in rural areas, all campgrounds, state, local, and federal parks and open spaces are closed off to the general public to protect not only dogs, but people as well. Please heed the warnings.

The disease is transmitted by rodents or the fleas that interact with the rodents.  Dogs and people become infected by being bitten by a flea that is carrying the bacterium.  People can also get the disease through dog bites, scratches or sneeze droplets from the dog's respiratory tract.

Treatment is available through the use of antibiotics, however dogs may need to be guaranteed and often are euthanized to protect the human population.

What is Leptospirosis and Should I Worry?

Leptospirosis is caused by one of many bacteria strains spread through the urine of infected animals including rodents a common dog pest.  The bacteria can get into water or soil and survive for months.

People or dogs get infected when their skin or mucous membranes come in contact with the bacteria usually through a scratch, sore, or through their eyes, nose or mouth.

Symptoms can be severe but mimic other diseases such as the flu.  It normally affects humans in two stages, the first one causes symptoms such as fever, chills, muscle aches, headache, eye pain and GI disturbances (vomiting and diarrhea). 

These symptoms subside and are replaced in a couple of weeks with kidney or liver failure or meningitis.

The incidents of Leptospirosis can be reduced by not swimming in contaminated waters, wearing footwear and getting your dog vaccinated.

Practice good hygiene including hand washing when coming into contact with animals such as rodents or after cleaning up from your dogs.

There is a vaccine available for dogs that will cover some but not all of the strains of Leptospirosis.  Ask your vet for details whether your lifestyle suggests vaccinating, keep those vaccines up to date.

Dog Pests Summary and Take a Way

People have lived side by side with dogs for at least 15,000 years many dog people live with their beloved pets for an entire lifetime without encountering any serious cases of dog pests.

It can happen, however, and the more exposure to risky situations, the more likely you may encounter one or more of these dog pests.  Keep in mind that many seemingly dangerous problems can be prevented or eliminated by recommended protocol. 

Dog Pests Guest Article by Mark Stanford from Pest Exterminators Ltd.

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About Janice (author and voice behind this site)

Having lived with dogs and cats most of her life, Janice served as a veterinary technician for ten years in Maryland and twelve years as a Shih Tzu dog breeder in Ohio.

Her education includes undergraduate degrees in Psychology with a minor in biology, Early Childhood Education, and Nursing, and a master's in Mental Health Counseling.

She is a lifelong learner, a dog lover, and passionate about the welfare of animals. Her favorite breed for over 50 years has been the Shih Tzu, but she has also lived with Poodles, Maltese, Yorkshire Terriers, Beagles, English Bulldogs, Carin Terriers, and a Cocker Spaniel.

When not writing, reading, and researching dog-related topics, she likes to spend time with her eight Shih Tzu dogs, husband, and family, as well as knitting and crocheting. She is also the voice behind Miracle Shih Tzu and Smart-Knit-Crocheting

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