You may think that mosquitoes only bite humans and not animals, but the fact is that your pets and farm animals are at risk from the diseases spread by mosquitoes just as much as you are!
Mosquitoes are carriers of serious diseases that claim both human and animal lives every year in the United States.
Diseases That Mosquitoes Can Transmit to Animals
Heartworms: Heartworms are transmitted by mosquitoes and are found in every state in the union. They primarily affect dogs, although cats, ferrets, wolves, foxes and very rarely, humans may be affected, as well.
Equine Encephalitis: Equine encephalitis is all too common and many deaths could be prevented with a good mosquito control program in place! The horse will begin running a high temperature and then exhibiting signs of nervous system involvement such as tremors, restlessness, and over-sensitivity to sound or light. As the disease progresses, the animal might start circling, head pressing, wandering aimlessly and be unable to swallow. Paralysis is the end result and usually occurs within 3-5 after initial symptoms…often followed by death.
West Nile Virus: This disease has received a lot of attention regarding human incidences, but horses can contract West Nile Virus, as well. The symptoms are similar to Equine encephalitis, attacking the nervous system of the animal and also causing flu like symptoms. Finally, the brain and tissues around the brain have swelling that can lead to death of the horse.
There are certain preventative and precautionary measures you can take to protect your horses from mosquitoes:
- If possible, don't let your horses outdoors during the time that mosquitoes are more prevalent, which is dusk until dawn. When your horses are outside, try to avoid having them around places with standing water that are breeding grounds for mosquitoes, like low, wet places or bushy areas.
- Having tight screens on the windows and doors of your barns can be a tremendous help in reducing exposure to mosquitoes. You can find very large fly screens for barn doors that simply pull up or down as needed.
- Mosquitoes are not attracted to fluorescent or yellow incandescent lights, so use those in and around your barn and your home, as well.
Although there are those who swear by giving horses apple cider vinegar and garlic to repel mosquitoes, the jury is still out on that one. There hasn't been enough research done in this area to prove or disprove it.
Herbal remedies such as these might not harm a horse, but with nothing to back up the belief that it would help, either; depending on them to prevent Equine encephalitis seems a risky business.
In addition, there are environmental methods of controlling mosquito populations in your farm:
- Try to watch for and eliminate low lying areas or depressions, even as small as the ruts made by tires. If water is still standing in a low place 7 days after a rain, it should be filled in. Mosquito eggs can hatch in less than an inch of standing water!
- Clean stock tanks and water receptacles frequently to prevent mosquitoes laying eggs there with subsequent hatching.
- Keep storm drains and culverts open so that water doesn't accumulate and stagnate.
To prevent heartworms in dogs and cats that are outside all or most of the time, Heartgard is recommended by veterinarians.
Pesticides to Control Mosquitoes
There are two types of insecticides effective in preventing and controlling mosquitoes:
- Larvicides: In places where you cannot remove or eliminate standing water, using a larvicide is recommended. Larvicides are eaten by the mosquito larvae after hatching and poisoned, which of course prevents growth into adult mosquitoes. You can find larvicides in the form of either pellets, granules or liquids.
- Adulticides: Adulticides are an immediate method of killing mosquitoes on contact. They are a pesticide that is sprayed in a fine mist and will zap mosquitoes instantly. You should try to spray adulticides during optimum conditions, which means a still evening without much wind, when mosquitoes are out in full force and active. Some people like to “bait the trap” by using a mosquito attractant before spraying the adulticide. This way, you can lure them in and eliminate even more at one time.
To reduce the risk of diseases caused by mosquitoes, you should plan and implement a solid program of mosquito control on the farm.
It is much wiser to prevent these mosquito borne diseases than to incur the expense of treating them, not to mention the suffering and possible death of your animals!