Q. As soon as the rain stops it seems we can't go in the backyard because of the gnats. My dog doesn’t seem to be bothered by them too much but I don’t see how that is possible- they drive us crazy. Should I put a mosquito repellant on him? Vanilla? Anything? Can he get heart worm disease from them? Thanks!
A. It seems to be a cruel joke that as soon as the weather turns suitable to outdoor activities, the bugs step in to keep us from enjoying it!
Gnats are more irritating than dangerous although they can kill chickens and have been implicated in the deaths of other animals. In most situations involving people or pets, they are fortunately just a first class nuisance. Our dogs in fact don’t always seem to be bothered by them as their coats provide some protection from the painful bites we experience. Hairless areas along the nose and belly of some dogs however, would be available for bites and there is no question some dogs would be at risk at a minimum of extreme irritation from the swarming. Permethrin containing products are approved for dogs as mosquito repellants but their efficacy against buffalo gnats isn’t known and not likely to be effective. Human products containing DEET aren’t recommended for pets. The products we use on ourselves and children to repel gnats that seem to work much better haven’t been approved for pets. While they may be safe and effective, don’t use anything on your pet without first discussing its use with your veterinarian. Cats in particular can have issues as they do a great job of grooming and subsequently ingesting anything put on their skin.
We don’t know of any disease gnats carry to dogs but if your pet is exposed to gnats, mosquitoes are probably lurking nearby and they are the only carrier of heartworm disease. Even though we may be unsuccessful in fully repelling gnats or mosquitos, heartworm disease is completely eliminated by giving heartworm preventative as directed.
Make sure any pain or allergic swellings that your pet may have from encounters with gnats, bees or other insects is addressed. Rarely, allergic reactions can occur that may be life threatening-keep diphenhydramine (Benadryl®) handy along with your veterinarian's phone number.