News > Household pests that are dangerous to your household pets
Household pests that are dangerous to your household pets
January 7, 2022
Common bugs and rodents can be harmful to your pets.
Most of us know that some common household pests, like cockroaches, can transmit bacteria to humans, while others, like bedbugs or rats, can cause illness through bites or fecal matter.
But you may not know that pests can also be a danger to your pets, too. Here are the 10 we worry about most often.
Rabies via skunks, raccoons, foxes, etc.
It’s never any fun when your dog gets sprayed by a skunk, of course, but the real threat from the small animals that turn up in your backyard or when you’re out on your nightly walk is rabies. Contrary to popular belief, animals with rabies generally aren’t running down the street chasing people and pets to bite. It’s more likely that your dog will wander off for a little investigation under a bush or by a garbage can, and disturb a creature which then bites.
Most dogs and cats can be vaccinated against rabies. If you let your pet outside at all, you should ensure their rabies vaccinations are up to date.
Distemper transmitted to dogs via skunks and raccoons
If you’ve lived in southern Ontario during the past few years, you’ve probably come across a skunk or raccoon with distemper and particularly noticed it because it’s out during the day, is sort of stumbling around, and doesn’t move away when you try to get close to it. While humans are not vulnerable to distemper, it’s highly contagious and fatal in dogs. If you see an animal with suspected distemper, keep your pets well away and call the city or pest control immediately.
Spiders: Brown recluse and black widow
Here in southern Ontario, most of our spiders are harmless. However, if your dog is the kind who likes to dig under that old junk corner in the yard or gets into a damp corner of the basement, it may get a bite from a grumpy brown recluse or black widow.
Generally speaking, these bites aren’t fatal, but they can cause serious damage that, left untreated, can become necrotic and infected – with serious repercussions. If you suspect your pet has been bitten, talk to your vet immediately.
Bees, wasps and other stinging insects
Like humans, pets – especially dogs – can be allergic to stings from bees or wasps. Also like humans, a pet who disturbs a large nest of bees or wasps and is then stung multiple times in quick succession can experience serious reactions like difficulty breathing or excessive pain and swelling. Whether your pet is stung once or several times, make sure to monitor them for hives, swelling, breathing changes, etc.
Any wasp nests close to the home should be removed to prevent further interactions.
Ants inside and outside
The species of ants found in southern Ontario generally aren’t highly dangerous to pets. However, fire ants often bite cats and dogs, causing discomfort – and woe betide the enthusiastic puppy who unintentionally snoofles up a noseful of them. As with wasp and bee stings, a single bite or two should be monitored, while multiple bites or an allergic reaction should be treated by the vet.
In the winter months, your pets are most likely to encounter pharaoh ants. While pharaoh ants aren’t particularly dangerous to pets, your pet’s food dish can be their gateway to a large, difficult-to-eradicate kitchen infestation. If you see ants in your pet’s food dish, make sure you do a thorough cleaning of the whole area and monitor it closely for the next few days.
Bed bugs and fleas
Bed bugs and fleas aren’t picky: When they want a blood meal, they’ll take it from dogs, cats, humans or whatever mammal they come across. Bed bugs and fleas may make your pet uncomfortable, but they aren’t fatal. However, long-term and extensive flea and bed bug bites can cause serious skin irritation, leading to dermatitis that has to be treated by a vet.
And of course pets can be a source of transmission: If you don’t remove fleas and bed bugs from your pet at the same time you’re removing them from your home, you’re risking reinfestation.
Mice, rats and other small rodents like squirrels and voles
The good news is that while small rodents can carry rabies, it’s very rare for them to transmit it to dogs or cats.
However, if your dog or cat gets into a serious tussle with a rat or mouse and is either scratched and bitten extensively or holds the rat or mouse in its mouth for any length of time, there are plenty of other diseases that your pet can pick up, including:
- Parasites (worms)
- Salmonellosis (food poisoning, essentially)
- Tularemia (a bacteria which can cause fever, dehydration and death)
- Bubonic plague (rare but you never know)
- Hantavirus (very common in areas with deer)
There have also been cases of dogs eating rats who have ingested rat poison, causing illness or even death of the dog.
And here’s another good point: A home that has so many rats or mice that a dog is able to catch and eat one probably has enough rats and mice to give the humans in that home problems, too. It’s time to talk to a pest control expert.
The bottom line about pests and pets
Many of the household pests that are a problem for humans are also a problem for their pets. If your home contains a dog or cat or other pet, it’s crucial that your pest problems are dealt with.