Many insects evolved to drink the blood of many animals, including dogs. These bugs or ectoparasites include fleas, ticks, mosquitoes and sucking lice. Some insects will also drink blood of people or any other pet that the infested dog may come in contact with. Daily grooming and petting a dog helps you check for any signs of these parasites. Many blood-sucking pests can be prevented through medication.
Fleas have small, flat bodies usually colored black or dark brown. Not only are many dogs allergic to flea saliva, but fleas also transmit potentially deadly diseases like tularemia and internal parasites like tapeworms and dipetalonema reconditum. Fleas also drink human blood. Fleas possess such powerful hind legs that they do not need wings. Adult fleas drink blood. Despite their common name, the cat flea is the most common flea species found on dogs in North America, according to “Dog Owner’s Home Veterinary Handbook.”
Many species of ticks such as the brown dog tick drink dog blood. Ticks are round, eight-legged parasites that swell up after they feed on blood. Tick bites are painless, so dogs that do not scratch may still carry ticks. Always check a dog for ticks after it plays in the woods or areas of long plant growth where ticks like to live. Ticks transmit many dog diseases, including tularemia, Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, canine ehrlichiosis and canine babesiosis, warns “Dog Owner’s Home Veterinary Handbook.”
Mosquitoes transmit diseases to people as well as dogs. Only the female drinks blood. The most common parasite transmitted to dogs by mosquitoes is the potentially deadly heartworm. Mosquitoes pick up heartworm from biting an already infected animal. The tiny larvae, called microfilaria, enter the dog’s bloodstream before migrating to the heart and lungs, then grow and mature. Dogs do not show signs of heartworms until they are heavily infested. Heartworm preventative medication only kills microfilaria. It is more efficient to give medication to the dog rather than try to kill all female mosquitoes in the area.
Dog skin hosts two types of lice called chewing or biting lice and sucking lice or Linonathus setsus. Only sucking lice feed on blood while biting lice feed on dog skin, states “Dog Owner’s Home Veterinary Handbook.” Sucking lice, which only grow up to 3 mm long, move slowly over the dog’s skin but cannot fly. Pet dogs rarely get sucking lice because they must live in filthy conditions without any grooming in order to attract lice. Unlike the other bugs that drink dog blood, sucking lice do not drink human blood but only dog blood, according to Michigan State University.