Maple Veterinary Hospital has recently had a sudden increase in dogs with small red target lesions, most often seen on the belly of a pet. They appear to caused by an insect known as biting midges. These small pests, also known as sand flies, no-see-ums, and punkies are part of the gnat family. Biting midges are bout 1 to 3 mm in length, they typically appear to be a grayish color and have wings with a mottled gray appearance. These insects breed and are normally found in areas where there is standing water, such as streams, ponds, marshes, mud, compost and rotting wood. They are most active around dusk.
Their bites typically cause a local allergic reaction which can be intensely itchy and last for over a week. This can be alleviated by the use of a topical antihistamine cream. These insects are not typically seen on a host, but are seen in the enviornment. There are limited means to control the population. Some pesticides can reduce populations. Eliminating wet areas can also help limit the number of bugs. They are also weak fliers so windy conditions deter them. Many of these pests are so small they can fit through average window screens, and if they are a problem indoors, investing in extra fine mesh screens may be helpful. These bugs are not known for transmitting disease between humans or pets, but are knwon to spread disease in livestock.
The welts of these insects can look similar to some other diseases in dogs and if your pet is itching or uncomfortable, or the welts do not go away quickly, your pet should be seen by a veterinarian to rule out infections and provide medications tha tcan give your pet safe relief from these pests.