INSECT STINGS IN DOGS AND CATS
The stings of bees, wasps, and hornets, and the bites of ants and spiders all spell trouble for the nosy dog. Insect venom causes problems ranging from mild irritation to life-threatening shock. Observant pet owners can minimize the reaction by taking prompt action. Keep in mind that although first aid is started at home, severe cases require prompt medical care.
What do I do when my dog battles a bug?
- Be quick to recognize that your dog was bitten or stung. If your dog suddenly paws at her face, chews at her foot, or begins to swell in any area of the body, consider the possibility of an insect bite.
- Prevent allergic reactions. Give a dose of oral anti-histamine (like diphenhydramine) to minimize the reaction and decrease itching. Consult your veterinarian for proper dosing.
- Identify the insect. Quickly search the area
for flying insects as well as crawling ones.
- Since a spider is difficult to identify and may be poisonous, capture it if you can.In the case of bee stings, look for a stinger. Bees are the only insects that leave their stingers in their victims. These abandoned stingers continue to secrete venom so removing them reduces the amount of toxin injected into the dog’s body. If the stinger is still attached to the dog, remove it by scraping a credit card over your dog’s coat and flick it off. Do not use tweezers that may squeeze more venom out of the stinger sac. Luckily, other flying insects (wasps, hornets) don’t leave a stinger behind.
- Soothe the bite site. Make a thick paste of baking soda and water and apply it to the sting site. If your dog has multiple stings or bites, a soothing oatmeal bath is the way to go.
- Minimize swelling. Apply an ice pack to the affected area for 10 minutes to reduce swelling. A bag of frozen peas serves as a handy ice pack for individual bites. A cooled towel works better for larger areas
- Reduce the trauma of scratching. Use a head cone if your dog continues to lick or scratch at the bite wound. Constant scratching will delay healing and may cause infection.
- Maintain hydration and food intake. Give your dog fresh water to drink. Dogs that are stung in the mouth may find it difficult to eat so feed them moist food. Dry food softened with water is less likely to upset the GI tract than canned food.
Severe reactions (anaphylaxis) can be fatal so quick action is vital.
Take your dog to the veterinary emergency clinic at the first sign of:
- Severe swelling around the head and neck that could compromise respiration. Swelling in these areas may occur even if the bite occurred elsewhere.
- Hives on any part of the body. Hives appear as bumps under the skin that raise the hair or as red bumps on hairless areas like the belly. Hives itch a lot, so the dog may roll in the grass or on the floor in an attempt to scratch at hard to reach places.
- Difficulty breathing or wheezing. Some dogs pant more than usual because they have swelling in the respiratory passages and/or because they are nervous. Don’t attempt to figure out the reason, take the dog to your veterinarian.
- Excessive drooling. If there is swelling in the throat, the dog has difficulty swallowing her own saliva and drools a lot.
- Agitation. Some dogs become anxious due to the itching and difficulty breathing. Also, the insect venom may affect the nervous system.
- Vomiting or diarrhea. Even mild vomiting and soft stool can indicate trouble, so don’t blow this symptom off.
- Dizziness or disorientation. If your dog isn’t alert or stumbles, he is having more than the normal reaction.
- Seizures. This is a no-brainer. Call the doctor.