Insect Stings… What You Need To Know

The summer’s warm weather brings us out of hibernation.  We spend more time outside this time of year and so do our dogs.

But we’re not the only ones who come out of hiding when the weather’s nice.  The bees, wasps, hornets, spiders and scorpions are all active in warm weather too.

What does this mean for your dog?  What would you do if your dog were stung by one of these critters?

If your dogs are like mine, their noses are always where they shouldn’t be when they are exploring the yard.

They sniff in holes, bury their heads in flowering shrubs, and paw at anything moving in the grass.  They don’t care how many bees are buzzing around their heads.

This can be dangerous behavior.   Complete oblivion can mean trouble if your dog sticks its nose where these insects are nesting.

Dogs are most likely to be stung by insects on their noses, in their mouths or on their paws because those are the body parts they use to investigate their surroundings.

If your pet is stung, you may hear them yelp or see them paw at their face.  Should you be concerned?

Well, that depends.  Let’s talk about which stings are harmless, which ones can be serious, and what you should do if this happens to your dog.

Bees, wasps, hornets

If your dog gets stung by one of these guys, and it’s only one sting not multiple stings, they will most likely be fine after the initial discomfort.

Remove the stinger right away… if you can find it.   The stinger will continue to release venom as long as it’s still in the skin.

Do not use a tweezer or squeeze the stinger with your fingernails. This can pop the venom sac, releasing more venom into your dog.  Instead, use a credit card or piece of cardboard to scrape it off.

Clean the area with cool water and soap.  You can apply a cold compress or an ice pack to reduce any swelling.  Use the ice for 5 minutes on/5 minutes off for the first hour.  Wrap the ice in a washcloth to avoid damaging the skin with direct contact.

You can also use apple cider vinegar on a cotton ball to neutralize the venom.  Do this a few times until the swelling subsides.

No cider vinegar on hand?  Try a baking soda paste.  Mix 3 parts baking soda with one part water and apply it to the sting once every two hours for the first day until the swelling goes down.

Aloe vera gel is also effective but be sure it’s pure aloe.  No aloe lotions.

When using any of these remedies always avoid the eyes.

A bee sting is painful for your dog, just like it would be for you.  But after the initial redness and localized swelling, a healthy dog shouldn’t experience any serious symptoms.

Your pet can have an allergic reaction making the sting more than just uncomfortable for your pet.  If there’s swelling around the face, not just at the spot of the sting, call the vet.  You can give your dog Benadryl but you must ask your vet for the recommended dose first.

The alarming symptoms are vomiting, diarrhea, disorientation, weakness, and difficulty breathing within a few minutes of being stung.  These are the signs of an anaphylactic reaction.  This is serious.  Get to the vetimmediately.

Additionally, shock can set in.  If their gums are pale, your dog is going into shock.  Get to the ER.  Shock can be fatal.

The good news is one sting rarely results in these serious reactions.  A dog is more likely to have a serious allergic response if they have been stung before or if they experience multiple stings at one time.

Consecutive stings can also result in a dangerous reaction.  To avoid another sting, don’t allow your dog outside by themselves until they recover.

Black widow and brown recluse spiders

The two spiders most likely to cause a problem for your dog are the black widow and the brown recluse.

The black widow lives all over the U.S. but primarily in the Southwest.  It has a distinctive red or orange hourglass on its abdomen.

The brown recluse lives in the Midwest and is active at night.  If this spider bites your dog, it’susually because they disturbed the spider when it was resting.

The bite of these two spiders can be a nonevent or very serious.

If a spider bites your dog, try to catch it in a jar so your vet can see it.  If a black widow is the culprit, watch for muscle cramps, entire body pain, shaking and panting.  The risk with this kind of bite is elevated blood pressure and heart rate.

Any of these symptoms means a trip to the vet.

The brown recluse destroys the skin surrounding the bite because of necrosis.  The skin cells die.  If the bite is on a limb, it can result in amputation.

I knew a dog that lost his tail from a spider bite.  The owners weren’t even aware he was bitten until he developed this terrible ulcer on his tail.

The ulceration can take a long time to heal and can become infected.  If gangrene sets in or the venom enters the blood stream and travels to the organs, the brown recluse bite can be fatal.

Signs of this spider’s bite can be nothing at all or some local pain followed by itching.

The signs of a more serious reaction are bloody urine, fever, chills, rash and weakness.

The skin surrounding the bite can be red with a white lesion and a dark central scab.

Because the dying skin tissue can lead to the loss of a limb, the faster the vet can diagnose a brown recluse bite the better.  And the more likely you’ll prevent complications.

Scorpions

If you live in the Southwest, scorpions are what nightmares are made of.  There are hundreds of species of these little devils.  Many of them are non-venomous and, although painful, their stings are not life threatening.

But, the bark scorpion—one of the more common species—is extremely venomous.  If one of these gets your dog, it can be fatal.

If a scorpion stings your dog, restrict their movement to keep the venom from flowing from the sting to other parts of the body.

Call your vet to get the right Benadryl dose and to tell them you’re on the way.  It’s advisable to see your vet if a scorpion stings your dog.

You don’t want to wait for the drooling, watery eyes, dilated pupils, trembling or breathing difficulties to set in.

Or course, how your pet responds to any of these stings or bites is dependent on their age, weight, and general health.  But an allergic reaction can happen to any dog.  Be prepared and know what to look out for so you can act quickly if necessary.

Has your dog ever been stung by one of these creatures?  Share your experience in the comment section above.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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