Posted by Amy Shojai on 4/30/2008 in General Articles
On-the-go dogs delight in outdoor adventures, but too often they sniff out pesky bugs that prove aggravating or even dangerous. Recently, my happy-go-lucky German shepherd pup Magic morphed into a miserable crybaby, courtesy of “something” that bit or stung. His eyes swelled shut, his muzzle inflated, and hives made fur stand off his body in an itchy checkerboard pattern that prompted nonstop scratching.
Fur offers some protection but paws and sparsely furred tummies are at risk especially in locations that harbor fire ants. Dogs who play with bees, wasps, spiders or scorpions suffer stings on the face, head or even inside the mouth. Bites and stings beneath the fur may be hard to see or treat, but first-aid usually is all that’s needed to relieve any minor swelling, itching or redness.
Heed these seven bits of advice if your dog gets stung or bit by a bug:
-Bees leave behind the stinger, which may continue to pump venom into the skin. Use a credit card or similar rigid tool to scrape it free.
-A cold pack or compress applied to the bite helps reduce the swelling. A bag of frozen peas or corn works well, and molds against the pet’s body.
-A baking soda and water paste works great to soothe the sting, but it can be messy when applied to fur so use only on exposed tummies.
-Ammonia works great to cool the pain of fire ant bites. Moisten a cotton ball and dab on the stings. Calamine lotion also soothes ant bites.
-For stings inside the mouth, offer ice cubes or ice water for the pet to lick and drink.
-You can also mix a teaspoonful of baking soda into a pint of water, and squirt the solution into his mouth with a turkey baster or squirt gun, if he’ll allow you to do this.
As long as your dog continues to breathe with no problem, a veterinary visit may not be necessary even if the face swells quite a bit. Benadryl, an antihistamine, counters swelling and itching. A safe dose is one milligram for every pound your pet weighs or a Benadryl ointment can be used directly on the sting.
Hives usually go away on their own after a day or so, and sooner if treated with an antihistamine. Magic felt better within 20 minutes of the first dose of Benadryl. Keep in mind that this over-the-counter medication also causes drowsiness as a side effect. In my case, Magic slept through the night and recovered by the next morning.
How do I know when it’s an emergency?
Like people, some dogs can suffer severe allergic reactions when stung or bitten by insects. A single sting can prompt a dog’s muzzle to swell and an anaphylactic reaction usually occurs within 20 minutes of the sting. This causes a dog’s face, throat and airways to swell – making breathing difficult or impossible. Anaphylactic shock requires immediate veterinary treatment as a dog can die without professional medical intervention.
Please take your dog to a veterinarian if he exhibits any or all of these signs:
Extreme facial swelling
Has trouble breathing
– By Amy D. Shojai, CABC, a certified animal behavior consultant, pet care specialist and author of more than a dozen pet books, including The First-Aid Companion for Dogs and Cats. She can be reached through her website www.shojai.com