By Dr. Fiona Caldwell, a veterinarian and writer for Pets Best, a nationwide pet health insurance agency since 2005.
Insect stings and bites are not only a nuisance for us humans; they are a pesky problem for our pets too. The fur on dogs and cats offers some protection from stings and bites, although fur can also keep bites and stings hidden from your view. Paws, tummies with minimal fur, and mouths are at a greater risk.
Here are eight bits of advice if your dog or cat gets stung or bitten by a bug:
1. Bees can occasionally 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.
2. A cold pack or compress applied to an insect bite or sting helps reduce the swelling. A bag of frozen peas or corn works well, and molds against the pet’s body. Always have a protective layer, such as a towel between the ice and your dog or cat’s skin/fur.
3. 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 of dogs and cats.
4. Over the counter hydrocortisone creams used on dogs and cats can help reduce the itch and redness associated with insect stings and bites.
5. Avoid using ammonia products, because they are corrosive to the skin and can be absorbed by the skin and cause systemic issues. You can also see respiratory irritation from inhalation of these.
6. Avoid calamine lotion because it contains zinc, which can be toxic if consumed by dogs and cats.
7. For stings inside the mouth, offer ice cubes or ice water for the pet to lick and drink. It’s also important to note that oral stings carry an increased risk for swelling around the airways, and careful monitoring is important to ensure your dog or cat is breathing properly.
8. As long as your dog continues to breathe with no problem, a veterinary visit may not be necessary even if the face swells a bit. Benadryl, an over the counter antihistamine, counters swelling and itching. Keep in mind that this over-the-counter medication also causes drowsiness as a side effect. A safe dose is one milligram for every pound your pet weighs or a Benadryl ointment can be used directly on the sting.
How do I know when it’s an emergency?
Like people, some dogs and cats can sometimes suffer severe anaphylactic reactions when stung or bitten by insects. An anaphylactic reaction usually occurs within 20 minutes of the sting. This causes a pet’s face, throat and airways to swell – making breathing difficult or impossible. Anaphylactic shock requires immediate veterinary treatment as a dog or cat can die without professional medical intervention.
Please take your dog or cat to a veterinarian if they exhibit any or all of these signs of an anaphylactic reaction:
-Extreme facial swelling
Most insect bites and stings can be easily treated. However, knowing when to contact a veterinarian is important. If you ever have concerns about your pet’s health following an encounter with an insect, call your veterinarian right away.