Insect Bites on Dogs:
Signs, Symptoms and Treatment

Here's some useful information to help you treat your pet

Insect bites on pets is a common problem faced by pet owners. Dogs, cats, even birds can suffer from insect bites so it is important to know how to deal with this pesky situation and treat your pet properly. This article focuses on dogs. We will focus on birds in our next issue.

Dogs are playful animals and are often found sniffing and exploring unusual places. They tend to sniff under the trash bins, below the ledges and mysterious corners of porches and sheds and love digging up the soil. These places are home to a number of insects which will not hesitate to bite the unsuspecting, curious pooch. At one time or another, this adventurous behavior will lead to insect bites on your dog. Although, you may think of it as a minor insect bite, many insect bites on dogs lead to numerous reactions and dog allergies. It is important to recognize and understand the types of bites and their possible symptoms.

Insect bites on dogs are usually due to the sting of bees, wasps, hornets or ants. If your dog is bitten by any of these insects, he may show symptoms within 20 minutes of the bite. You should keep a close watch on your dog as mild symptoms develop after 12 - 24 hours.

If you observe insect bites on a dog's belly, it means that the dog has been bitten by either wasps or ants. Bees also sting on the hairless areas of the dog. The most common place to observe insect bites on dogs is on the face, head or areas around the mouth. Stings and insect bites on dogs results in inflammation and pain. This may take about an hour to subside. In cases where the dog is bitten by honey bees or wasps, there will be redness and the sting site will feel hot to the touch. If the stinger is left behind, it contains muscle tissues that keep contracting and injecting more venom into the dog. The best way to remove the stinger is scrapping it off using a credit card or a similar object. Do not use a tweezers to pull out the stinger as it may cause the stinger to release more venom.

You may also find flea or tick bites on your dog. When the dog is bitten by a flea, it is generally not one flea, but a number fleas that have made their home in your dog's fur coat. If your dog scratches and bites the various parts of his body repeatedly, it means he is infested with fleas. Ticks are also common pests that can cause serious bites on dogs. These tiny pests attach themselves to the dog's skin and suck blood till they are full. Once full, they drop off and die. Even though the tick dies, this bite can lead to many deadly diseases in both dogs and even the dog owner.

Dogs can also be bitten by spiders. There are many poisonous spiders. Spider venom can cause a reaction the minute it comes in contact with the dog's skin. Most of the spiders cannot penetrate their fangs into the dog skin and do not pose much of a threat. However, black widows spiders can penetrate the skin and cause serious consequences.

Symptoms

Insect bites on dogs can include the following reactions:

  • Swelling on the eyelids
  • Swelling on ear flaps
  • Swelling on the lips and in some cases the entire face. In this case, it is known as angiedema.
  • If the dog is bitten on the nose or mouth, it will lead to large swelling and the animal will have difficulty breathing
  • Urticaria, also known as "hives" which displays as welts are observed on the skin. These bites are usually itchy and can cause anaphylactic reactions.
  • Wheezing
  • Weakness
  • Unconsciousness
  • Weak pulse
  • Increased heart rate and fever which may cause the animal to go into shock.
  • Other symptoms of insect bites on dogs may lead to cold extremities, trembling, vomiting, diarrhea and collapse.

Blood sucking insects like mosquitoes, fleas, ticks, etc. cause swelling and irritation on the bite site. These insects contain some compounds in their saliva that aggravates this effect on the dog's skin and may also cause tiny bumps on the skin. Spider bites cause large swollen bumps because the e spider bite contains an enzyme in the injected venom that leads to an allergic reaction on the dog's skin.

Treatment

Few insect bites on dogs are extremely dangerous, but some can be very irritating and painful to your dog. There are some home remedies for treating insect bites on dogs that are safe and effective. Below are some suggestions:

  1. In the case of bee or wasp stings, apply aloe vera gel. It helps sooth the pain and burning sensation due to the sting or bite.

  2. For bumps and sores, you can try gently applying a paste of baking soda and water several times a day till the bumps recede.

  3. For irritation, try applying milk of magnesia, calamine lotion or hydrocortisone cream several times a day to ease the irritation. You can also apply regular oatmeal or colloidal oatmeal on the bite site to help relieve the irritation.

  4. As previously mentioned, remember to remove the stinger with a magnifying glass using a credit card or similar object. Once the stinger gone, bathe the area with a diluted solution of baking soda mixed with water. Prepare the solution by adding one part baking soda to several parts water. Apply a cold pack for several minutes to help reduce the swelling and pain. Repeat the cold pack several times a day.

  5. You can mix 1 teaspoon of Epsom salt in 2 cups warm water and boil it. Keep it in the refrigerator to maintain its freshness. Bathe the dog with this mixture, to treat irritated and itchy paws and skin. To treat hot spots on skin, saturate a cotton ball with witch hazel and apply it to the spot for several days.

Many dogs develop allergic reactions to bites and stings that require immediate veterinary attention. If the bites are on the face, the swelling may obstruct the dog's vision or breathing. If you find the dog is having trouble breathing or seems disoriented, take him to the vet immediately. You may need to seek veterinary attention if the dog is bitten by a spider, as their venom can cause a more serious reaction than bees or wasps.

It is very important to take care of your dog in case he is bitten by any insect. Even a minor mosquito bite can lead to an infection as the dog tends to keep scratching the itchy area. This can lead to infection by other pathogens which may cause other problems like pus or fever in your dog. Pet care is the owner's responsibility. To give the best possible care to your dog please make sure you do not take insect bites lightly, as the life of your pet may depend on your alertness.

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