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How to Treat Insect Bites and Stings in Dogs At Home

Tiny bugs can carry colossal risks for your dog, whether it’s a painful hot spot from flea allergies, a chronic tick-borne illness, or a potentially life-threatening spider bite. Unfortunately, insect bites and stings are an unavoidable part of summer, and can pose a health threat to your furry pal. Learn what insects are known for biting and stinging pets and how to combat their actions to make this summer an enjoyable one for you and your best friend.

June 12, 2020 5 min read
How to Treat Insect Bites and Stings in Dogs At Home

Insects that Commonly Bite and Sting Dogs

Any pest that bugs you can also bite or sting your dog. Some of the most common insects that emerge with warmer temperatures to prey on your oet include:

  • Mosquitoes
  • Flies
  • Fleas
  • Ticks
  • Spiders
  • Ants
  • Wasps
  • Bees
  • Hornets

Signs of an Insect Bite or Sting in Dogs

With so many insects known for biting and stinging pets, it can be difficult to determine which bug attacked your four-legged friend. Regardless of the pest that harmed your dog, you will likely notice the following signs of a bite or sting:

  • Swelling
  • Redness
  • Pain and irritation
  • Hives
  • Itching
  • Puncture wound with or without an imbedded stinger

In cases where a severe allergic reaction occurs, or the insect was particularly venomous, such as a black widow spider, you will notice more alarming signs, which may include:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Weakness
  • Trouble walking
  • Hypersalivation
  • Muscle pain or cramping
  • Increased heart rate
  • Collapse
  • Seizures

While tick bites can pose a health threat, signs of tick-borne diseases can take months to appear and signs vary widely based on the pathogen transmitted through the tick saliva. If your pet is bitten by a tick, remove the tick carefully and save it in a jar filled with rubbing alcohol to allow your veterinarian to identify it and the potential risks.

Home Remedies for Treating an Insect Bite or Sting in Dogs

At the first sign of an insect bite or sting in your pet, take action to reduce potential allergic responses. If the insect is still attached to your dog, such as a flea or tick, remove the pest carefully. Use a special flea comb to remove fleas and their eggs, focusing on their favorite areas of your pet’s tail head and hind end. For ticks, use fine-tipped tweezers to pluck the tick’s head from your dog's skin using even, steady pressure to remove. Avoid grabbing the tick’s body or jerking the tick out, as you may squeeze out toxins or leave the mouthparts embedded in the skin. If a bee stinger is left behind, avoid pinching it with your nails or grasping it with tweezers, as this will only release more venom. Instead, remove the stinger by scraping it out with a credit card.

Once the insect or source of injury has been removed, cleanse the wound with an antiseptic wash or simple soap and water.  If your dog has been stung by a bee, you can create a paste of water and baking soda to neutralize the venom, or use a mixture of water and vinegar for a wasp sting. Next, apply an ice pack or bag of frozen vegetables to the area for 10 minutes to reduce swelling and pain. Aloe vera gel, calamine lotion, or hydrocortisone cream can also be applied if needed to reduce itching and inflammation, but be sure to monitor your pet so they cannot lick it off and ingest it.

An antihistamine like Benedryl can also help reduce the severity of an allergic reaction. The correct dosage for Benedryl in dogs is one milligram per pound, and it can be repeated up to every eight hours as needed. If your pet is taking any medications, check with your veterinarian first to ensure no drug interactions will occur. Avoid giving your dog an anti-inflammatory, such as Tylenol, aspirin, or naproxen, as these medications can harm and potentially kill your pet. If your furry pal is still uncomfortable after treating a bite or sting with home remedies, veterinary assistance may be warranted.

Occasionally dogs will need a bit more help than neutralizing the bite or sting and giving Benedryl. If your furry pal is not showing improvement within half an hour or has difficulty breathing or displays excessive swelling, especially after multiple bites or stings or those around the face and muzzle, contact your family veterinarian or emergency veterinarian. Pets can experience such severe allergic reactions, they can go into anaphylactic shock, requiring immediate veterinary intervention of injectable steroids and antihistamines. Some pets may also need to be hospitalized and closely monitored if they had a severe reaction or were bitten by a particularly venomous spider.

How to Prevent Insect Bites and Stings in Your Dog

While the easiest way to prevent most insect bites and stings in your furry pal is to keep them indoors, your pooch will need to venture out at some point, and many insects are highly skilled at creeping into your home. To ensure your best friend is protected from pesky insects, administer a flea and tick preventive on a regular schedule to ward off biting pests. In addition to fleas and ticks, some products can protect your dog from flies, lice, mites, and other insects.

You can also minimize the risk of bites and stings by hiring an exterminator to treat your yard and home for ants, bees, wasps, spiders, fleas, ticks, and other insects. Remove wasp and hornet nests when you notice them and perform spot treatments as needed on other insect lairs.

Another method of reducing your pet’s risk for insect bites and stings is to avoid being outside during the high point of insect activity. For example, mosquitoes enjoy dusk and will swarm you and your dog, while bees and wasps prefer to emerge mid-morning. Choose your time to exercise and play outdoors wisely and avoid areas that attract insects, such as swampy, wet spots or areas with tall grass and weeds.

By combining these insect repellent methods, you and your dog can enjoy the outdoors relatively bite- and sting-free. Or, if those pesky bugs manage to sneak through your defenses, you are now equipped to provide first aid care for your pet to reduce the inflammatory response of an insect bite or sting. By keeping an eye out for common bug bites on your dog, you can nip the problem in the bud before a serious reaction occurs.

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