Bug Bites and Bee Stings: How to Protect Your Pup This Spring
Veterinarian Reviewed by Dr. Janice Huntingford, DVM on May 14, 2018
Posted in Dog
You and your pooch will likely be spending a lot of time outdoors while the weather is warm this spring. Unfortunately, warmer weather also means a great number of insects like bees and mosquitos will begin to make your backyard, nearby parks and wilderness areas their home. Dogs are curious by nature and will try to sniff around, but this curiosity may come back to bite them—literally. While outside this spring and summer, it’s important to be mindful of the insects that can cause your dog harm.
Bug bites are an extremely common occurrence in dogs, leaving Fido with a swollen face, itchy belly or worse. Insect bites and stings are most common on the head—usually on the ears, face or mouth—as well as on the paws and belly. Not only can stings and bites cause discomfort and itchiness, they can lead to severe allergic reactions, diseases like Lyme or heartworm and other ailments.
Types and signs of bug bites
Dogs run around and will get into almost anything if unwatched, which can lead to them discovering insects that will bite or sting to protect themselves. Some of the most common bugs your dog might encounter this spring include:
Bites from many of these insects will result in the area becoming red and inflamed. Some stings may cause pain or swelling, while others may simply feel very itchy and make your pup uncomfortable.
However, some bites, like those of the black widow spider, can cause much more serious problems due to the venom and lead to major health complications. Your dog might also be allergic to the saliva of certain insects, leading to an allergic reaction and itchy, inflamed skin.
If you are unsure of whether your dog was bitten or stung, here are some common signs to look out for:
- Swelling on eyelids or ear flaps
- Swelling in the face
- Hives or small bumps on skin
- Weakness or unconsciousness
Keeping your pup naturally safe
Repelling insects sounds great, but many pet owners want to avoid using chemicals on their lawns or on their dog. Fortunately, there are a number of natural and safe ways to prevent your pooch from being bitten this spring.
- Build a healthy immune system: The first step to minimizing the reactions your dog has to insect bites and stings is to help them build a strong and resilient immune system. When your dog is healthy, they will be able to better stave off infections and diseases transmitted by bugs. Give your pup a fresh diet full of nutritious foods, avoid giving them medications as much as possible and limit the use of chemicals in your home.
- Use dog-safe repellent: Insect repellents made for humans are not safe for your dog, but there are a number of dog-safe repellents on the market that are effective at keeping the bugs at bay. The use of certain oils like lemon eucalyptus or soybean oil can also help stave off certain insects like mosquitos.
- Try homeopathic remedies: Some dog owners swear that giving dogs homeopathic medications before heading outside helps to reduce the reaction your dog might have to bug bites and stings. These medications are often inexpensive and not loaded with chemicals.
- Keep a watchful eye: Some insects cannot be repelled by sprays or oils, but simply need to be watched out for in case they attack in self-defense. Keep a lookout for any bee hives or nests in your yard and remove them as soon as possible. When you and your pup are at the park or on walks, keep your dog away from areas that might house bugs like marshes and swamps.
Caring for bites and stings
Even with the best repellent and most attentive pet owners, dogs are still bound to get a bite or sting every once and a while. If you notice your pup exhibiting signs of insect bites, treat the area as soon as possible and assess whether the reaction is severe enough to warrant a trip to the vet.
If a bee’s stinger is left behind in your dog’s skin, scrape it off using a credit card parallel to the skin. Do not use tweezers, as this can release more venom into the wound. Then, bathe the stung area in a bath of baking soda mixed with water. You can also apply a cold pack to reduce swelling to the area.
For general bites or stings causing inflammation, apply aloe vera, witch hazel or other topical ointments to soothe the skin. A paste made of baking soda and water can also help reduce pain and itchiness in bumps and sores.
If the bite or sting causes severe swelling from allergic reactions or your dog is having trouble breathing or seeing, take the pup to the vet immediately.
With the right combination of preventative techniques and quick care after bites and stings, your pooch should be able to enjoy the spring without suffering from a continuous stream of bug-inflicted pain.
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Janice Huntingford, DVM, has been in veterinary practice for over 30 years and has founded two veterinary clinics since receiving her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine at the Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph. She has studied extensively in both conventional and holistic modalities. Ask Dr. Jan