Whether your curious cat bats at a cornered bug, or your daring dog sticks their nose into a beehive, your furry pal can easily fall victim to a bug bite or sting. Most pets do not react severely to insect attacks, but some pests may inject them with venom. Learn to identify problematic bug bites and how to protect your pet with our Aberdeen Veterinary Clinic team’s step-by-step guide.

Step 1: Remove the offending bug from your pet

To help stop the bug bite reaction, first remove the pest from your pet. Bathe your pet in Dawn dish soap to help strip fleas from their skin, scrape a bee stinger out with a credit card, or carefully remove a tick with a pair of tweezers. 

Step 2: Soothe the bitten area

A bug bite or sting can cause substantial discomfort, but first aid care can minimize your pet’s pain and swelling. After removing the bug or stinger from your pet, try one of the following methods to ease swelling and irritation:

  • Give your pet a bath — If your pet was bitten or stung by multiple insects, soothe their angry, swollen bug bites with a cool oatmeal bath.
  • Apply a cold compress — Ease the pain, inflammation, and swelling from a single bite or sting with a cold compress. Wrap an ice pack in a towel and apply it to the site for 10 minutes.
  • Neutralize the injury — Create a thick paste of baking soda and water that you apply to the bite or sting site to help reduce inflammation.
  • Administer an antihistamine, if indicated — Some bug bites or stings may resolve faster with oral antihistamines, but first check with your Aberdeen Veterinary Clinic veterinarian for dosing instructions, and to verify that your pet can safely take the medication.

Step 3: Identify the biting or stinging culprit

Knowing the bug type that attacked your pet will help you identify gaps in your pest prevention plan and determine the best treatment. For example, if you know your dog was bitten by a black widow spider, you can watch for venomous spider bite signs, and make your environment less hospitable for spiders. 

Common bugs that may bite or sting your pet include:

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

If possible, safely capture the pest that bugged your pet for easier identification and treatment.

Step 4: Monitor your pet for a severe reaction

Typically, any bug bite or sting causes some swelling, inflammation, and irritation, but they should resolve without assistance. However, if your pet develops more serious problems, or their signs are not improving, they likely require veterinary intervention.

Severe allergic reaction (i.e., anaphylactic reaction) signs can include:

  • Swelling — Swelling is one of the most common allergic reaction signs, and any body part can swell because of histamine release. Closely monitor your pet for swelling around their face and neck to ensure they can breathe and swallow.
  • Difficulty breathing — Swelling around the muzzle, face, and throat can block your pet’s airway, making them pant heavily or their gums and tongue to turn blue or purple.
  • Difficulty swallowing — Your pet’s throat may constrict because of excessive swelling, making swallowing food or water difficult.
  • Drooling — Excessive drooling indicates your pet is reacting severely to the venom or protein injected by the bug.
  • Vomiting or diarrhea — Vomiting and diarrhea can appear soon after an allergic reaction is triggered. If your pet vomits or has diarrhea less than half an hour after they are bitten or stung, they need veterinary care.
  • Disorientation — A pet who is having a severe allergic reaction to a bug bite or sting may become confused, disoriented, or dizzy.
  • Seizures — Seizures in your pet can indicate a life-threatening allergic reaction that requires emergency care.

Step 5: Prevent future bug bites

When you can identify the bug that bit or stung your pet, you can better protect them. Use the following methods to help defend your pet:

  • Administer parasite prevention — Flea, tick, and heartworm prevention products can thwart many biting insects from feasting on your pet, and can repel certain species from ever making contact.
  • Keep your pet away from hives and nests — If you spot a hive or nest while out walking your pet, prevent injury by keeping them on a tight leash until you are far away from the insect dwelling.
  • Maintain a clean yard — Keep your yard free from leaf litter and debris to discourage insects from setting up a home your pet could stumble across.

If you know your pet has been bitten or stung by an insect, monitor them closely for problems, because they may have a severe allergic reaction. If you become concerned, contact our Aberdeen Veterinary Clinic team for help.