Warm spring & summer months bring with them plenty of buzzing insects. The noise and movement of bees and wasps are likely to attract your pet’s attention and bring out their hunting instincts! Chasing and playing with insects is very likely to get your pet stung, although just being in close proximity to many bees and wasps puts your pet at a small risk. A single sting, although uncomfortable for your pet, is unlikely to put them in too much danger. Multiple stings, or stings in vulnerable places, however, could be fatal.
1. Firstly, assess where and how many times your pet has been stung. The most common locations for stings include the face, the inside of the mouth, and the paws, as these are the areas likely to come into contact with the insect when your pet is chasing it.
Alternatively, your pet may get stung on the paw from stepping on a bee or wasp, so even if your pet doesn’t tend to chase insects, it could still happen to them. If you notice sudden limping on one leg, it’s worth the checking the footpad to see if there are any signs of a stinger in there.
2. Secondly, you need to decide if your pet is well in itself. Any signs of breathing trouble or major swelling around the affected area could indicate an allergic reaction to the sting. This is a medical emergency as there a risk of your pet going into anaphylactic shock; also if the stinger is located in the throat of the animal there is a risk of it swelling to the point of airway obstruction.
If you suspect either of these things, you should contact us immediately. If, however, your pet seems fine in itself, you just need to monitor it closely for signs of anaphylaxis (difficulty breathing, vomiting, diarrhoea, shock). Anaphylactic shock is most likely to occur within minutes after the sting, so this is the most vital time to check your animal is well.
Equally, if the swelling worsens or won’t go down, a trip to us at the surgery is in the animal’s best interest, as the sting may require an anti-inflammatory or antihistamine. It is important to not give your pet drugs such as Piriton unless they have been prescribed for them before – like all medications, there is a risk of them having a reaction that may be more dangerous than the sting you are trying to treat.
3. You can try to remove the stinger yourself if it is still in place. The best way to do this is by scraping if off, for example with a credit card, as using tweezers to grasp the stinger could cause more venom to be released.
4. You can then bathe the affected area with cold water and apply an ice pack to lessen the swelling and decrease the animal’s discomfort.
5. If you know what your animal was stung by, you can attempt to use some home remedies to treat it. Bee stings are acidic, so bicarbonate of soda mixed with some water and applied to the area can neutralise the venom. On the other hand, wasp stings are alkaline, so vinegar or lemon juice will neutralise the venom. Bear in mind that if you use the wrong one, you will only increase your pet’s discomfort, so only do this if you are completely sure what stung them!
6. Prevention is difficult, but worth a try: you can take measures such as avoiding walking your dog in particularly bee or wasp-dense areas (such as flowery hedgerows). Also, if you can distract your pet from chasing insects, for example with toys, it is less likely to get stung.
Bee and wasp stings are more a nuisance for yourself and your pet than anything, but it is important to know what to look for in the unlucky event your pet has a bad reaction. Of course if you ever have any concerns at all, please call us here at Animal House Vets and we will be happy to offer advice and provide treatment if needed.