Dogs tend to be little explorers. Unfortunately, this means that they are prone not just to getting into trouble or accidents, but it also means they’re prone to getting bug bites. Bugs abound in the big, bad world and if your dog is curious about anything, anywhere, at any time… well, they could receive some kind of bug bite in thanks for their earnest investigations.
A dog with bug bites is just the reality of life for our furry friends. Even canines that are relatively laidback and lazy will still run all over the place sniffing and inspecting anything and everything they can put their nose to, especially when they are allowed outside after being cooped up all day or when they are released into some kind of new territory.
Though bug bites are often accidental, a case of wrong place, wrong time, some dogs may find insects themselves intriguing. This can increase the possibility of your dog receiving a bug bite or a bee sting due to their curiosity and attempts to “play” with the bug they’ve found. This is what makes a dog’s nose so darn vulnerable. They’re always sticking it in places it doesn’t belong and using it to play with things they shouldn’t.
In other cases where a dog isn’t intentionally trying to play with a bug, they may get bit simply because bugs are equal opportunists. If accidentally disturbed, the angry insect will bite or sting whatever body part happens to be closest!
Unfortunately, in addition to making your dog’s tender nose a favorite bite spot, that also makes their mouths, lips, and even their tongues premium real estate for an accidental bite. A dog’s feet are also highly vulnerable, especially when it comes to ant bites. This article will discuss how dogs with bug bites react and how you can alleviate their symptoms if problems arise.
The Dangers of Hives and Nests
If your dog happens upon a bee hive or wasps’ nest, or they run across an ant hill, they can suffer more than just one lone bug bite. An accidental step into a teaming ant hill can result in multiple bites. If a dog happens onto a hive or a nest, the angry insects can swarm their whole body in a matter of minutes. This can result in a dog with bug bites galore and in some cases, the bites could trigger a serious canine allergic reaction, especially in dogs that are extra sensitive or that are allergic to bees or wasps.
Fortunately, the venom from a bug bite in most cases should only cause a mild reaction. However, if your dog is allergic to the bug venom in question or they have suffered an overload of bug bites because they were tangled within nest, your dog could experience a much more severe reaction. Sometimes the situation could even become life-threatening.
My Dog Has Bug Bites- Now What?
One of the most important things you need to do if you suspect your dog has been bitten by a bug is to locate the bite area and try to identify the type of bug that bit your dog. Dog bug bites on the belly may be due to ants or possibly a wasp sting. Any areas where a dog has little to no hair may be particularly vulnerable to bug bites of all types.
If you think that your dog was bitten by a bee or a wasp, visually inspect the area. Sometimes when a dog has been stung by a bee, the stinger will be left behind. When a stinger remains caught in a dog’s skin, it continues to release venom, which makes the bite worse.
Fortunately, bugs like wasps don’t leave any stingers behind, but the bites can still be quite painful. If you’ve inspected the wound and it looks as though there’s been a stinger left behind, use something flat (like the edge of a credit card) to flick it out of your dog’s skin. Whatever you do, don’t use tweezers or try to pluck it out with your fingers. If you try to remove a stinger using your fingers or tweezers, you may end up pushing more of the bug venom into the wound and make it worse.
Types and Symptoms of Bug Bites in Dogs
Many dogs will begin to show symptoms of a bug bite within the first 20 minutes or so of being bitten. Pain and inflammation typically occur, and in the case of bee stings or wasp stings, you may notice the area feels hot when you touch it. Some dogs may experience swelling at the site of the bite, while some experience itching or both. If you notice your dog seems itchy, try to keep them from scratching and making the inflammation worse.
Sometimes dogs are bitten by bugs like ticks or fleas. Ticks can carry diseases such as canine Lyme disease, which can be detrimental to both dog and human. Fleas, of course, can turn into an infestation, which can cause severe itching and irritation. Other times, dogs may receive mosquito bites. Mosquitoes can carry diseases as well and cause additional health complications.
Sometimes dogs get other types of bug bites, such as spider bites. Spider bites can cause serious reactions (depending on the type of spider) that can cause your dog to display symptoms like disorientation, dizziness, canine vomiting, or shivering. Symptoms like this can also occur if your dog has received multiple bug bites at one time. This is what happens when they run across a beehive or tangle with a nest of wasps or hornets.
When a dog receives multiple bug bites at once, their body can be overwhelmed by the amount of venom they’ve been injected with. As a result, they can experience severe and adverse reactions like difficulty moving or difficulty breathing. Some dogs may even go into shock.
If you think your dog appears to be disoriented or seems as though they are suffering a severe reaction to a bug bite, you should treat it as an emergency and get your dog to the vet right away.
Some other symptoms of a bug bite include redness and swelling at the site of the bite, and a small lump might be felt where your dog has been bitten. A dog can experience swelling of their ear flaps, too, as well as swelling of the eyelids, lips, and in some cases, the whole face.
When swelling of the face occurs, especially around the nose and mouth, it can cause difficulties breathing in dogs. A dog may also get hives, or experience symptoms like weakness, wheezing, a weak pulse, and even fall unconscious.
A dog’s heart rate could increase, and some dogs even suffer fevers as a result of a bug bite. Other times dogs can experience symptoms like coldness in their extremities, canine vomiting and diarrhea, and even death, depending upon how severe the bug bite is and the amount and type of venom your dog has received from the bite.
All symptoms of bug bites will vary depending on the type of bug the dog has been bitten by, whether or not it’s one bite or many bites, and whether or not they are allergic to that type of bug bite. Some dogs will have a more severe reaction than others no matter how benign the bite might normally be, simply because they are allergic, and their body is highly reactive to that particular allergen.
What to Do If Your Dog Has Received a Bug Bite
Once you’ve identified the bite area and what may have bitten your dog, you’ll want to clean the wound and try to reduce as much of the swelling as you can. You can do this by applying a cold compress or an ice pack to the area or try using a baking soda and water paste as a way to soothe the irritation. Baking soda helps balance PH levels and draw inflammation out.
You will also want to stop your dog from scratching, licking, or biting at the wound site, so they don’t make the irritation worse. If your dog simply won’t leave the area alone, you may have to put a cone on them so that they don’t have access. Allowing a dog to keep itching or licking at a bug bite can make things worse as well as cause a secondary infection.
Other remedies that help to soothe and relieve bug bites are oatmeal baths or doing a rinse using milk of magnesia. You can also use topical treatments for a dog, such as hydrocortisone creams or aloe vera ointments. Calamine lotion is not recommended because the zinc content can be toxic for dogs. Some pet owners will give their dog a bath in Epsom salts to help relieve itching and irritation, and remedies like witch hazel can be used to treat hot spots.
Finally, if your dog is experiencing swelling and extreme itching, you can try giving him a dose of Benadryl for dogs to help counteract the symptoms. However, be sure to check with your vet before administering any medications to ensure that you are giving your dog the proper dosage. Never give a dog medication (especially medications like Benadryl) without first checking with a vet or pharmacist to ensure you are giving them the right dose.
When to See Your Vet
Even if your dog experiences some swelling, as long as their symptoms aren’t severe, and their airways are not affected, they should recover well enough on their own and you shouldn’t need to see a vet.
However, if your dog has suffered from a severe reaction, don’t delay. See a vet immediately because severe symptoms could become life-threatening if left unchecked. Signs that you may need to take your dog to the vet include swelling of the face, head, or neck, especially when the swelling restricts their airway and inhibits their ability to breathe.
Dogs that experience severe agitation, have difficulty holding their bowels, experience vomiting, drool a lot, wheeze, or suffer any other breathing problems are serious symptoms that should be assessed and treated by your vet.
Additionally, if your dog experiences symptoms like canine seizures, this is a serious and abnormal reaction to a bug bite and you should seek medical treatment right away.
Treatments Your Dog May Receive for Bug Bites
If you do need to see a vet for treatment of your dog’s reaction to a bug bite, the sooner you do so the better. The goal with medical treatment is to alleviate your dog’s symptoms and prevent them from going into shock. Your vet may administer epinephrine as well as give him an antihistamine medication or steroid.
Depending on how severe your dog’s reaction, IV fluids may also be necessary, and in some cases, your dog may be given oxygen, especially if the airways have been compromised and they’ve been struggling to breathe. Your dog may also need to undergo testing to make sure they have not suffered from any organ damage that could further hinder their recovery, and they may end up staying in the animal hospital for a day or two for monitoring.
In most cases, a dog’s reaction to bug bites is nominal, if you even notice they’ve been bitten at all. In many cases, bug bites go completely unnoticed by pet owners and dogs recover just fine on their own. It’s only in those rare cases where a dog is bitten by something particularly venomous, or they suffer from a severe allergic reaction that a bug bite can be more than “just” a bug bite. When that happens, the best recourse is to seek treatment with your vet and not leave anything to chance.
- “Insect Bites on Dogs: Signs, Symptoms and Treatment.” Pet Assure, Accessed 5 Nov. 2018. www.petassure.com/new-newsletters/insect-bites-on-dogs/.
- “8 Tips If Your Pet Gets a Bug Bite or Sting.” Pets Best Insurance, 20 Apr. 2018, Accessed 5 Nov. 2018. www.petsbest.com/blog/tips-if-dog-cat-gets-bug-bite-or-sting/.
- “Mosquito Bites in Dogs – Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment, Recovery, Management, Cost.” WagWalking, 28 May 2016, Accessed 5 Nov. 2018. www.wagwalking.com/condition/mosquito-bites.