Dogs are curious by nature, which can result some pretty charming circumstances, but there’s also a danger in being too curious: They could get too close to an ant hill, a bee’s nest or even a flower bed, where stinging and biting insects dwell.
It’s not uncommon for a dog to be stung or bitten by an insect, but the reaction to the sting or bite can vary according to your dog’s system and the type of insect, just as some humans are more affected by certain insect bites and stings than others.
Although typically the dog will experience only mild discomfort at the sting or bite site, which subsides within hours, some stings and bites can cause more serious symptoms of varying degrees — some of which can be severe if your dog is allergic to the enzymes released from the insect.
Though fleas and ticks do not sting, their bites can be severely irritating to your dog’s skin. You will need to kill the fleas and then treat your dog’s skin to relieve the discomfort caused by the bites.
An infestation of fleas can cause numerous health problems for your dog, so you should consult with your veterinarian about flea prevention products that will effectively kill fleas and their eggs while preventing future infestations.
Ticks also carry diseases, in addition to the discomfort caused when they feed on your dog and the chance of infection at bite sites. Your vet can also suggest a good product to prevent tick bites.
Spider bites can cause your dog serious discomfort as well. Because most spiders’ fangs will not penetrate a dog’s skin, most spiders are not going to harm your dog. However, there are several types of spiders, including black widows, that can bite and inject venom into your dog’s skin, which will cause an immediate and perhaps severe reaction.
If you believe your dog has been bitten by a spider, forgo home treatment and take him to the vet to be examined immediately.
Symptoms of Stings or Bites
Insect stings or bites on dogs can cause the following symptoms:
- Swelling of the eyelids at the site of the sting or bite
- Swelling of the ear flaps at the site of the sting or bite
- Swelling of the lips, or in severe allergic reactions, the entire face — a condition called angioedema
- If the sting or bite occurs on the dog’s mouth or nose, swelling can be significant, resulting in difficult breathing
- Hives, also called urticaria, which appear as small welts on the dog’s skin; these welts often itch and can result in anaphylactic shock
- Wheezing or other difficulties while breathing
- Weakness or dizziness that results in disorientation
- A slow or weakened pulse
- Loss of consciousness
- An increase in heart rate
- A fever high enough to cause shock
- Coldness in the extremities
- Mild to severe trembling or shaking
- Persistent vomiting or diarrhea
- Insects that suck blood, including ticks, fleas and mosquitoes, have an enzyme in their saliva that will cause the site of the bite to swell and become inflamed; tiny bumps may appear on the skin
- Spider bites cause larger bumps that become swollen as a result of the venom injected by the spider reacting with the dog’s skin
If your dog has severe facial swelling, has difficulty breathing or seems disoriented or otherwise in severe distress, take him to be treated by a vet immediately.
Watch this video to see a veterinarian help out a dog who has hives from either insect stings or from eating something poisonous:
Stings or bites that only mildly affect the site can be treated safely at home, but you will need to monitor your dog closely for several days to ensure that the swelling does not worsen and that the area does not become infected.
If your dog is continuously licking the sting or bite, which potentially can cause his condition to worsen or the site to become infected, consider a plastic cone collar that will prevent him from licking the wound.
The venom of a spider bite can cause severe distress to your dog’s body. If you believe a spider bite is causing his discomfort, seek assistance from your vet because his condition could deteriorate rapidly.
Treating Insect Stings and Bites on Dogs
Although few stings and bites from insects cause serious harm to your dog, many are irritating and can cause your dog to itch or feel pain.
Treating insect stings on dogs usually just requires some household items that can safely relieve your dog’s discomfort.
Here’s a list of things you can do to treat affected areas on your dog’s skin:
- If a bee stings your dog, you will need to remove the stinger from the dog’s skin. Squeezing the stinger can cause more venom to be released, so the best way to remove it is to scrape it off using a plastic credit card or a similar item.
- To bee stings, apply a solution of bicarbonate of soda. To wasp stings, apply some vinegar. These help to neutralize the pH of the sting and increase comfort.
- To reduce swelling, you can use a cold pack on the affected area for a few minutes at a time; repeat periodically throughout the day.
- You might also consider giving an antihistamine tablet (something like a 4 mg piriton tablet for a medium-sized dog) to help reduce further swelling. Consult your vet first.
- A teaspoon of epsom salts dissolved into 2 cups of warm water can also be used to bathe your dog and soothe irritated skin.
This pet health content was reviewed for accuracy by a veterinarian, Dr. Pippa Elliott, BVMS, MRCVS. It was last reviewed and updated Feb. 4, 2019.