Preventing and treating bites and stings
Summertime means longer days and more time spent outdoors on walks, or playing with your pooch in the garden. However, it also increases your dog’s chances of coming into contact with a range of biting beasties. Follow our expert tips to lessen the sting – or itch!
Bees and wasps
Your dog’s natural urge to sniff about in the garden, or on walks, could put him – and especially his mouth and throat – at risk of being stung. Stings to this area are potentially the most dangerous, as any swelling could make it difficult for your dog to breathe; a frightening fact Georgia Newall discovered on a lazy Sunday stroll with her Boxer, Layla.
‘Layla was sniffing around a hedge, when she emerged with a scarily swollen face,’ Georgia says. ‘She had swallowed a wasp and received several stings to her mouth. As it turns out, she’s allergic, so the reaction was dramatic. We rushed her to an emergency vet, and now always carry an EpiPen on walks.’
If your pooch has inadvertently disturbed a stinging insect, take action quickly. It’s the venom that causes pain (and, in some cases, an allergic reaction) so the longer it’s in your dog’s system, the greater its effect. See a vet immediately for stings in the mouth and throat, as well as for multiple stings anywhere on the body, which can cause kidney problems and may even be life-threatening. Your vet will be able to check for signs of an allergic reaction – such as breathing difficulties – and may prescribe antihistamines. Remember, you should never give your pet any human medications, no matter how similar the pet versions may seem. Your vet will need to determine the exact dosage and will know what type of drug will work best for your dog.
If your pooch has received a single bee sting, don’t try to remove the stinger with tweezers or by squeezing it out – you could accidentally release more venom from the sac. Instead, scrape over the area with a clean, rigid piece of card then use ice to reduce the swelling.
Bee stings are acidic so, once the sting is out, a simple home remedy such as a baking soda paste (one teaspoon of baking soda mixed with one teaspoon of lukewarm water) may help. Wasp stings are alkaline, so dab a spot of vinegar onto the affected area with a small wad of cotton wool instead.
Kate Devin also had success using pure lavender essential oil to treat a bee sting on her shorthaired terrier, Buddy. ‘It helped take the sting away,’ she says, ‘but I’d recommend using a collar to prevent your dog from licking it off.’
Tick bites usually occur in long grass, heathland and woods, so always check your dog thoroughly after walks and follow these handy tips on grooming to prevent parasites from taking hold. If you do find a tick, remove it using a special tick hook (rather than tweezers) to avoid breaking off the head, or visit your vet. Try to steer clear of YouTube ‘how to’ videos, which often give conflicting – and sometimes inaccurate – advice on removing ticks safely.
It’s vitally important to remove ticks as soon as you spot them, and to invest in year-round spot-on tick treatments, as tick-borne diseases like Lyme Disease and Babesiosis are often more dangerous than the bites themselves.
Your dog could get fleas from any other pets he comes into contact with, or even just by wandering in the same areas as flea-carrying animals such as rodents. As the fleas’ saliva irritates your dog’s skin, these bites are very itchy and can cause a minor allergic reaction. Watch out for excessive scratching, as in some cases this can lead to hair loss, as well as potential infection where the bites have been scratched open.
To prevent a flea infestation in the first place, ensure your dog’s flea treatments are kept up to date and, during hotter months, wash his bedding at least once a week on a high-temperature setting.
Horseflies, midges and mosquitoes
Your dog’s fur offers some resistance to these kinds of bites, but his ears and nose can be a target. If your pooch appears to be scratching or biting a specific area, check him for the raised lumps that are a sure sign of both fly and mosquito bites.
While some vet-prescribed cortisol creams can help halt the itch, prevention is key. Avoid walking near water or in marshy areas, particularly at dusk and on warm evenings, and prevent insects from breeding around your home by removing or covering sources of stagnant water (such as ponds or pools) and frequently refreshing your dog’s water bowl.
Use citronella-scented candles in the garden, and deter mosquitos and flies by applying insect repellant to your own skin when out on walks with your dog.
If any bite or sting is still red, swollen or causing pain after a few hours, or you notice any difference in the quality of your dog’s coat, it’s best to contact your vet.
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