Jul 31 2014

Bees, bugs and spiders, oh my!

by Dr. Marcus

The heat of summer is on, which means the bees, wasps, and bugs are out in full force!  Just like people, not all pets will have a severe reaction to a bite or sting, but there is at least a little pain from the sting, and maybe something more severe.

Stings

Bees and wasps are part of the genus Hymenoptera.  The venom mechanism is in the ovipositor located in the caudal abdomen. When animals are stung, the stinging mechanism containing the venom breaks off from bees and certain wasps and embeds in the victim, permitting continued release of venom. Some wasps and hornets are capable of multiple stings, injecting large amounts of poison into the pet.

Signs of a sting may vary from a weal with a central red spot, edema, hives, pruritus, and pain to severe systemic responses such as fever, tachycardia, tachypnea, cyanosis, pale mucous membranes, vomiting, diarrhea, hematuria, disseminated intravascular coagulation (DIC), icterus, ataxia, seizure, and sometimes death.

If your pet was just stung:

  • If the stinger can be found, scrape it out with a credit card or other stiff material.  You can use tweezer to grasp the stinger BELOW the venom sac and pull it out.  Be careful not to put pressure on the venom sac, as that would inject more venom into the pet.
  • Apply a cool compress to the area.
  • Apply a paste mixture of baking soda and water to the area to help neutralize some of the acidic venom.

Because any pet can have a severe reaction to any sting, they should be seen right away.  At a minimum, a dose of a veterinarian-approved anti-histamine is given, and sometimes continued for a couple of days following.  Moderate reactions may also need to receive an injection of steroids and severe reactions may need hospitalization, epinephrine, fluids, and resuscitation.

Once a pet has had a moderate to severe reaction to a bee sting, they will likely always have a reaction. But just because they have NOT had a reaction before doesn’t mean that they’ll be fine this time – it’s better to “overreact” and bring them in that wait too long and have a severe or life-threatening reaction.

Other Bug Bites

Bug bites are often times not overly problematic.  Some can cause local pain and itching, and perhaps a bit of a rash for a few days.  They rarely require treatment, but if you are concerned, please call your veterinarian.

Spiders like Black Widows  (Latrodectus) and Brown Recluse (Loxocles) spiders cause a variety of severe problems, and the bite is so small you rarely know at the time that it occurs.  It can take hours to realize your pet was bitten.   These are not particularly concern in this area as we don’t have any venomous spiders endemic to the area, but could be a problem for pets that travel.

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