It’s that time of year again, when summer activities abound. However, when your family includes members of the furry, four-legged variety, it also means an upswing in the chance your pet will run afoul of ticks, mosquitos, and bees. Here are a few suggestions on how to prepare yourself.
Bite and sting tips
If you find a tick attached to your pet, use a pair of tweezers to grasp the tick’s body as close to its head and the dog or cat’s skin as possible. Gently twist and pull the tick off. Do not jerk or pull too quickly, as this may cause the tick’s body to separate, which could result in the head remaining behind. After you’ve removed the tick, clean the area and apply a topical antibiotic ointment.
After an insect bite, use a cold pack or compress at the site to help reduce the swelling. (That is, of course, if your animal will allow you!) A bag of frozen peas or corn works well, too. Remember to place a protective layer, such as a towel or washcloth, between the ice and the animal’s skin/fur. A hydrocortisone ointment can help ease the itching and redness associated with insect stings, but make sure they don’t lick it off.
With bee stings, it is important to check if the stinger has been left behind. If it has been, use a credit card to scrape it free. Then, call your veterinarian to find out which over the counter antihistamine you can use and what the appropriate dosage is. Please bear in mind that these medications may cause drowsiness. A paste of baking soda and water also helps soothe the sting, but it can be messy when applied to fur, so only use the paste on exposed tummies.
For stings inside the mouth, offer ice cubes or ice water for your pet to lick and drink. Oral stings carry an increased risk for swelling around the airways, so carefully monitor your four-legged friend to ensure they are breathing properly.
Things to avoid
Do not use ammonia products, as they are corrosive to the skin and their absorption can cause systemic issues. They may also cause respiratory irritation from inhalation.
Do not use calamine lotion, as zinc may be toxic when used on dogs and cats.
When to see the veterinarian
Like people, some dogs and cats may suffer severe anaphylactic reactions when stung or bitten by insects. An anaphylactic reaction usually occurs within 20 minutes of the sting, and causes a pet’s face, throat and airways to swell, which makes breathing difficult or impossible. Anaphylactic shock can be fatal without immediate veterinary treatment.
Please take your dog or cat to a veterinarian if you notice any or all of these signs:
- Acting weak
- Facial swelling
- Trouble breathing
Even if you don’t notice any of these specific symptoms, but do have questions after a bite or sting, call your veterinarian right away.
The best offense is a good defense. During tick season, limit your pet’s time outside, keep the flora in your yard trimmed, and consider using tick prevention shampoos, oral medications, or collars. To prevent insect bites, avoid leaving stagnant water around your home, stay inside during peak mosquito times, and use a canine-safe bug spray. As for bee stings, be sure to keep an eye on your pet whenever they are outside, and invest in a first aid kit that you can carry with you at all times.