Dogs are curious creatures. They love to run and chase things including bees and wasps. Outdoor cats will stalk an insect for ages, and then pounce and try and play with it. And both species can accidentally contact a stinging insect, in the same way that humans can. In almost every case, the reaction of the insect will be to sting.
Why Stings Hurt
The two most common types of stinging insects are bees and wasps. It’s not the small puncture wound that causes the sting’s pain, but the small amount of poison that is injected. A bee’s stinger is barbed and designed to lodge in the skin, killing the bee when the stinger detaches from the body. Wasp stingers are not barbed but are more painful, and if provoked these insects can sting multiple times.
The Dangers of Being Stung
Most times pets get stung on their faces from investigating an bee or wasp too closely, or cats will get stung on their paws from trying to catch the insect. Usually an insect sting is just painful and irritating for your pet, but there are times when you should be more concerned.
1. Being Stung inside the Nose or Throat
Your pet may get stung on the tongue, or inside their mouth or throat if they try to bite or catch an insect in their mouth. These stings can be very dangerous as swelling from the sting can close your pet’s throat and block their airway. If your pet has been stung inside the mouth or throat you should get immediate veterinary attention.
2. Allergic Reactions
Watch for allergic reactions. A pet may be allergic to bee or wasp venom, or a severe allergic-type reaction can be caused by a large number of stings even in a cat or dog who wouldn’t normally be allergic. If your pet has been stung multiple times you should get veterinary advice as soon as possible.
Signs of a reaction include:
- General weakness
- Difficulty breathing
- Excessive swelling extending away from the sting site
- If your pet is having a severe reaction, it is a life-threatening condition. You need to take your pet to a vet immediately. Veterinary treatment may include antihistamines, steroids or other medications to help relieve the swelling so your pet can breathe. Extreme cases may require placing a breathing tube down the throat and giving intravenous fluids.
What to Do if Your Pet has been Stung
A simple sting can be safely left alone. The pain and irritation should be temporary. If a stinger is still present, try to remove it by scraping it with a fingernail, credit card or a rigid piece of cardboard. Don’t use tweezers or forceps to remove it, as this may force more venom out of the stinger. If you can’t find the stinger, or you can’t get it outdon’t worry about it. It may have come out already, or it will come out on it’s own once the swelling goes down
Administer a remedy for the pain. Applying a weak mixture of water and baking soda to the affected area will help reduce the pain. You can also wrap ice or an icepack in a towel and apply it to the wound to reduce swelling and pain. Make sure you don’t contact your pet’s skin with an uncovered ice pack.
To relieve the swelling and itching you may use the human drug Benadryl, available from any pharmacy. Do not exceed the recommended dose of 2 milligrams per kilogram of body weight, or 1 milligram per pound, every eight to twelve hours. Benadryl may cause drowsiness in your pet, or in cats it may cause agitation. If your cat becomes agitated, discontinue the Bendaryl. If you administer Benadryl, and then take your pet to the veterinarian, be sure that you advise the vet that your pet has already received the drug.
Keep a close eye on your pet after he or she has been stung. Make sure that an allergic reaction isn’t beginning, and that your pet is not worrying the area of the sting. If several days pass and the swelling from the sting doesn’t go down, notify your veterinarian.