Vet Blog

Buzz, Buzz, Smack! How to Manage Bug Bites in Pets

July 01, 2023

A bug bite or sting can ruin a perfect summer day for you and your four-legged friend, especially if they develop a severe allergic reaction.

To help ensure you and your pet enjoy your summer outings, read our Stone Ridge Veterinary Medical Center team's guide to bug bites and stings, and learn which pests commonly attack pets, and how to administer bite and sting first aid and prevent bug bites before they can occur.

Which Bugs Commonly Bite Pets?

Millions of insects inhabit the planet, but a few are notorious for making your pet miserable. Some of the most common pests that bite and sting pets include:

  • Fleas - If you see fleas in your home, you are generally only seeing adult fleas. They make up about 5% of the total population, with the other 95% consisting of microscopic eggs, larvae, and pupae that will continue to hatch and attack your pet if you do not provide environmental control.
  • Ticks - Although ticks are typically most active during spring and fall, they can attack your pet year-round, including during the mild Texas winters. Ticks can transmit several diseases. However, certain tick species are capable of carrying particular pathogens, making tick identification important to determining the disease your pet may have contracted.
  • Mosquitoes - Mosquitoes are perhaps one of the most dangerous pests that can bite your pet, as they can transmit deadly heartworm disease. These insects are easy to identify, especially if they are also biting you.
  • Flies - Fly species range in appearance, and when they bite your pet, these insects can also cause varying discomfort levels. Large horse flies can cause serious pain; whereas house flies cause minimal problems.
  • Spiders - Widow and recluse spiders cause the most serious issues for pets, so you must learn to identify and provide effective environmental management to rid your home and yard of these species. Widow spiders typically have an hourglass-shaped marking on their abdomen; whereas recluse spiders have a violin-shaped marking on their back.
  • Bees - If a bee, wasp, or hornet stings your pet, they can cause significant discomfort for your furry pal, and a potentially life-threatening allergic reaction. Some bees leave their stingers behind, continuing to inject your pet with venom. However, wasps and hornets sting and retreat.

What Problems Can Bug Bites Cause in Pets?

Bug bites and stings can cause more than swelling and pain in pets. They can also lead to a multitude of diseases. Some of the most common problems bugs cause pets include:

  • Flea bite dermatitis
  • Tapeworms
  • Heartworm disease
  • Lyme disease
  • Anaplasmosis
  • Ehrlichiosis
  • Rocky Mountain spotted fever
  • Cuterebra infections (i.e., warbles)
  • Mange
  • Allergic reactions
  • Muscle pain and cramping
  • Fever
  • Lethargy
  • Tissue necrosis

What Should I Do if My Pet is Bitten or Stung?

If you see the bug, insect, or arachnid that bit your pet, you can determine how best to treat their injury. Otherwise, monitor your pet closely for excessive itching, swelling, irritation, or severe allergic reaction.

If a tick attaches to your pet, remove it with a special tick-removal tool or a pair of fine-tipped tweezers. Grasp the tick firmly as close to your pet's skin as possible, and pull straight back. Cleanse the area after tick removal and monitor your pet for tick-borne diseases.

If a bee has stung your pet and the stinger is still in the skin, do not squeeze the stinger. Use a credit card to scrape out the stinger to prevent it from injecting more venom into your pet.

If a bite wound becomes swollen, apply an ice pack wrapped in a towel for 10 minutes. Then, soothe the bite or sting site by applying a thick paste of baking soda and water. Use an Elizabethan collar (i.e., cone) to ensure your pet cannot bite, lick, or scratch the area.

Topical or oral antihistamine or cortisone products may alleviate your pet's itching, swelling, and discomfort. These medications may also prevent your pet from developing a more severe reaction. To verify the product is pet-safe and use the correct dosage, check with your Stone Ridge Veterinary Medical Center veterinarian before administering any medication to your pet.

When Should I Seek Veterinary Treatment for My Pet's Bite or Sting?

Some pets can develop a severe anaphylactic shock reaction to a bug bite or sting, especially if they have been bitten multiple times, or have experienced bites or stings in the past. Your pet needs veterinary treatment if they exhibit any of these signs:

  • Swollen face or muzzle
  • Hives
  • Significant discomfort
  • Excessive drooling
  • Vomiting or diarrhea
  • Pale gums
  • Elevated heart rate
  • Difficulty breathing

How Can I Prevent Bugs From Biting My Pet?

Although bugs can transmit deadly diseases or cause life-threatening allergic reactions when they bite or sting your pet, you can keep your furry pal safe. One of the best ways to protect your pet is through the administration of year-round parasite prevention. When administered regularly, parasite prevention will protect your pet from fleas, ticks, mosquitoes, mites, and intestinal parasites, and the diseases they transmit.

Pets who break out in hives or rashes when outside, go camping or hiking frequently, or spend a great deal of time in insect-infested areas, can benefit from pet-friendly insect repellent. Learn how to shield your pet from bites and stings, by discussing the best pet-safe bug-repellent options with your Stone Ridge Veterinary Medical Center veterinarian.

If your furry pal suffers from a serious bug bite or sting while enjoying the great outdoors, they may need veterinary treatment to get relief. If your pet's bite or sting remains swollen or your four-legged friend is extremely itchy and uncomfortable, call our Stone Ridge Veterinary Medical Center team.