What should you do if your pet has been stung?
We are now in the season of wasps, bees and other stinging insects. Just like with people, stings in pets can vary from having no (or very minimal) reactions to severe allergic reactions. How can you tell when an animal needs treatment?
If a pet experiences any swelling (of the face, mouth or throat), has difficulty breathing (increased breathing rate, more effort to breathe, louder breathing or wheezing, etc), starts to vomit or seems in distress, he or she should be brought to the veterinary clinic immediately. These can be signs of an anaphylactic allergic reaction and requires medication right away to stop the reaction.
If no problems are seen, then no treatment is likely required. If more mild signs are seen (mild swelling at the site of the sting, but no trouble breathing, no vomit and the pet is still acting normally), we recommend calling the clinic for advice. We may recommend an exam or home care depending on the extent of the problem. Bees often leave stingers in place that may require removal. Wasps can sting several times and there is usually no stinger to remove.
If possible, prevention of a sting is best. Wasps or hornets are more likely to sting than bees. Yards should be periodically checked for nests and removed as necessary. This can be done by professionals or by prepared home-owners using appropriate safety precautions (only approaching at night, using appropriate insecticide, wearing protective clothing, etc). If using insecticides, please follow safety guidelines for preventing pet contact (typically the pet must be kept away from the treated area for a certain period of time).
Dogs and cats should be discouraged from playing with wasps or bees, as they often sting when threatened. This will often result in stings around the mouth or face. Pets are best kept indoors until wasps are under control.
Mosquitos can also sting pets. Pets with shorter hair are most at risk, although even long-haired animals can be stung in thinner areas (face, armpits, groin, etc). Mosquitos are most active at dusk and dawn; it would be best to keep pets indoors during these times. Mosquitos are also found in higher numbers in areas of stagnant water or longer grass. Lawns should be kept trimmed with proper drainage. If camping or hiking, avoidance of these areas (especially during dawn or dusk) would be best. T-shirts or clothing could be used to protect the torso of thinner haired animals. Pet anti-parasitic drugs or bug sprays could also be used as a deterrent. It is important to avoid human bug sprays (they usually contain DEET, which is toxic to pets). Cats are especially sensitive to sprays and certain medications (ex: permethrins), so any product used should be specific for cats. A veterinarian can confirm the safety of the product if there are any concerns.