Protecting from Insect Bites & Stings
The welcome months of spring and summer bring lush green lawns, warm days and pleasant nights, fragrant flowers and thoughts of relaxing vacations. Unfortunately, they also bring those ever-present and annoying insects and creatures of all kinds. We humans are used to shielding ourselves from insects and reptiles in a variety of ways to avoid being stung or bitten. Our pets, however, are unaware that these unwelcome pests can become a source of danger.
When the weather begins to warm up, out come fleas, ticks, mosquitoes, wasps, bees, yellow jackets, fire ants and snakes – sometimes armies of them. They are all ready to attack us and our animals, infest our homes and cause itching, illness or even death. The best way to combat these pests is to prevent or avoid them in the first place. Discuss with your veterinarian the safest products or procedures to use toward preventing these unwanted guests. Some common preventive methods include:
- Use flea, tick and heartworm prevention; some flea and tick preventives also contain a mosquito repellant.
- Eliminate standing pools of water and keep water bowls fresh to avoid mosquitoes.
- Don’t use ‘human’ mosquito repellants especially those containing DEET on animals as they can cause neurological problems.
- Learn about ways to attract birds to inhabit your area since many of these species eagerly feed on mosquitoes.
- Keep your dog leashed on walks and stay on open pathways where snakes can be visible. Watch for fire ant nests on the ground.
- Don’t allow your dog to explore holes in the ground or dig under logs or other objects where snakes or yellow jacket nests might be hidden.
- Keep nighttime walks to a minimum as some rattlesnakes and some other snake species are nocturnal for much of the year.
- After your dog has been in an area you suspect is populated by ticks, thoroughly comb him within four to six hours to help prevent ticks from attaching.
- Avoid long walks at dawn and dusk when many insects are most active.
- Watch for spiders in basements, garages, woodpiles and brush.
Be on the Alert for Stings
If you suspect that your pet has been stung or bitten by an insect, it’s always best to call your veterinarian immediately for advice on what to do.
Dogs are most often stung on their face or paws and these stings can be extremely painful but sometimes you can’t immediately tell what is wrong. A dog that has been stung will often become agitated, run around shaking his head or pawing at his muzzle. If stung in or around his mouth or throat, swelling can constrict your dog’s airway and be life-threatening. Multiple stings can also cause major problems, such as anaphylactic shock. Signs of shock can vary but may include depression, breathing problems, pale gums and a weak pulse.
If your dog is stung by fire ants, remove him from the area and brush off any ants remaining on him. Don’t spray them off with water, as they will hang on with their jaws and continue to sting.
Spider bites can be quite dangerous to dogs. Although generally harmless, there are several varieties of spiders that can cause severe problems. Some spider venom contains digestive enzymes that can damage skin tissue, causing a wound to grow quickly with a secondary infection.
Be certain to inspect your dog often for ticks (cousins to spiders) that can also pose a threat to your dog’s good health. They can carry and spread blood-borne diseases such as Lyme Disease, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and Tick Paralysis. Things That Slither and Bite
Snakes are beneficial to our environment because they control the rodent population, among many other reasons. In general, they prefer to be left alone and avoid conflict. If your dog is bitten by a snake, try to identify it, without getting bitten yourself, as identification is important in determining treatment. Notice the snake’s head shape (triangular vs. oval), coloration, markings, size, and whether or not it has a rattle at the end of its tail. Keep your dog as quiet as possible since movement spreads snake venom. If you’re out on a hike, carry or walk your dog to the car at a normal pace and do not let your dog run. Snakebites are very painful, so be careful. Even a loving dog may bite when it’s in pain. Plan Ahead and Be Prepared for the Unexpected
Seeking a veterinarian’s advice first is important if you have any questions about your dog’s health. If you program your veterinarian’s emergency phone number into your cell phone, you’ll have it close at hand if something happens to your dog and you’re away from home.
If a friend or pet sitting service is caring for your dog during your absence, discuss in advance your dog’s health history and potential health emergencies, as well as any medications they are taking. Make certain your veterinarian’s contact information and the phone number for the closest emergency veterinary room are clearly posted. Be prepared and be safe – not sorry.