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Bee, Wasp, and Ant Bites – Insect Bites and your Dog

Picture of a puppy and a bee

When temperatures start to soar, it’s only natural that you and your best canine pal are going to want to spend more time enjoying the great outdoors. Whether your plans include a swim at the beach, a walk in the woods, or a picnic at a local park, chances are pretty good that some bugs will come along and try to spoil your fun. Bug bites affect both people and their dogs, but just because insects are ever present during outdoor activities in the summertime doesn’t mean you and your dog need to curtail your plans. With a little preparation, you can help protect you and your dog from insect bites. If one of the wily little creatures happens to slip through, our guide to bees, wasps, and ants will help you understand how to treat those annoying bites, so you don’t miss even a minute outside in the summer.

What Types of Insects Sting Dogs?

There are many different types of insects that sting dogs. Since dogs are curious by nature, many of them naturally seek out anything that flies, a problem that can mean they get bitten or stung. 

There are three main groupings of insects that can be problematic for dogs. These are:

  • Wasps, hornets, and yellow jackets (Vespidae)
  • Fire ants (Formicidae)
  • Honeybees, African killer bees (Apidae)

Of the three groups of insects, the bugs most likely to pursue dogs aggressively are the Vespidae. Unlike honeybees, the members of this grouping are able to sting repeatedly, causing multiple injuries to you and/or your dog. By comparison, bees are only able to sting a dog or person once. Once the bee has stung someone, its stinger remains embedded in the flesh, and the bee quickly dies. Though the stinger is no longer attached to the body, it remains capable of administering potent doses of venom into its “host.”

What Do I Need to Know About Bee and Wasp Stings?

Honeybees typically do not bother dogs if the dogs do not bother them. They are quite content to keep to themselves. However, African killer bees are an entirely different species that are known to travel in large groups. African killer bees are harmless if left alone; however, they will attack if they feel threatened. This most often occurs when a dog accidentally stumbles across a nest. Though bees of both varieties typically sting the head, neck, or feet; if a swarm is disturbed, anywhere on your dog’s body could be fair game.

The venom distributed by bees can be fatal to both dogs and humans. Experts agree that 20 stings per kilogram of body weight has the potential to kill a dog or human. However, in some dogs or people with extreme sensitivities to bee venom, it may take only a single sting to result in death.

As a general rule, bee stings are less concerning than a string of stings administered by a swarm of hornets or yellow jackets.

Among the signs a stung dog may exhibit include:

  • Pain at the sight of the sting
  • Swelling
  • Puncture wound
  • Embedded stinger
  • Redness and warmth at the sting site
  • Itchiness
  • Hives

In some dogs with severe allergies to bee or hornet venom, anaphylactic shock may occur. This most commonly takes a place a maximum of ten minutes from the time of the sting. Signs a dog is experiencing anaphylaxis including vomiting, diarrhea, fatigue, collapse, seizures, difficulty breathing, and cardiac distress.

Though some dogs may respond strongly to bee or hornet stings, there is no recommended course of treatment. Over time; as the venom works its way through the body, the symptoms will begin to abate.

Experts recommend removing any trace of the stinger from the dog’s body. This can be done using a credit card. If your dog is suffering with swelling, ice packs can help to reduce this and assist with pain relief as well.

Other recommended solutions to alleviate pain include:

  • Applying a paste of baking soda and water to the sting site
  • Giving the dog a bath in oatmeal
  • Applying aloe vera gel
  • Applying hydrocortisone cream
  • Administering Benadryl at the veterinarian recommended dosage

If your dog has experienced a bee, hornet, or wasp sting and the symptoms do not resolve within 12-24 hours, it is a good idea to make an appointment to see your veterinarian. Dogs that experience anaphylactic shock require immediate veterinary assistance.

What is the Best Way to Prevent Bee and Wasp Stings?

There is only one foolproof way to ensure you or your dog are not stung by bees, wasps, or hornets: avoidance. Since dogs may inadvertently step on a hornets’ nest or anthill, it is a good idea to ensure the places you plan to visit are free from these items. In addition to this, some pet stores sell insect repellents that make your dog smell unattractive to many of these stinging bugs. These can be sprayed or applied topically to your dog’s coat or skin to prevent stings or bites from taking place. It is important to note that only repellents designed specifically for use with dogs should be used to protect your best canine pal. Human insect repellents often contain ingredients that are harmful to dogs.

What Do I Need to Know About Ant Bites?

There are many different species of ants. Some of them bite while others sting, and there are even a few varieties that do both. Though typically an ant bite is a minor irritation, some dogs can have very strong reactions to them, and in rare cases, ant bites or stings can be fatal.

Ants like to bite dogs in two specific areas if possible: the dog’s nose and their feet. Ant bites commonly lead to swelling. This can affect a dog’s ability to breathe if the nose is bitten and the nasal passages begin to enlarge.

There are several different symptoms you can look for to determine if your dog has been stung or bitten by an ant. These include:

  • Lameness
  • Hives
  • Itching the site of the bite
  • Pain
  • Inflammation

As with hornet, wasp, and bee stings, some dogs may experience anaphylaxis as a result of an ant bite. When this occurs, the most commonly seen signs are vomiting, diarrhea, fatigue, unsteadiness, respiratory distress, and pale gums.

Ant bites typically appear as raised red spots on a dog’s body. However, in areas where the dog has a lot of coat, they can be difficult to detect.

One of the most dangerous types of ants is the fire ant. Typically reserved only for the South and Southwestern portions of the United States, fire ants pack a whopping punch of venom that has a dangerous effect on dogs. Fire ants wield a sting that is extremely painful and often causes immediate swelling. To make matters worse, fire ants like to gather in groups and often inflict multiple bites on a single victim, intensifying the amount of venom, and with it, the pain the dog experiences.

Dogs suffering from ant bites can be treated with the same remedies that are applicable for wasp, bee, and hornet stings. As with all stinging or biting insects, the best course of action to prevent injury is to avoid places where there are ant colonies.

Looking forward to spending time in the great outdoors with Fido this summer but want to avoid bee, wasp, and ant bites? Follow our top tips for preventing and treating bug bites to help you make the most of the summer months with your dog.

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