Insect Bite Symptoms for a Dog

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Your dog can be a real busybody, sticking his nose where it doesn't belong. Sometimes he'll get a nasty reminder from a bee, spider or other insect in the form of a bite or sting. Insect bite symptoms vary according to the type of bite and include redness, swelling and changes in breathing or heart rate.

Blood-sucking Insect Bites

Insect bite symptoms depend on what's doing the biting. Fleas are among the most common insect dogs contend with. When it comes to fleas it often means more than one bite. Flea bites are itchy, resulting in the classic symptom of fleas: scratching. Occasionally a dog will be especially sensitive to flea bites, resulting in flea bite hypersensitivity or pruritus. Symptoms of pruritus may occur anywhere on a dog but are often located on the front of the body and head; signs include:

  • Frequent, severe scratching
  • Scabs on the skin
  • Hair loss 

Mosquitoes and ticks trigger swelling, irritation and tiny bumps at the bite site.

Spider Bites

When a spider bites it releases venom, which causes an immediate reaction in the dog's skin, usually limited to a large, swollen bump. Few spiders pose any real threat to a dog because their fangs aren't able to penetrate the dog's skin, but the black widow and brown recluse spider are potentially dangerous to dogs. Signs of poisonous spider bites include:

  • Redness, swelling and pain at the bite site 
  • Fever 
  • Weakness 
  • Excitability
  • Muscle and joint pain
  • Muscle rigidity and paralysis 
  • Seizures 
  • Shock 

Warning

  • A dog who has experienced a spider bite should see the vet for antivenin. Brown recluse and black widow spider bites can be fatal.

Insect Sting Symptoms

Wasps, bees and yellow jackets don't bite, but sting. A dog's face and feet are most vulnerable to stings as he's liable to step on a bee or unwittingly stick his nose into a busy area. Symptoms may develop as soon as 20 minutes after the sting or as long as 24 hours after and include:

  • Swelling, often in the lips, ear flaps, eyelids or entire face
  • Welts or hives
  • Localized swelling on the skin

A dog may have an anaphylactic, or severe, reaction, experiencing:

  • Weakness
  • Wheezing
  • Weak pulse
  • Increased heart rate
  • Pale mucous membranes
  • Fever
  • Vomiting or diarrhea
  • Trembling
  • Cold legs
  • Unconsciousness or collapse 

Warning

  • A dog who experiences a severe reaction, appears disoriented or has difficulty breathing from an insect sting should see a veterinarian immediately.

Treating Insect Stings and Bites

Most bites and stings are mild and can be treated at home. If your dog has a stinger left in his skin, don't use tweezers to remove the stinger, which can cause more toxin to be released; instead, gently scrape the stinger off using a credit card. Make a paste of water and baking soda to apply to the affected area to relieve itching. A dab of calamine lotion is also helpful for itch and pain relief and an ice pack helps reduce swelling. Contact your veterinarian if your dog's symptoms progress beyond mild swelling or irritation.

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