Nothing beats spending a day in nature, exploring the great outdoors with your pet. That is, until you hear a mosquito swarm’s buzzing and you dash back to your car to avoid becoming their next meal. Your pet is also a target for these hungry pests, and your furry pal’s reaction can range in severity from mild irritation to severe, and they can also develop a life-threatening disease. Follow our Greenfield Veterinary Clinic team’s guide to bug bites and stings, and learn how to protect your pet’s health.

Which bugs can bite or sting my pet?

Unfortunately, various insects can bite or sting your pet. Common culprits include fleas, ticks, mosquitoes, bees, wasps, and spiders. 

Can bug bites and stings harm my pets’ health?

While most bites and stings cause your pet mild discomfort or itchiness, others can lead to more severe issues. If a bug bites or stings your pet, they are at risk for developing any of the following health conditions:

  • Flea allergy dermatitis (FAD) — When a flea feeds on your pet, they inject a small amount of saliva into your four-legged friend’s skin. If your pet has FAD, they are allergic to the savlia’s compounds. One flea bite is enough to cause an extremely itchy reaction. 
  • Lyme disease — The spiral-shaped bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi causes Lyme disease, which an infected tick can transmit when it bites your pet. Once transmitted, the bacteria spread throughout your pet’s body, causing chronic painful joint swelling and inflammation, heart damage, kidney failure, and neurologic problems.
  • Ehrlichiosis — Brown dog and lone star ticks primarily transmit ehrlichiosis, which mainly affects dogs. Ehrlichia canis is the most common bacterium to cause ehrlichiosis. Bacteria attach to your pet’s white blood cell (WBC) membranes, and platelet destruction increases an affected pet’s uncontrolled bleeding risk. 
  • Anaplasmosis Brown dog and black-legged ticks carry the bacterium Anaplasma phagocytophilum, which causes illness similar to Lyme disease, leading to lameness, joint pain, fever, and lethargy. The bacterium Anaplasma platys affects the body’s platelets, leading to blood clotting issues, abnormal bruising, and bleeding.
  • Heartworms — Infected mosquitoes transmit heartworm disease. This is primarily a canine disease, although any mammal can contract the disease. When an infected mosquito bites your pet, the pest transfers heartworm larvae into your furry pal’s bloodstream. Over the next several months, the larvae migrate to your pet’s lungs and heart, where they develop into adult worms and damage these organs. 
  • Allergic reactions — A pet’s allergic reaction to an insect bite can range from mild bumps and itchiness to potentially life-threatening anaphylaxis. FAD is a pet’s most common bug-related allergy. A pet’s allergic reaction to bee or wasp venom (i.e., saliva) can cause swelling around the sting site. While only a few poisonous spiders inhabit North America, the black widow, brown recluse, and hobo spiders, any spider’s venom can be an allergen. 

How do I know if my pet has been bitten or stung?

Pets’ bug bite or sting signs can vary based on the insect’s type and your furry pal’s response. Common signs include redness, swelling, itchiness, and pain at the bite or sting site. In addition, check your pet’s skin for bumps, which may indicate a tick is attached. Your pet may exhibit these behavior changes:

  • Whining
  • Limping
  • Scratching
  • Licking the affected area

Can I treat my pet’s bite or sting at home?

You can reduce a bug bite’s or sting’s inflammation and swelling. To treat your pet’s bug bite or sting, try these at-home treatments:

  • Cold pack or compress — Apply a soothing cold compress to your pet’s bite or sting site to reduce swelling. 
  • Baking soda paste — Combine baking soda with a little water to make a paste, and apply it to the sting or bite to reduce pain and inflammation. 
  • Aloe vera gel —  Apply a small amount of aloe vera gel to the bite area to help with tissue healing, pain, and inflammation. 
  • Benadryl — Benadryl (i.e., diphenhydramine) is a pet-safe medication that can ease mild allergic reactions. However, you should always consult your veterinarian to ensure any over-the-counter (OTC) medication is safe and to verify the correct dosage for your pet’s weight.

When should I seek veterinary care for my pet’s bite or sting?

While at-home treatments work well for minor bites and stings, severe cases require prompt veterinary attention. Keep in mind that fever, lethargy, and appetite loss are common signs of many diseases that ticks and mosquitoes transmit, which also require veterinary treatment. However, your pet may be having an extreme allergic reaction that requires immediate veterinary care if they exhibit any of the following signs:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Extreme swelling
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Sudden behavioral changes
  • Collapse

Don’t let bugs ruin your pet’s summer. To ensure you get your pet the most effective parasite preventive product and keep pests at bay, contact our Greenfield Veterinary Clinic team.