Insect Bites on Dogs

There are a number of insects common which can cause considerable discomfort.

In late summer and autumn, many dogs kept outside during the day are worried by a biting fly. This fly is larger than the normal household fly but smaller than a blowfly. It is a persistent pest and can worry humans trying to garden.

The main target in dogs is the tips of the ears in breeds that keep their ears erect, such as German shepherds, cattle dogs and kelpies. In breeds with floppy ears, the top of the head or the very base of the ear is attacked.

The flies are bloodsuckers and leave an area of raised skin heavily encrusted with dried, dark blood. Very often the dog attempts to relieve the irritation caused by these bites by rubbing or scratching and producing a wider area of raw, bare skin.

Treatment consists of first bathing the affected area to remove the exudates matting the hair. A soothing antiseptic cream containing an anti-inflammatory can be applied to the area until the skin heals.

Most importantly, an effective fly repellant ointment should be liberally applied to the affected area each morning to protect the dog from future attacks.

Fly repellants designed for human use do not last long enough and are usually in aerosol form, to which the animal objects. Ask your veterinarian for a specific veterinary insect repellant.

Bee-stings are very common among puppies and kittens. Some older animals cannot resist chasing bees and are also regularly stung.

The common site of the sting is around the face, and the muzzle and tissues around the eyes swell quickly to quite alarming proportions. Very often the swelling goes down quite quickly and does not seem to cause any great inconvenience.

In some animals, particularly in very small breeds or young puppies, or where there have been multiple stings, a more severe reaction occurs.

The dog at first becomes very uncomfortable, may vomit, and begin to breathe rapidly and may develop weals in the skin all over the body. In such cases it is wise to contact your veterinary surgeon as a simple injection of an antihistamine will rapidly alleviate these distressing symptoms.

A common spider inhabits quiet, dark areas under the house, in garden sheds or under garden or builders’ rubbish heaps. Kittens and puppies investigating these areas may be bitten.

Specific diagnosis of the bite of the redback spider is often difficult, as it is rare for the owner to actually observe the incident.

In humans, the bite is most usually on the hand and is extremely painful. Quickly the pain extends to involve the whole limb. Profuse sweating occurs and abdominal pain and a progressive generalized muscle weakness may develop.

In our animals, a suddenly developing paralysis associated with vomiting may suggest a redback spider bite. The symptoms are slow to disappear and, in very severe cases, humans are treated with a specific antivenom. There is no reason why the antivenin could not be used in animals, provided a clear diagnosis could be established.


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Hannah Elizabeth is an English animal behavior author, having written for several online publications. With a degree in Animal Behaviour and over a decade of practical animal husbandry experience, Hannah's articles cover everything from pet care to wildlife conservation. When she isn't creating content for blog posts, Hannah enjoys long walks with her Rottweiler cross Senna, reading fantasy novels and breeding aquarium shrimp.

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