As a devoted pet parent, protecting your dog is a paramount responsibility. However, there are situations you cannot control and scenarios you cannot predict.
One particular example is the wasp sting. Do not be fooled by the wasp’s miniature size – this small insect holds great dangers for dogs.
In this article, we will discuss how dogs get stung by wasps, describe the symptoms, and the possibility of anaphylactic shock.
We will also talk about the importance of seeing the vet, what happens at the vet, and the home remedies for mild cases. Finally, we will explain how to prevent future wasp bites.
Why Do Dogs Get Stung By Wasps?
There are two main reasons wasp stings are common in dogs. The first reason is that dogs are ultimately curious beings and those buzzing, flying wasps can be quite intriguing. Many dogs hate flies and other buzzing insects and will instinctively snap at them.
The second reason is that dogs are slow learners, meaning being stung in the past is not enough to prevent future interactions.
In theory, wasps can sting dogs anywhere, but the most frequently targeted sites are the feet and face (including nose, mouth, tongue, and throat). These locations are not targeted specifically.
Namely, dogs get bitten on the feet when they accidentally step on wasps or on the face when they purposely try to play or hunt the wasp.
If a dog tries to eat or even swallow the wasp chances are it will get stung inside the mouth or on the tongue or throat.
The Dangers of Wasp Stings in Dogs
The wasp stinger is not barbed, but the pure poking of the skin is painful enough to cause immense distress on your dog. To make things worse, wasps can sting several times thus making matters much worse.
Although the stinging part is painful, what comes next is more dangerous, as the wasp injects poison drops into the stung place. The poison causes irritation and inflammation.
The scariest thing is that some dogs are allergic to the poison and can develop a specific form of allergic reaction, called anaphylactic shock. Dogs with anaphylactic shock are in life-threatening danger and need urgent veterinary attention.
There is one more potentially fatal situation – envenomation. It occurs when a non-allergic dog gets stung multiple times and the amount of injected wasp poison becomes significant.
Wasp envenomation cases are relatively rare as it would take a large number of stings or a particularly small dog.
Signs of Wasp Stings in Dogs
The clinical manifestation depends on the dog itself, the number of stings, and their location.
For example, nose stings are excruciating as dogs have many nerve endings on this body part, while stings inside the mouth can cause fatal swelling.
Finally, a sting on the feet is likely to cause limping. There are various red flags indicating your dog got stung by an insect:
- Crying and whining
- Pacing and general restlessness
- Biting, scratching, or licking the sting site
- Heat, swelling, and redness at the site
- Pawing at the mouth (in case of mouth stings)
- Excessive drooling (in case of mouth stings)
- Limping (in case of feet stings)
- Closed and teary eye (in case of stings near the eye).
If your dog is having an allergic reaction and exhibiting one or more of the following signs, you need to make an urgent trip to the vet’s office:
- Severe swelling
- Vomiting and/or diarrhea
- Presence of hives
- Extreme agitation
- Dizziness and disorientation
- Difficulty breathing or wheezing
- Tremors and seizures.
Help, My Dog Got Stung By a Wasp!
There are several things you can do if your dog has been stung by a wasp. Keep in mind that these steps are applicable for non-complicated cases.
1: Soothe the Site
The best way of soothing the bite site is to cover it with vinegar. This is a great first aid option as vinegar is readily available and it is acidic enough to counteract the wasp’s alkaline poison.
If your dog is bitten in several places, it is more practical to give it an oatmeal bath after rubbing vinegar in the sting sites.
2: Manage the Swelling
When it comes to swelling management, low temperatures do wonders. A bag of frozen peas or other veggies is a great way to soothe the irritation and prevent local swelling.
Alternatively, you can use a frozen towel. To achieve the desired effect, keep the frozen bag or towel for around 10 minutes and repeat the session several times.
3: Prevent Allergic Reactions
You can give your dog an oral antihistamine to manage the situation and prevent allergic reactions. It is advisable to always have a dog antihistamine within reach.
However, while some human medications are off limits for dogs, giving diphenhydramine (brand name Benadryl) is safe. However, you need to talk to your vet about proper dosage.
4: Reduce the Scratching
The more your dog scratches the site, the more it will sting, itch, and hurt. Telling your dog not to scratch the source of the itch can be challenging. Therefore, you need to do something about this and stop your dog. Depending on the stinging site, it is usually helpful to put an Elizabethan collar on your dog.
5: Keep your Dog Fed and Hydrated
Some dogs are overly dramatic and might not eat or drink because of the fear while others might be physically limited by stings in the mouth.
Regardless of the reason, it is important to ensure adequate food and water intake. You can hand feed your dog using a wet food formula or moistened dry food.
6: Closely Monitor Your Dog
In most cases, it takes around 10 minutes for the allergic reaction to develop. However, there are cases of delayed allergic reactions which can occur hours after the actual stinging incident.
That is why it is important to keep a close eye on your dog for at least a day after the wasp sting.
Did you know? Bee stings require a paste of baking soda and water on the area to help neutralize the sting. This is because a bee's sting is acidic. Wasp stings, on the other hand, are alkaline, so you need vinegar to counteract it.
What Happens At the Vet's Office
What happens when wasp stings in dogs require veterinary attention? Here is what is likely to occur behind those closed doors. Most dogs see the vet after a wasp sting in various situations, such as:
- When a dog got stung multiple times (envenomation)
- When a dog is allergic to wasp poison (anaphylactic shock)
- When a dog is stung in the mouth or throat (asphyxiation).
The exact course of the treatment depends on the situation. If dealing with a non-complicated case, the vet will give the dog a shot of fast-acting antihistamine and based on the stinging location, a corticosteroid shot to prevent swelling.
Based on the distress level, the vet may also give and prescribe painkillers and topical creams with anti-inflammatory ingredients.
More complicated cases require a multi-modal approach. For example, if dealing with envenomation, the vet will need to administer intravenous fluids to literally flush the poison from the organism and give supportive and symptomatic therapy.
In dogs with underlying anaphylactic shock, the vet will administer a set of injections including adrenaline (norepinephrine), corticosteroids, and antihistamines. The vet will also give fluids and symptomatic therapy, and if necessary, oxygen support.
Finally, for dogs who have sustained mouth/throat stings and are in danger of suffocating due to the swelling blocking the airways, the vet will focus on swelling management (a powerful and fast-acting combination of antihistamines and corticosteroids).
As in the previous cases, supportive care and intravenous fluids can be helpful in speeding up the recovery.
Preventing Wasp Stings in Dogs
There is no 100 percent full proof method for preventing wasp stings. However, there are several things you can do to protect your dog and reduce the risk of experiencing wasp stings.
1: Train Your Dog
The first thing you can do is train your dog to come when called upon. This is part of the basic obedience training and will come in handy in many situations not just when dealing with wasps or other stinging insects.
2: Distract Your Dog
If you catch your dog actively chasing a wasp, you can think of a distraction. This is the second thing you can try if your dog does not respond to the come command.
If your dog is food motivated, offering a nice treat will be a good distraction method.
3: Remove Wasp Nests
If your dog is spending time outside and you cannot control every potential wasp contact, it is best to check whether there are nearby wasp nests.
In such cases, it is best advised to have them removed or relocated by professionals.
4: Limit the Exposure
You can also make scheduled walks at times of the day when the wasps are not active. Generally speaking, wasps are active during day hours, but mostly during the hottest parts of the day. This is helpful if taking walks in unfamiliar environments.
Did you know? Yellow jackets, a type of wasp, can become particularly angry and feisty in the fall. This is because, as the weather turns colder, their food sources disappear and they begin to starve which makes them angry and aggressive as they work hard to seek food, explains Scott Famous, a beekeeper and executive board member of the Montgomery County Beekeepers’ Association of Pennsylvania in an article for the Washington Post.
Concluding Thoughts on Wasp Stings in Dogs
Seeing your dog in pain is scary. Seeing your dog getting stung by a wasp is frightening. However, it is important to remain calm and act adequately – assess the situation, provide first aid, and contact the vet.
Luckily, most wasp stinging cases have positive outcomes especially with proper veterinary attention.
Once your dog is stabilized and back to its normal self, it is critical to prevent future incidents and limit your dog’s exposure to wasps.