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What to do if your animal is stung by an insect.

During the summer months your animal is more at risk from wasp and bee stings than at any other time of the year. Knowing what to do in the event of a sting is especially important if you spend a lot of time out walking with your dogs a significant distance from home. 

Gauging the severity of a reaction

Being able to assess the severity of your pet’s reaction will help you judge how urgently veterinary attention is required. If your pet has been stung it will fall into one of the following 4 categories of symptoms, ranging from least to most severe:

1.       No allergic reaction: Mild local swelling around the site of the sting – this usually subsides after a few hours.

2.       Mild allergic reaction: Significant local swelling around the site of the bite or sting.

3.       Moderate allergic reaction: Swelling of the face, lips, ears or paws. May or may not be accompanied by marked swelling at the site of the sting. In some cases “hives” will be noticed – these are multiple focal points of swelling and may or may not be itchy.

4.       Anaphylaxis – SEVERE allergic reaction: This will usually occur immediately and is an absolute veterinary emergency. Signs include diarrhoea, vomiting, shock, seizures, coma, and death if appropriate treatment is not administered within a FEW MINUTES. The animal's gums will be very pale, and the limbs will feel cold. The heart rate is generally very fast, but the pulse is weak. There is usually no facial swelling.

What to do

If ever you suspect that your pet has been stung it is sensible to take it to the vet promptly. If the reaction is only mild or moderate the treatment will probably include antihistamines, and in some cases corticosteroid treatment also. In animals that have had occasional allergic reactions to bites and stings it is important to be aware that the severity of the reaction may worsen with each exposure. It is advisable to seek prompt veterinary attention in the event of ANY allergic reaction.

If you suspect your pet is having an anaphylactic response you have no time to lose. Anaphylaxis can result in death within only a few minutes, so it is vital that you head to the vet immediately. Treatment will involve IV fluids (a drip), oxygen therapy and adrenaline as well as any other medications that may be necessary in your pet’s specific case.