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Dog Bug Bites

Posted Jan 11 2011 11:57am

Dog Bug Bites

Signs and Symptoms

If your dog is curious and active, as many canines are, it’s practically inevitable that he or she will be the victim of a bug bite or sting at some point in life. Even dogs that are not as inquisitive or active often get bitten by pesky insects. While in most cases bug bites are not serious for dogs, unless they suffer from hypersensitivity, these bites can be irritating and bothersome for your pet. Your dog will be very grateful if you can provide relief from pain and irritation under such circumstances. Therefore, it’s helpful for pet owners to be familiar with the signs and symptoms of dog bug bites, as you will not always witness the actual occurrence and will only have the aftereffects to go by when trying to determine what is bothering your canine companion.

The symptoms that a bitten or stung dog will exhibit depend upon the type of insect that is responsible. For example, many dogs are plagued by fleas, which are small, wingless insects. Fleas are external parasites that feed upon the blood of animals such as dogs. Typically, a dog’s coat will be infested with numerous fleas at one time, rather than just a single flea. As a result, the unfortunate canine may suffer from many tiny flea bites. Your dog’s behavior can offer a clue as to whether or not fleas are at the root of your pet’s irritation. Dogs with fleas tend to bite and scratch persistently at various parts of their body. Also, it’s possible to observe fleas with the naked eye by combing through your dog’s coat and looking for the tiny, dark insects crawling over your pet’s skin.

When a dog is bitten by a mosquito, on the other hand, there is likely to be only a single bite. Your dog will experience swelling and itching at the site of the bite, and the area may become red and slightly swollen. Stings from bees, wasps, and hornets will also cause swelling, sometimes in quite significant amounts. A dog that is stung by a bee or wasp will also suffer intense pain at the actual location of the sting. Redness in this area is also common, and the sting site may become hot to the touch. In the case of bees, the stinger may be left behind and will be visible. With spider bites, or if your dog has been stung multiple times, additional symptoms may be present, such as shivering and vomiting. These signs are more serious and if they are displayed by your dog, you should promptly alert a veterinarian.


In order to pinpoint bug bites as the source of a dog’s irritation, a veterinarian will look for the presence of any of the above symptoms. By observing the actual site of the bite or bites, a practitioner will be able to identify the type or class of insect that is the cause of your dog’s trouble and irritation. Once the culprit has been identified, it’s easier to know the seriousness of the situation and the type of treatment that will offer the most effective relief for your pet.

As mentioned previously, most dog bug bites are not serious; however, there are certain circumstances that make these bites more dangerous, and a veterinarian will look for the cause of the problem so that proper treatment can be administered. For example, a shivering and vomiting dog with a red and swollen bite site will likely need to be treated for a spider bite. Also, a dog with numerous sting sites will require treatment to counteract the dangerous effect of the combined toxins. Often dogs that are stung many times will go into shock. This is a severe state that needs to be identified and treated immediately; otherwise, the afflicted dog’s life could be in danger.


Insects bite canines for a variety of reasons. Some bugs, such as fleas and mosquitoes, bite dogs in order to feed upon their blood. Others, including bees and spiders, bite or sting as a defense mechanism. Either way, when bitten, a dog will develop swelling at the site of the bite or sting. In many cases, this area of the skin will also become very itchy and irritated. With different classes of insects, this occurs in different degrees and for slightly different reasons.

When bitten by insects such as mosquitoes, fleas, flies, and other bloodsucking bugs, swelling and irritation occur as a result of components present in the insects’ saliva that have an aggravating effect on an animal’s skin. The reactions triggered by these bugs can range from tiny bumps, as is often the case with fleas, to larger bumps and sores. Other insects, including bees, hornets, wasps, and fire ants, sting rather than bite and inject venom into their victim by way of their stinger. This venom causes the characteristic reaction on the canine’s skin and often leads to more swelling than would normally be seen with most biting insects such as fleas or mosquitoes.

Spider bites can also cause large, swollen bumps or sores. This type of reaction is caused by enzymes and other proteins found in spider venom. Practically all spiders are poisonous and, therefore, have venom that will cause some sort of reaction when it comes into contact with another animal’s skin. In most cases, however, a spider’s fangs are unable to penetrate skin due to their small size or fragility. Among those spiders that are able to penetrate a dog’s skin, some are obviously much more dangerous than others. Many spiders will only cause a localized reaction at the site of the bite, while others, such as black widows, can have much more serious effects. Where most canine insect bites are concerned however, irksome but non-serious swelling and irritation will be the only effects.


While many types of canine insect bites can be treated in a similar fashion, flea bites will likely require specialized treatment. This is due to the fact that the presence of flea bites usually means that a dog is carrying many of these pesky bugs in its coat. Therefore, simply treating the irritating symptoms of the actual bites will not put an end to the problem, as fleas will continue to bite and bother your pet. As a result, a dog suffering from fleas may require anti-flea medication that will either kill the fleas or disrupt their lifecycle. In addition to such treatment, the methods used to relieve the symptoms of many other types of bug bites can also be employed in order to relieve itching and irritation.

While the more serious cases of dog bug bites will need to be treated by a veterinarian, many bites and stings can be effectively treated at home. In the case of a bee or hornet sting, the first step is to remove the stinger if it has been left behind. It’s best to do this by gently scraping the stinger away from the sting site rather than using tweezers in order to prevent more venom from entering the dog’s body. After this is done, or in cases where a stinger is not involved, the next step of treatment focuses on relieving the irksome symptoms that arise as a result of the skin’s reaction to an insect bite or sting.

Numerous methods can be employed in order to reduce the after effects of an insect bite. Applying a paste of baking soda and water several times a day can very effectively help to relieve itchiness. In addition, holding a cold compress to the affected area for about five minutes can help to reduce pain and swelling. When doing this, it’s important to make sure that your pet is comfortable and that the cold compress is not causing more pain and suffering.

There are also a number of natural substances that can be very beneficial when it comes to treating dog bug bites. For instance, aloe vera is known to have properties that soothe irritated skin. This substance may be available in a gel from your pharmacy, or as an ingredient in a homeopathic remedy that also contains other natural substances. Homeopathic products may also include ingredients such as tea tree, red alder, and Echinacea. These substances have antibacterial and antimicrobial properties and help to prevent infections while promoting the healing of damaged tissue. As result, homeopathic remedies can effectively relieve your dog’s symptoms and combat infections which commonly occur, as dogs cannot help but scratch or bite at irritated areas.

When applying any of these treatments it may be helpful to first trim some of the fur away from the affected area. Then, after gently cleaning and drying the site of the bite or sting, the baking soda or homeopathic remedy can then be applied. When your dog is suffering from an insect bite, it’s also important to try to prevent him or her from scratching at the affected area whenever possible. This will also help to reduce the chance of an infection, which would only prolong your pet’s suffering and discomfort.

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