Q & A: Wasp and bee stings

Q: What should an owner do if his dog is stung by a bee or wasp and has an allergic reaction?

A: Dogs will respond differently to stings, depending on the type and amount of poison injected by the insect, the number of stings, as well as the sting location and the size of the dog. The estimated lethal dose is about 20 stings/kg in most mammals. The venom of stinging insects contains several powerful allergens and pharmacologically active compounds.

Four types of reactions can be seen after a pet has been stung. The first and most commonly seen reaction is local pain and swelling. The second type of reaction that can occur is a larger, regional reaction, involving parts of the body in continuity with the sting site.

The third type of reaction is a severe life-threatening reaction known as an anaphylactic response, characterised by varying degrees of urticaria, angioedema, nausea and vomiting, hypotension (drop in blood pressure) and breathing difficulties. This type of reaction occurs within a few minutes of the sting and is often fatal if not treated immediately. The fourth possible reaction is uncommon and consists of skin rashes and serum sickness-like symptoms occurring within three days to two weeks after envenomation.

If it is a single, local sting, you can apply ice to the area and administer antihistamines. This may be sufficient to prevent further swelling and ease the pain. But due to the fact that animals who develop anaphylaxis do so without warning and can deteriorate rapidly, all animals who have been stung should be monitored closely and veterinary attention sought as soon as possible.

Dr Vanessa Mcclure, veterinarian

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