It’s unavoidable, your dog will come into contact with insects when she’s outside — and some of those will bite or sting. Learn how to soothe your buddy’s bites and know when to see a vet.

Bees, wasps, and spiders – it’s game on for your dog. The chase ensues. The paw makes contact. The crowd roars. Wait a minute…what’s this? Our canine champion’s limping off the field. Here comes the mommy med team. It’s a sting, Ladies and Gentlemen! The insect opponent scores!

If your dog can’t resist anything that flies or crawls around his fuzzy mug, it’s only a matter of time before his opponents bite back. His paws and sparsely furred tummy are easy targets for angry insects. To help you treat the stings and bites, Woof Report contacted Amy D. Shojai, Certified Animal Behavior Consultant, pet care specialist and author of more than a dozen pet care books, including The First-Aid Companion for Dogs and Cats. Read on for helpful excerpts from her article, “The Real Buzz On Bug Bites.”

Seven Soothers for Stings & Bites

  1. Bees leave behind the stinger, which may continue to pump venom into the skin. Use a credit card or similar rigid tool to scrape it free.
  2. A cold pack or compress applied to the bite helps reduce the swelling. A bag of frozen peas or corn works well, and molds against the pet’s body.
  3. A baking soda and water paste works great to soothe the sting, but it can be messy when applied to fur so use only on exposed tummies.
  4. Ammonia works great to cool the pain of fire ant bites. Moisten a cotton ball and dab on the stings. Calamine lotion also soothes ant bites.
  5. For stings inside the mouth, offer ice cubes or ice water for the pet to lick and drink.
  6. You can also mix a teaspoonful of baking soda into a pint of water, and squirt the solution into his mouth with a turkey baster or squirt gun if he’ll allow you to do this.
  7. Benadryl, an antihistamine, counters swelling and itching. A safe dose is one milligram for every pound your pet weighs or a Benadryl ointment can be used directly on the sting. Hives usually go away on their own after a day or so, and sooner if treated with an antihistamine. Keep in mind that this over-the-counter medication also causes drowsiness as a side effect.

How do I know when it’s an emergency?

Like people, some dogs can suffer severe allergic reactions when stung or bitten by insects. A single sting can prompt a dog’s muzzle to swell and an anaphylactic reaction usually occurs within 20 minutes of the sting. This causes a dog’s face, throat and airways to swell – making breathing difficult or impossible. Anaphylactic shock requires immediate veterinary treatment as a dog can die without professional medical intervention.

When do I need to take my dog to the veterinarian?

Take your dog to a vet if he exhibits any or all of these signs:

  • Trembles
  • Acts weak
  • Suffers diarrhea
  • Vomits
  • Exhibit extreme facial swelling
  • Has trouble breathing


The Scoop:

Thank you to Amy D. Shojai, Certified Animal Behavior Consultant, for the tip.  See more articles and sign up for Amy’s free Pet Peeves Newsletter.

The First-Aid Companion for Dogs and Cats by Amy D. Shojai

Originally posted July 2010; reviewed and updated July 2016.