Insect Bite Reaction in Dogs

What causes a reaction to an insect bite?

Many people and pets are sensitive to the proteins contained in the saliva or venom of many biting insects. They may be born with certain sensitivities or, more often, they may develop sensitivities if they are exposed numerous times to a particular insect bite. Bee stings and the bites of spiders, fleas and ticks are the most common causes of insect bite reactions in pets.

What are the clinical signs of an insect bite reaction?

The most common clinical signs associated with an insect bite reaction include swelling and redness at the site of the bite, “hives” or multiple red, raised swellings over the body, a swollen face or muzzle, difficulty breathing and vomiting. Some patients will progress to severe respiratory distress and anaphylactic shock.

How is an insect bite reaction diagnosed?insect_bite_reaction-1_2009

Diagnosis is based on clinical signs and history. In certain cases blood samples will be analyzed looking for the presence of eosinophils, the immune cell associated with many allergic reactions.

Venomous spider bites such as the brown recluse often have slowly progressing, insidious clinical signs. Dark, necrotic (dying) tissue lesions that slowly spread are often the only clinical sign. Brown recluse spider bites often ultimately result in systemic shock and can lead to death. Fortunately, most spiders in North America are non-venomous and cause only localized pain and swelling.

How is an insect bite reaction treated?

Treatment is based on the type of insect bite, the number of bites and the severity of clinical signs. Treatment typically consists of removal of the stinger or other insect parts, followed by administration of anti-histamines, epinephrine (adrenaline), and anti-inflammatory agents such as corticosteroids as indicated. In patients that progress to systemic or anaphylactic shock, supportive measures such as intravenous fluids, corticosteroids, oxygen therapy and epinephrine are often required. In these severe cases, electrolyte levels will be monitored and a urinalysis will be performed to evaluate urine output and kidney function.

What is the prognosis for insect bite reactions?

Except in rare cases of anaphylactic shock, the prognosis is excellent. Cases that involve tens to hundreds of bee stings merit a more guarded prognosis.

Future insect bites should be avoided because many reactions worsen with repeated exposure to the offending proteins or toxins. You should always tell your veterinarian if your pet has ever experienced an insect bite reaction so that preventive measures can be taken in the future. Many pets that demonstrate insect bite hypersensitivity are also hypersensitive to flea and tick bites, pollens and molds, and many foods.

Got Hooked?

We have been busy this summer with removing fish hooks from dogs and cat’s mouths, esophagus’, and feet. Why you ask? Dogs and cats are attracted to smelly lures and yummy bait so the pets are usually brought in with a hook in its mouth or lip. If they paw at the lure, the paw gets hooked as well. Take a moment to visualize that.

This is extremely painful for a pet. Since their noses will lead them right to it, do not leave any of your fishing gear out where your pets can get to it. 

The first thing to do if your pet does get caught up in a lure that is attached to the monofilament still is grab the line that is exposed and attach something heavy to it (keys, for example) and tape the line to the pet’s head. This ensures that the lure won’t go down throat any further. Then go straight to your veterinarian for treatment. Pets typically require some level of sedation to remove hooks. Hooks that have been ingested may require an endoscope procedure or even surgery.

It would be so much easier to just avoid the whole experience. No?

Keep your pets safe!

Arthritis in Dogs

Arthritis is a complex condition involving inflammation of one or more joints. Arthritis is derived from the Greek word “arthro”, meaning “joint”, and “itis”, meaning inflammation. There are many causes of arthritis in pets. In most cases, the arthritis is a progressive degenerative disease that worsens with age.

What causes arthritis?

Arthritis can be classified as primary arthritis such as rheumatoid arthritis or secondary arthritis which occurs as a result of joint instability.

“The most common type of secondary arthritis is osteoarthritis…”
Secondary arthritis is the most common form diagnosed in veterinary patients. The most common type of secondary arthritis is osteoarthritis (OA) which is also known as degenerative joint disease (DJD). Some common causes of secondary arthritis include obesity, hip dysplasia, cranial cruciate ligament rupture, and so forth. Other causes include joint infection, often as the result of bites (septic arthritis), or traumatic injury such as a car accident.

Infective or septic arthritis can be caused by a variety of microorganisms, such as bacteria, viruses and fungi. Septic arthritis normally only affects a single joint and the condition results in swelling, fever, heat and pain in the joint. With septic arthritis, your pet is likely to stop eating and become depressed.

Rheumatoid arthritis is an immune mediated, erosive, inflammatory condition. Cartilage and bone are eroded within affected joints and the condition can progress to complete joint fixation (ankylosis). It may affect single joints or multiple joints may be involved (polyarthritis). In certain dog breeds Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) factors can be detected with blood tests. Other types of immune mediated arthritis can be non-erosive, such as arthritis that is associated with Systemic Lupus Erythematosis (SLE). SLE is often accompanied by other clinical signs in addition to the arthritis.

How do we treat arthritis?
“Treatment will depend on the cause of arthritis.”
Treatment will depend on the cause of arthritis. Immune mediated and rheumatoid arthritis are usually treated with high doses of corticosteroids, often with dramatic improvement. The control of these conditions often involves the long-term use of corticosteroids and other drugs such as immunosuppressive or cytotoxic agents.


anemia-3The treatment of septic arthritis involves determining the type of microorganism involved and its antibiotic sensitivity. Antibiotics are usually administered for a minimum of a month and analgesics (pain relief medications) are necessary to combat pain and inflammation.

Analgesics such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are the most common form of treatment for osteoarthritis. It is important to select these medications with care since some dogs are more sensitive than others to the potential side-effects of analgesics. The most common side-effects of analgesics include decreased appetite, vomiting and diarrhea. Pre-medication blood tests must be performed to make sure that the pet can safely metabolize and eliminate the medication and then periodic blood tests are necessary to ensure continued safe usage.

“Combining omega-3 fatty acids with glucosamine-chondroitin sulfate and NSAID therapy will help the majority of patients suffering from OA.”
Omega-3 fatty acid supplements, DHA and EPA, have been proven in humans to help with the discomfort of osteoarthritis. Nutraceuticals such as glucosamine and/or chondroitin, are also helpful in many cases. Talk with your veterinarian about these safe and simple to administer nutritional supplements and whether your pet could benefit from their use. Combining omega-3 fatty acids with glucosamine-chondroitin sulfate and NSAID therapy will help the majority of patients suffering from OA.