This week in our 101 Dog Tips Dog Safety series, Best Bully Sticks focuses on treating bites on your dog and any reaction they might have. Dogs are naturally curious creatures, so bites may be unavoidable. Bites and stings come from other insects and animals such as flies, spiders, ticks and snakes. Most of these critters can find a way into your house as well, and as unpleasant as that thought is, if you’re dog is bitten you’ll want to know what actions to take to treat your pup.

Insect Bites

Insect bites can range from flies, to spiders, to ticks.

Flies don’t cause much of a problem, but can leave you dog with red sores or scabs. Most commonly, dogs who live near farms or livestock have more of a problem with deer flies or horse flies, which are more painful.  Flies also tend to bite on dog’s ears. To treat a dog with small fly bites, usually a bit of antibiotic cream will help. If the dog’s ears have been bitten, use warm water and antiseptic soap to clean the bites and then use antibiotic ointment afterward to treat the wounds.  Prevention of these bites can include applying a topical insecticide to the dog’s ears, spraying the dog’s outside living quarters with a non-toxic bug repellant and keeping food waste and garbage cleaned up as not to attract bugs.

Spider bites are more severe and usually the culprits are black widow and brown recluse spiders.  Both of these spiders are venomous, but the severity of these bites depends on the location of the bite as well as the species and its size.  Here are signs to identify which type of spider bite and the symptoms.

A black widow spider bite causes immediate tenderness to the location of the bite and numbness and abdominal swelling and sensitivity. Seizures are possible as well as respiratory problems. If you notice any of these and you see a bite, it’s best to call ahead to your vet and then go there as well.

A brown recluse spider bite is a little different in that there are two different types of reactions they could have. In a cutaneous, or skin related reaction, dogs don’t show signs of a bite immediately. These bites aren’t initially painful, but within 2-6 hours there is localized pain and redness.  A blister usually shows up within 12 hours and a tell-tell sign is a “bulls eye” lesion.  A cold compress can be used in these reactions. In a viscerocutaneous reaction, meaning pertaining to internal organs, dogs will have fever, joint pain, weakness, vomiting and seizures.  If your dog is exhibiting any of these, call ahead to your vet and go there as well.

Ticks come in all shapes and sizes and they usually attach to warm, hairless spots on a dog. In and around the ears, the areas where the insides of the legs meet the body, between the toes, and within skin folds are the areas ticks are usually found.  If you find a tick, first take the precaution of using rubber gloves to protect yourself. You can use a tick killing spray for removal, or use fine-tipped tweezers to grab the tick and pull straight backward. Once you have removed the tick, you can burn it with a match, flush it down the toilet, or save it in a jar with rubbing alcohol in case your dog shows symptoms of infection. Ticks can carry diseases such as lyme disease, so you’ll want to keep a close watch on the tick bite over the next few days and weeks.

Animal Bites

The most common types of bites your dog will suffer from are snake bites and bites from other dogs.

Snake bites can affect more than one body system such as the cardiopulmonary system (the heart and lungs), the nervous system or the coagulation system (blood clotting). Usually if the snake isn’t venomous, pain, swelling and bruising will be minimal. However, if you notice one, two or several small puncture wounds, bleeding, bruising and extremely painful swelling at the site of the bite, keep your pet immobile and seek veterinary attention a.s.a.p.! Do not attempt anything other home treatments.  The bite’s severity will depend on the species of the snake. Remember to stay calm and get to the vet as soon as possible.

Bites from other dogs and animals usually happen when your dog gets into a fight because he feels threatened in some way. Because the mouth is an environment filled with bacteria, the possibility for a bite wound is very high.  A wound that seems only like a small puncture can actually be deeper than it appears.  Flush the wound with water but do not bandage the wound immediately. Let the wound drain unless there is excessive bleeding.  When the bleeding has stopped, cover the wound with a clean cloth or sterile dressing. You can also flush out the wound with hydrogen peroxide and treat with an antibiotic ointment. However, if your dog has been severely bitten, seek veterinary care immediately!

We hope that your dog never has to suffer even the slightest fly bite, but we want you all to be prepared for any potential emergency.