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Bee Stings & Snake Bites – Dr. Todd’s First Aid Tips

By September 5, 2016 No Comments

If you’ve ever been stung by one (or many) yellow jackets, you know first hand that these stings really stay painful for a long time. In our area it’s not just yellow jackets that are a threat. These lovely mountains have all manner of hornets, bees, wasps, and two varieties of poisonous snakes.

Here are Dr. Todd’s Tips for taking fast action if your pet has a painful encounter with Mother Nature:

Ferocious Flying Insects- Was it One or Many?

One sting is usually safe to manage at home.

One sting is usually safe to manage at home.

A single sting. Easy as 1-2-3 …. whether a honeybee, yellow jacket, or hornet… one single Single stings can usually be treated at home sting can usually be safely managed at home.

1st: If your pet will allow you to touch the area, see if the stinger is still attached. Only bees leave their stinger behind. If still embedded, scrape the stinger off with a credit card. Yellow jackets are part of the wasp family. Those little demons do not “lose” their stinger, and can continue to sting several times.

2nd: Administer Benadryl at a dose of 1 mg per pound of body weight. For example, a 5 pound dog gets only a 5 mg dose, while a 50 pound dog would get 50 mg. It’s important to read the label carefully to administer the correct dosage – either by capsule or liquid (for smaller pets).

3rd: If the sting is in a accessible area and you can see it’s red and swollen, make a paste with 3 parts baking soda and 1 part water. Put the paste on the affected area. You can also provide some relief by placing a wet tea bag on the affected area for 5- 10 minutes.

Multiple stings… a different story.

Some dogs arrive in our office with yellow jackets still clinging to their fur. Or they make an unfortunate stumble into a hornet’s nest and get multiple stings at once. If your dog is covered in wasps, grab a thick towel or blanket and “sweep” the bees into the towel or blanket to minimize your chances of getting stung. These aggressive critters generally cling to a towel just as aggressively as fur.

Multiple stings greatly increase the risk of a more dangerous allergic reaction and often require immediate veterinary attention. Oral medications sometimes will not take affect quickly enough to control the pain and swelling of multiple stings.

If your pet has received multiple stings at the same time, come directly to our office. If after hours, administer oral Benadryl and seek emergency after hours veterinary care as quickly as possible.

What About Snake Bites?

We frequently hear from pet parents who have a pet show up at the door yelping and clearly in distress. There’s sometimes confusion about whether the pet has been bitten or stung.

Act Fast!

1st: Look but do not touch. If your pet has had the misfortune of being bitten by a snake, it is a VERY PAINFUL injury. Most often pets get a snake bite to their face or foot.

2nd: If you can clearly see the affected area, look for two tell tale punctures from venomous fangs. If you need to explore through fur, be as gentle as possible and have a helper. Poisonous snake bites are so painful that even the sweetest most gentle pet might bite you. People who have been bitten by rattlesnakes describe the pain like this, “it feels like burning, like your being branded, but the brand never lifts”. Ouch

3rd: If you see two puncture wounds, you must seek emergency veterinary care immediatelyOnce venom enters the blood stream it takes time to travel throughout the entire body. You won’t have any information about how much venom the snake was able to inject, and the location of the bite affects how long it takes until the full impact of the bite will be evident. DO NOT WAIT until swelling and symptoms begin… poisonous snake bites are ALWAYS a medical emergency and must be treated as soon as possible.

Emergency Veterinary Care and snake bites:


The most common poisonous snake to bite pets in our area.

The most common poisonous snake to bite pets in our area.

In March a new after hours emergency clinic opened in our area. The Haywood Animal Emergency Hospital, at exit 104 in Waynesville. This new emergency service offers veterinary care until midnight, and overnight nurses to monitor and treat hospitalized patients. We couldn’t be happier that 24 hour medical care is now just 45 minutes away.

However, we have sent many snake bites this season straight to Asheville. Why you might wonder? In a word, anti-venom.

The REACH (Regional Emergency Animal Care Hospital) in Asheville carries an expensive, but very effective treatment for venomous snake bites. Anti-venom injections reverse the destructive effects of particularly rattlesnake bites. If you know your pet was bitten by a rattlesnake, emergency treatment with anti-venom is the way to go if you have a pet insurance policy, or $1,000 – $1,500 to spare. The results are remarkable.

Fortunately (if any snake bite can be called fortunate), most of the poisonous bites in our area are from Copperheads. These bites, although very painful and destructive to surrounding tissue, are rarely fatal if they get prompt veterinary attention.