The summer season can bring out the bugs and bees as you well know, if you’ve been picnicking or dining outside. Where we tend to jump away from the stinging bees, hornets and wasps and shy away from holes and hills of ants or spiders, dogs and cats love to investigate and sniff around the areas these critters tend to congregate and can get bit or stung. Spider bites and bee stings often occur on the faces and front lower legs of our pets because of their inquisitive nature as they stick their noses and paws into all sorts of places they shouldn’t. Spiders tend to bite the softer, less furry areas of your pet, such as their noses and feet.

Don’t worry too much about insect bites on your pets, they are usually not life threatening, UNLESS……, your pet has a severe allergic reaction to the insect or your cat gets bit by a black widow spider. More about that later in the blog.

My dog, Rosy, is HIGHLY allergic to bees. Listen to her story on Episode 46, of the Raising Your Paws podcast.


If your pet has been “gotten” by a bug, you may see him or her paw, lick or scratch at the injury site. Unless you actually witness the bite or sting happening, it can be hard to know exactly why your pet is in discomfort or locate exactly where the bite occurred if it is covered with fur. You can start checking the skin under the fur to look for redness and/or swelling at the bite or sting site and the spot may be painful for your pet.

Extreme swelling, breathing problems, such as gasping, wheezing or gulping for air, excessive salivation, vomiting, and seizures are indications that your pet is having an severe allergic reaction, called anaphylactic shock and this is very serious and must be treated immediately. Anaphylaxis is a severe, potentially life threatening allergic reaction to a substance where the body’s immune system overacts and floods the body with inflammatory compounds and antibodies that cause the above listed conditions. The reactions can occur within seconds or minutes of exposure to the allergen and future reactions can be more severe than the first time. Big time scary, I know.

What to do.

Mild Symptoms – First of all, watch for and treat symptoms as they occur. If your pet was stung, and you can see the stinger, you’ll want to remove it, but use the edge of a credit card or key to lift the stinger up and flick it out. You don’t want to grab the stinger with your fingers or a tweezer as this can inject more of the poison into your dog or cat. Where there is some redness, swelling or apparent discomfort from your pet, you can apply calamine or antihistamine cream that you purchase over the counter at drug stores, to the affected area. You can also administer the oral antihistamine, diphenhydramine, to dogs. You may know this by one of its trade brands names, Benadryl. For cats, chlorpheniramine is often the recommended antihistamine. Call your vet to confirm which one to use for your particular pet and also prior to giving any medication, you’ll need to ask your vet for the correct dosage that will be based on your pet’s weight.

I recommend you always have some of the medication in the house, so you are prepared in case you ever need it. Go to the drug store and buy the generic version to save money. Get the liquid gel caps, pin a safety pin to the back of the box and then when you need the medicine, you can poke a hole in the gel cap and squirt the liquid in your pet’s mouth. Easy and quick way to get the drug into your pet.  Also write your pet’s weight and dosage on the box so you won’t forget this information.

Severe Symptoms – anaphylactic shock.

Call your vet or an emergency clinic right away for what to do while you’re at home (probably you’ll be told to give the oral antihistamine) and then get going- take your pet to an emergency animal clinic as fast as possible.   With my dog, Rosy, who is allergic to bees and wasps, for example, I immediately give her a shot of liquid diphenhydramine (that I got from my vet) followed by a shot of steroids and then I transport her to the emergency vet clinic closest to me, in case there is something else going on. This is the protocol advised by my vet, that I learned to do over the past few years, after a number of increasingly severe reactions by Rosy. It’s a huge relief to know that I can quickly restore her normal breathing, before driving to the emergency clinic. If your pet ever experiences severe reactions –be assured – there are things you’ll learn to do to protect your pet’s life.

Let’s talk about spiders. There is only one species, the black widow spider that is particularly dangerous for cats because felines are very sensitive to their bite. Cats can lose 30% of their body weight in the first 24 hours of a black widow bite and the loss of body fluid can put them into a downward metabolic spiral. You’ll need to get to a vet right away if your cat does get bit by this type of spider. Black widows are found worldwide, in North and South America, Southern Europe, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. In the United States, they are more common in the southern states, preferring the warmer temperatures throughout the year but they have been spotted as far north as Canada. But don’t freak out, they tend to live in more secluded areas, not urban cities, they are recognizable, where they tend to inhabit is identifiable, and there are ways you can manage keeping your cats away from them.  Here is a link for more information about black widow spiders. Check to see if they are common where you live.


Last thing about the bees and Rosy. I’m going to start teaching her to wear a muzzle this summer. I’d rather have to explain when people see her on walks, that “no, she’s not a threat for biting you” than worrying ever time something flies by, that she’ll snap up another bee, she’s back in crisis and I’ve got to get to the vet – again. Stay tuned for how muzzle training goes.

Full Show Notes for Raising Your Paws Episode 46.

Title: The Meaning behind a Cat’s Twitching & Thrashing Tail & Handling the Puppy with the Kids.

Did you know that a cat’s tail is an extension of its spine? The tail can tell you much about their mood. In this episode, I’ll explain what twitching and thrashing can mean about how your cat is feeling.

Then, dog trainer Katie K-9 is back on the show, answering listener’s questions about what to do when the new puppy won’t leave the human kids alone – roughhousing and chewing on them.

Plus, I tell you the story of my dog Rosy, who has a very dangerous habit of eating bees and the first aid I must enlist to keep her safe and breathing.

 Additional Resources for the Show.

Katie K-9 and her dog, Lucee

Katie K-9’s website and how to listen to her radio show and podcast.

Source for the story about cat’s tails. “How to Speak Cat: A Guide to Decoding Cat Language” by Aline Alexander Newman and Gary Weitzman, D.V.M.