The bug bites of summer

We have been hit with a heat wave here in the past week in Michigan. One hundred degree heat indices every day and humidity that makes it difficult to breathe. Ah, Pure Michigan. With this heat the bugs seem to come out in droves. And they swarm around Reggie like he’s Pigpen, even though he had a bath just two weeks ago.

Like most dogs, Reggie is fascinated by anything that moves. He won’t eat bugs or chase bugs or paw at them. He just watches them as if to tell me, “are you going to get that spider?”. And they will crawl all over him and he pays them no mind. So what should I watch for if he’s not ever bothered? He could get bit or stung and I would never know it. Here’s a rundown.

Fleas and Ticks

Generally a dog’s worst enemy, and the most common. Fleas are carried on other animals- wild animals like small rodents, raccoons, squirrels, and feral cats. You can’t prevent these animals from coming into your yard and leaving out feeders with corn, seed or nuts will only encourage these visitors. Ticks are most common in wooded areas. If you do a lot of hiking or live in a more rural area this could be a higher risk for you. Ticks are much more prevalent in Michigan this year. Using a preventative is a good start at combating this category but remember it’s a start and not foolproof. Reggie was at the vet just this week and I asked if they had seen many cases of ticks (we live in the city) and they said they had seen four, one of the four had been using a preventive. That’s uncommon because 1) city living and 2) one had been using a preventive.

Mosquitoes, Ants, and Bees

Dogs can have reactions to mosquito bites similar to that of humans. The site of the sting can have redness and swelling. Sometimes this can lead to secondary infections if the dog cannot stop scratching the sting site and it becomes infected. Additionally ants bites can be common around the muzzle, ears, paws, and underbelly as dogs lay on and investigate interesting mounds. Bee stings are similarly common around the face and muzzle. A friend’s dog actually swallowed three bees; the dog was chasing the flying bees like it was a game and managed to catch three of them and swallowed. His prize? A fever and some shots at the vet. Beware that dogs can develop severe bee allergies like humans and have anaphylactic reactions as well. If your dog has swelling of the face, eyelids, tongue, has difficulty breathing or is wheezing, get him or her to the vet immediately!

For temporary relief of stings and bites you can mix baking soda and water to make a paste and put it on the bite site. You can also use oatmeal, milk of magnesia, or hydrocortisone cream but beware- make sure whatever you use it is safe if your dog licks it off or it is in a non-lickable location.

Spiders

Yikes spiders. There aren’t many poisonous spiders here in Michigan so the same warnings and treatments apply as for bites and stings. However there are two poisonous spiders to watch for- the black widow and the brown recluse. The brown recluse is found in dark areas of wood piles, outdoor sheds, and doghouses. The black widow can be found in similar areas like wood piles, hollowed out stumps, and indoors in crawl spaces and cluttered undisturbed areas of basements. The effects of a brown recluse bite can spread slowly and kill off tissue in its wake, leaving a gangrenous ulcer behind. The effects of a black widow bite rarely cause death in humans, although the urban legend would have you believe otherwise. Because your dog is a much smaller being than you are, the effects are much more severe. The effects are early paralysis followed by muscle spasms, trouble breathing, howling, abdominal rigidity, increased blood pressure and heart rate, and incoordination. Get your dog medical attention immediately.

Snakes

Ok this isn’t a bug, but I do take Reggie on trails occasionally and there are snakes in Michigan. I have always wondered (being the worrier that I am) what would happen if I am out on some trail and something happened, how would I ever get this 65 pound dog back to the car in an emergency? I can’t exactly run and carry him at the same time. On PetMD, there are only 15 species of rattlesnakes, 2 water moccasins, and 2 coral snakes in the United States (these are the poisonous varieties). According to Michigan’s DNR site, there is only one poisonous snake in Michigan- the Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnake. Well good news for us Michiganders, the chances of your pet being bitten by a poisonous snake are pretty low. If your dog does get bit by a snake, do not go Crocodile Dundee and try and suck the venom out. Find the puncture holes and tie a band above the marks to restrict blood flow in case it is venomous. If you still see the snake, try and note markings to describe later to the vet. Keep your dog and calm and quiet and get to the vet for treatment. And don’t let your dog root around in holes or tall grass, particularly at night.

Bug bites don’t have to be a terror, and a preventive can go a long way. Be sure to check your dog during grooming, this is an easy time to check. Early treatment can save big vet bills and sometimes even your dog’s life!

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