With the weather finally warming up, we all want to get outside and enjoy the sunshine with our dogs and cats. Barbecues, walks in the park, and just lounging in the back yard sunshine are so much more fun when our pets are right there with us. Responsible, loving VIP pet parents should be aware of how to give pet first aid for insect bites that can cause their furry companions so much painful, itchy trouble.

Fleas and Ticks

Since nasty fleas and ticks lurk in tall brush and grasses, it’s important to keep your lawns mowed and trim. Your vet can prescribe safe, spot-on topical treatment to protect your pets from these irritants or you can research on-line for the best all-natural organic products to purchase.

  • Flea bites can cause excessive scratching, hair loss, scabs, hot spots and tapeworms (an intestinal parasite), as well as anemia from blood loss in both cats and dogs. You’ll know your pet has tapeworms if you see what appear to be tiny grains of white rice around the anus or under the tail. You may also notice those same “grains of rice” moving and squirming in fresh feces. Your veterinarian can recommend an appropriate de-worming medication for the tapeworms.

If you notice your dog or cat has fleas, a warm bath with a flea-repellant shampoo may be recommended. If you want to go the organic route, look for a shampoo containing dandelion, eucalyptus, and other pest-repellent herbs and oils.

  • Tick bites can cause similar skin itching and lead to a variety of complications from diseases such as Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Cytauxzoonosis and Babesia. Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever can be passed on to humans and be debilitating and hard to cure. Without veterinary intervention, your pet can become seriously ill and die from these tick-borne diseases.

Any tick you find on your pet needs to be carefully removed by squeezing the head with a pair of tweezers and gently pulling backwards away from the skin. Kill the tick with a drop of alcohol in a sealed bottle and save it for your vet should you notice your dog or cat becoming lethargic, not wanting to eat, or showing other signs of disease.

The scratching and itching that results from flea and tick bites can be relieved by dabbing the spot with witch hazel made with ethanol, the alcohol contained in consumable liquors, or vegetable glycerin, an edible coconut oil derivative that is used in natural soaps and cosmetics for its emollient, skin-soothing qualities.

Or, you may want to try this homemade recipe using a spray bottle and ingredients found at your local organic store:

  • 4 Tbsp. witch hazel
  • 2 Tbsp. aloe vera gel
  • 1 Tbsp. vegetable glycerin
  • 1 Tbsp. hemp seed oil (or coconut oil)
  • 1 tsp. colloidal silver (can be found in your local health food store)
  • 2 drops geranium essential oil
  • 6 drops lavender essential oil
  • 6 drops cedarwood essential oil

Add enough water to fill the spray bottle. Store in the fridge for a longer shelf life.

Bees and Wasps

In most cases, you’ll notice swelling and tenderness where your dog or cat was stung, and the stinger might still be stuck in your pet. Remove the stinger as soon as possible so that the venom stays localized and doesn’t get a chance to spread. Use a credit card, not your fingers or a pair of tweezers, because the venom sac may rupture, exposing your pet to more venom.

To reduce the swelling and the pain, apply a cold compress to the sting site. You may need to hold it on to the area for a while for the compress to be effective. If your pet is amenable, you may even be able to use an old towel or strips of cloth to wrap and hold the compress around the site. **Please note: Keep a protective layer of cloth between ice or frozen compresses and sensitive skin.

Fire Ants

Fire ants, those aggressive pests, spring up every summer and can cause problems for both pets and their humans. Your animal’s reaction to the bites can vary from mild to severe, with the most common symptoms showing up as immediate pain upon being bitten followed by severe itching. Your dog or cat may lick or bite the area around the bite causing further irritation.

For immediate relief, mix a paste of baking soda and water and apply it to the ant bites. Apply an ice pack or cold compress to the skin as discussed in the section on Bees and Wasps. In severe cases, a dose of 1 to 2 mg. of plain Benadryl™ per pound is a good, safe remedy for itchy animals. **Please note: Check with your veterinarian before administering any over-the-counter medications.

Do NOT hose down your dog if covered in fire ants. This causes the ants to panic and bite down harder. You’ll need to keep an eye on any bite and watch for signs of infection.

**Warning – Particularly for Bee/Wasp Stings and Fire Ant Bites**

See your veterinarian or emergency vet center immediately if you notice your pet agitated, having difficulty breathing, drooling, scratching at the face or nose, showing increased swelling of the mouth, throat or nose, vomiting, or having diarrhea or seizures. These are all signs of anaphylactic shock – a true veterinary emergency.

Pet Safe Lawn Products To Repel Pests

Many organic, natural lawn care products are highly efficient, have no adverse affect on the environment and are NOT harmful to animals, plants, humans, aquatic life, honeybees, earthworms, beneficial insects and birds. Look for product labels that say they are produced in accordance with NOSB (National Organic Standards Board) guidelines. The materials used in the production process are derived from naturally occurring and sustainable sources and are consistent with organic principals.

Natural pest repellents such as garlic and pepper sprays will repel many insects. Combine the repellent with water in the blender and then strain out the fiber. Or use insecticidal soap, effective against many problematic insects.

Traps, which allow the pest to walk in, but not walk out, can effectively control wasps, bees and a number of other pests. Put insect traps on the periphery of your lawn so the pests will be disarmed before – rather than after – they invade your property.

For fleas and other insects with shells, try diatomaceous earth, a fine silica powder made from the fossilized shells of minute creatures called diatoms. The razor sharp powder destroys the shells of crawling insects, but does not harm earthworms, pets, or humans.

VIP Pet Services takes Pet First Aid for insect bites seriously. Our pet sitters are trained to be on the lookout for any signs of distress in your furry family members during their visits. Please make sure to keep your pet’s profile up to date in Leashtime and mention any known allergies to your sitter directly. Contact us or leave a comment if you have any specific questions for Cate.

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