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Emergencies & First Aid # Bites - Stings - Injuries

K9 Maniac

Feb 20, 2002, 9:12 AM

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Emergencies & First Aid # Bites - Stings - Injuries

Bites - Stings - Injuries
Fly bites, bee stings, porcupine quills, snake bites... Other animals can be a real health hazard to your dog. Learn how to manage these emergencies when they happen, and when to seek immediate veterinary care.
  • Fly Bites
  • Insect Stings
  • Porcupine Quills
  • Snake Bites

Fly Bites
Blackflies, Biting midges, Horseflies, Deerflies, and Stable Flies are the most common biting flies. They feed on blood, saliva, tears, or mucus. Their bites can be painful and can spread disease. Many of them can be killed or repelled by insecticides such as the ones used against fleas.

A large dog with large ears is the pet most likely to be attacked by flies, particularly the stable fly. They bite the ear edges and tips. There won't be much bleeding but the ear edges will be marked by scabs and a crusty material.

What You Should Do
First, soften the scabs with a warm, wet washcloth. Wipe away the material and wash the ear edges with an antiseptic soap.

What Your Veterinarian Will Do
Your veterinarian may suggest using an antibiotic ointment to prevent infection. A fly repellent may also be suggested to keep the flies off your pet.

Watch for the scabs and crusty material to return for several more days cleaning the ears when this occurs. Apply antibiotic ointment several times a day as well as a fly-repellent to keep the flies away from your pet. Cleaning up your yard may prevent flies from invading. Stable flies lay eggs in decaying material (such as feces, grass clippings, seaweed laying along the beach, and wet haystacks); removing these materials will also remove the flies.

Insect Stings
The stings of bees, wasps, and ants usually occur on hairless areas such as the stomach and feet, but more often occur on the face, head, or inside the mouth. Scorpion and centipede stings will cause a local reaction and take longer to heal than bee or wasp stings. (If your dog has been stung by a bark scorpion, transport them to a veterinarian immediately because the venom may be deadly.) Most stings can be treated at home, but sometimes, however, dogs can have severe allergic reactions to the insect venom and develop anaphylactic shock. In this case, seek veterinary assistance immediately. They may also develop urticaria (hives) or angioedema (swollen face).

Most stings cause minor swelling, redness, and itching that can be relieved by first aid. First, check for signs of anaphylactic
shock (such as pale gums, weakness, fever or low body temperature, trembling, vomiting, diarrhea, wheezing, and collapse). If your dog has been stung in the nose or mouth, watch for immediate, large swelling. This may cause your dog to have a hard time breathing. If this occurs, have them examined immediately by your veterinarian or at an emergency clinic.

What You Should Do
If your dog has been stung by a bee, most likely a stinger is in the skin. If you can locate the site of sting (your dog may be biting, scratching, or licking it) remove the stinger by scraping it out with your fingernail or a credit card. Try not to squeeze it out as this may inject more venom.

Apply a paste of baking soda and water to the sting or bite to relieve the itching. Ammonia or calamine lotion dabbed on with a cotton ball can also relieve itching and pain. Apply an ice pack or cold compress to the area to relieve pain and swelling.

What Your Veterinarian Will Do
Your veterinarian may prescribe an antihistamine to reduce the swelling and itching. An antibiotic might be prescribed if a scorpion has stung your dog. If they are suffering from anaphylactic shock, your veterinarian will provide emergency treatment.

If your veterinarian has prescribed an antihistamine or a painkiller, treat your dog as directed. If your dog has been stung inside the mouth, eating may be painful. Soften the food with water or feed a soft food. If scorpions are a problem, a certified pest-control operator should be contacted.

Porcupine Quills

Porcupine quills can penetrate any area of an animal. They have backward-pointing barbs that hold them firmly in place and make them difficult to remove. If not removed promptly, quills can move further into the skin, even becoming buried in the skin.

What You Should Do
If your dog escaped with only a few external (outside the mouth) quills, you may be able to remove them yourself. First, restrain your dog as porcupine quills are very painful and your pet may try anything to get them out. Then, using hemostats or pliers, grab a quill as close to the skin as possible and steadily pull the quill out. Be sure to examine your dog's entire body feeling for hidden quills. Since they can range in length from one-half inch to four inches, they may not all be readily visible. If your dog has several quills, quills in the mouth, or one has broken off under the skin, seek veterinary assistance immediately.

What Your Veterinarian Will Do
Your veterinarian may give your dog an anesthetic (especially for quills in the mouth or throat) to aid in removing the quills. An antihistamine may also be given to ward off an allergic skin reaction and swelling

Watch the wounds for several days after the quills have been removed for swelling, redness, or discharge. If any of these occur, your dog may have an infection and need antibiotics from your veterinarian. Wash the wounds a several times a day for a few days, also watching for deeply embedded quills working their way out.

Snake Bites
If your dog encounters a poisonous snake, the chances are that it will be a pit viper. Pit vipers are a general class of poisonous snakes that are identified by their triangular heads, retractable fangs, and a special heat-sensing pit between the eye and nostril. Most dog/snake encounters are not deadly but the bite can be very painful and bitten animals should be treated immediately.

Pit vipers and snakes in general have been unfairly villainized by humans since the beginning of time and to this day are hunted down and killed for sport or out of fear. Despite the potential threat of a severe reaction, the vast majorities of bites are not deadly and can be effectively treated. The benefits of pit vipers are tremendous. They are very effective rodent killers and consume hundreds of thousands of mice and rats every year. They are essential to keeping the rodent population from exploding out of control. If people and their pets avoid areas that are likely to harbor large numbers of snakes particularly at certain times of the day and during certain times of the year, and use a little common sense, very few dangerous encounters are likely to occur. While not everyone finds these animals fascinating adaptions to nature, they can still respect them as important pieces in a balanced ecosystem and give them the little space which they require.

What are the symptoms?
Many times the owners of dogs that get bitten by a pit viper are not there at the time of the bite. Signs that your pet has been bitten include puncture wounds (often bleeding), immediate severe pain, swelling, and tissue necrosis. The more severe systemic signs may take up to several hours to appear and include hypotension and shock, lethargy and weakness, muscle tremors, and neurological signs including depressed respiration.

How are pit viper bites treated?
Animals suspected of being bitten by a pit viper should have immediate veterinary attention even if the bite occurred several hours earlier.

Animals suspected of being bitten should be hospitalized and monitored for at least eight hours. If you see your pet bitten by a pit viper, or suspect a bite has occurred, you should immediately take your pet to the nearest veterinarian. Suction kits to remove the venom can be tried but due to the large amount of hair present will likely have poor results. In addition, the use of such kits takes valuable time that would be better spent in travel. Decreasing the amount of activity and keeping the pet calm is beneficial. Applying tourniquets is of little benefit and they are often poorly applied and create more harm then good. Ice or cold compresses applied to the bite may help relieve some of the pain.

If the animal is showing signs of a reaction, the veterinarian will:
  • Remove the collar from animals bitten on the head or neck
  • Administer diphenhydramine (antihistamine)
  • Administer IV fluids
  • Administer one or two vials of antivenin as needed
  • Give broad spectrum antibiotics (penicillin or amoxicillin)
  • NOT give steroids since they are contraindicated in snake bites and should not be given.

What is the mortality rate in animals that receive antivenin?
A study of animals bitten by pit vipers showed that those treated with antivenin, intravenous fluids and antibiotics had a mortality rate less than 1% and local tissue damage was rare. The mortality rate in untreated patients depended on the species of snake involved.

Where is antivenin available?
Two companies, Fort Dodge and Wyeth Ayerst Laboratories produce antivenin. Veterinary clinics and human hospitals in areas that have a high population of pit vipers have this product on hand. Many owners want to carry this product with them but because of the intravenous administration and instability of the product it is recommended that a veterinarian give it. Even animals that have gone several hours and show severe symptoms have shown good response once treated with the antivenin. So owners of animals suspected of being bitten by a pit viper should seek out immediate veterinary attention for their pet even if the bite occurred several hours earlier.

Pit vipers compose the largest group of poisonous snakes. With a little common sense and snake courtesy most snake encounters can be avoided. If a snake does bite your pet, a veterinarian can successfully treat him and death is very rare.

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