Fleas and ticks are the #1 bugs to be concerned about this time of year.  But, several other problem bugs exist around here and I thought we’d talk about a few.

Stinging Insects
Wasps, honey bees, etc.  Ouch!  

Image courtesy of www.clevelandclinicmeded.com

Several bad things can happen.

The stings hurt and develop into pruritic (itchy) raised, red circular lesions. They may itch for days causing self trauma and secondary infections.

Dogs love to make a game out of bees and wasps, catching them with their mouths. YOW! They often present to us with profuse salivating and swelling in or around the mouth.

Often we see dogs with what is called a delayed hypersensitivity.  Several hours after a sting a delayed reaction occurs. These dogs usually present with swelling of the lips, eyelids, or the entire face.  Usually an injection of antihistamines and/or corticosteroid will resolve the problem. Do not ignore this reaction as the swelling could extend into the throat causing constriction and a potentially fatal outcome. Another type of delayed reaction is hives.  These dogs present with circular swellings over the entire body.  Again, antihistamines and corticosteroids will usually resolve the problem.

A more dangerous scenario is when a dog decides to stick his nose where it doesn’t belong.  Disturbing a wasp’s nest will result in multiple stings. Even worse is disturbing a hornet’s nest. These little demons will chase and attack the trespasser resulting in a massive number of stings. This can elicit a dangerous life threatening anaphylactic reaction. This is an acute response by the immune system resulting in a loss of blood pressure and a release of inflammatory cells in the airways leading to an asthmatic like response. This led to a cascade of events that if untreated are often fatal.  This requires hospitalization with intense life saving measures taken.

(Note from Sarah: We recently had a client that experienced this very scenario. When she went to rescue her nearly paralyzed dog from the ground hornet’s nest the client also suffered from their painful sting. After she was able to get her pup to us she was immediately taken to the hospital herself. Luckily, both our patient and her Mom were eventually fine and 100% back to normal, but our client still tells us how horrible of an incident it was to experience. During her dog’s treatment we removed roughly 150 to 200 stingers from her skin.)

I didn't eat a bee, this is all natural!

There are a variety of flies in our area that cause an assortment of problems.

Flies may lay eggs on debilitated animals wherever fluid is present.  The eggs hatch and develop into what is commonly called maggots.  They feed on dead or dying tissue and moist debris.  A good grooming program and appropriate care for especially the old and very young pets will prevent this.

Outdoor dogs can have flies bite their ears severely enough to cause bleeding. This draws more flies and the end result is a staph infection that spreads rapidly because more flies are drawn to the area.

Another lovely creature is the fly of the genus Cuterebra.  If a dog or cat happens to pick up an egg with an infective larva of this fly it will hatch and burrow under the skin.  There, they grow into what is commonly referred to as a warble.  In early stages you can see them moving in a small hole in the skin. They elicit a severe inflammatory reaction rendering the host extremely ill.  The patient is usually hospitalized, anesthetic administered, and the “alien” is dissected out. They are ugly, grayish larvae that can be as large as your thumb. Once out the patient recovers quickly.  If left unattended the inflammation and infection becomes so severe that the victim host could die.  The really yucky part of this syndrome is that we usually see them in small, cute little kittens!

Cuterebra larvae courtesy of www.veterinarymedicine.dvm360.com

(Another note from Sarah: “Warbles” and maggots are easily some of the ickiest things we see aside from abscesses. However, they are the most satisfying to treat because the pet’s transformation once they are rid of those disgusting bugs is almost always miraculous. We may gag the entire time we are working but it’s always totally worth it.)


Ear mites are commonly passed from cat to cat, cat to dog, and dog to dog. They are as the name describes: little, almost microscopic creatures residing in the ears, chewing on the ear linings, and feeding on the debris.  You can imagine how this feels.

Microscopic earmite courtesy of www.capcvet.org


We are all familiar with lice. They are species specific. You cannot get them from your dog or cat. Fortunately, we see very few cases.   They are usually found in poorly cared for pets living in crowded conditions.

These are the common problem bugs and some myths do exist.  Probably the most common myth is spider bites.  Yes they do occur, but rarely.  Fun fact!: Spiders have fangs. So, if you look at a bite under magnification and there is only one puncture, it is not a spider bite!

(Another, another note from Sarah: Thanks for the nightmare’s Dr. Miller!)


Simple, good grooming and common sense about your pets’ outdoor activities.

I’m glad this is done.  Who wants to write about things that totally gross you out?

(Last note from Sarah: Agreed, all of those bugs and creepy crawlies are super gross.)

Dr. Miller is the owner of the Lifetime Pet Centers of New Richmond & Williamsburg. He has been practicing veterinary medicine in Southwest Ohio for more than 35 years.

Sarah is the practice manager of Lifetime Pet Centers with over 11 years of experience in the field. She edits Dr. Miller's blog and sometimes writes articles of her own.

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