Oh spring, how you bug me! Well, the chance to enjoy the outdoors again makes me happy. But the insects — they definitely bug me! Now that the world is abuzz again, I thought it might be helpful to go over some of the ways that those flying, creeping, and crawling creatures can affect dogs.
We’ll start with every local’s favorite, the notorious stinkbug. The good news is that they are not poisonous to us. The bad news is that sometimes we like to chase and eat them. The result can be smelly and highly unpleasant. The bug’s secretions can make us drool and/or vomit. While it’s not a fun experience, it’s not life threatening and the effects should pass on their own in time.
Let’s move on to cicadas, because this is supposed to be a banner year for them. The infamous 17-year cicada is projected to emerge in Virginia this spring. The last time we saw this particular type of cicada was in 1999. Lots of us enjoy snacking on cicadas, so whenever they arrive, nervous owners begin wondering if there is need for concern. You can rest easy. Cicadas are non-toxic and should not pose any significant health concerns for pets. That said, overindulgence could lead to gastrointestinal upset because the crunchy shells are hard to digest. The goal is to keep us from overdoing it!
Bees, wasps, and other stinging insects present a more complicated picture. Some dogs will not react badly to stings, especially if there are very few of them. We might be in a bit of pain, but we should be okay unless there are multiple stings inside of our mouths with concurrent swelling that could impact breathing. Some of us, however, are severely allergic to stinging insects and can experience anaphylaxis. This can cause diarrhea, vomiting, seizures, coma, and even death. If you suspect that your pet is having a dangerous reaction to a sting, seek veterinary help immediately. Once you determine that your dog has a severe allergy, you can talk to your vet about ways to safely control future problems should they occur.
There are other insects worth noting here, including fleas and ticks. I won’t say a lot about them, because I’ve covered them in this column quite often and most of you are aware of the importance of addressing these particular pests. It’s also important to understand that mosquitos can transmit heartworm, so keep us up-to-date with our heartworm medication. Finally, some caterpillars can be problematic if we eat them, potentially delivering poison or adversely affecting our GI tract with their bristles.
Helping us to understand such commands as “leave it” can be useful when it comes to discouraging us from getting too close to or ingesting dangerous insects. The most critical thing to remember is that you need to watch us closely, especially when we’re young and learning about the world. If we’ve been outside in the yard and come back inside exhibiting signs of illness, we may have encountered something harmful. While there’s probably no need to panic, extra watchfulness and readiness can help.
Always have a backup plan. Know where the closest emergency vet is, and keep that number as well as your regular vet’s number easily available at all times. Also remember to leave that information with pet sitters. And, for urgent situations, the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. That number is (888) 426-4435. Keep it handy!
Albert, a Jack Russell Terrier, is Chairman of the Board of Wylie Wagg, a shop for dogs, cats, and their people, with locations in VA and DC.