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First aid for insect stings

isolated pets


  • Insect stings are common in pets, especially in dogs.
  • Stings are not a major problem for most pets, but some pets (just like humans) will develop an allergic reaction.
  • Signs of an allergic reaction include rashes, swellings (commonly on the face) and in more severe cases, breathing difficulties.
  • Get vet help ASAP if your pet is showing signs of an allergic reaction - they can be life-threatening.

What to do if your pet is stung or bitten by an insect

Step one: Check your pet

Signs of a severe allergic reaction:

  • Rapid swelling of the lips, eyes, ears and face
  • Cold ears, legs and feet
  • Collapse/ fainting
  • Breathing difficulties:

Other signs of a less severe allergic reaction:

  • Skin rash/ bumps
  • Swelling elsewhere on the body
  • Vomiting or diarrhoea.

Step two: For a severe reaction

  • Insect bites and stings can be life threatening and allergic reactions tend to develop quickly.
  • Go straight to your vets if your pet is having difficulty breathing, or if their face is swelling up quickly.
  • If possible, phone your vets on the way to let them know you are coming.

Step two: For a mild reaction

  • If your pet is suffering from a mild allergic reaction (no breathing problems or rapid swelling), call your vet for advice.
  • They may need medication to keep them comfortable and stop their reaction getting worse.
Published: March 2020

PetWise Pet Health Hub – brought to you thanks to support from players of People’s Postcode Lottery 

Written by vets and vet nurses. This advice is for UK pets only.

Illustrations by Samantha Elmhurst