Pets can stir hornets nest
We have been under constant threat of buzzing, dive-bombing, airborne insects around our place this summer. Recently, my son, Jon, called from home to report a problem with Minnie, our "rat terrorist." It seems she is constantly imposing herself in other insect, reptile, mammal and human territories. Usually, she gets in trouble and in this case it was a hive of ground-burrowing hornets. Jon indicated he saw her munching on one and had heard her let out a yelp a little earlier. "Dad, you'd better bring something [ie. medicine] home for her. I think she ate one," Jon reported.
So, just before my noon lunch break, I armed myself for the worst-case scenario. Hives of wasps are not pleasant memories for our family. One evening, as my daughter was cleaning out one of her sheep jugs, we heard a blood-curdling shriek. Katie was sprinting toward open country, wasps in hot pursuit. One flew under her shirt and was stinging her repeatedly. Luckily, she survived with Benadryl and baking soda poultices.
Epinephrine, dexamethasone, antibiotic, Benadryl - I thought I'd packed anything I might need to rescue Minnie. Oh, last but not least, syringes and needles. It seems ironic one would sting the patient again - this time with hypodermics full of life-saving drugs - but, we call it a necessary evil.
This time of year nesting (or hiving) hits its peak. Usually our homes, garages, out buildings and barns are fair ground for these stinging architects. Ground dwelling hornets seem to prefer flowerbeds around home foundations - possibly because moisture and tillage making it easier to begin a colony.
Bites and stings are more likely to occur in younger, inquisitive animals. If an animal has a memory of a negative event, such as a painful bite or sting, as an older animal it most likely will not want to repeat the experience. Minnie is an exception as she is such a sport hound or just plain ignorant. (I think a little of both after taking that blow to the head from an errant golf ball). I found out cats are more tolerant than dogs to stinging insects' toxins. As for dog breeds, Boxers seem most prone to severe reactions.
As for physical findings, bees, wasps, or hornets create both localized and systemic (or anaphylactic) reactions; however, local reactions are most common. Signs of a local sting include swollen head or face and diffuse redness of the skin. If very severe swelling occurs, respiratory distress can occur from upper airway restriction or obstruction.
Anaphylaxis can develop within 15 minutes of being stung. Symptoms include vomiting, defecation, urination, muscle weakness, respiratory depression, and convulsions. If cats react severely, itching (pruritus), salivation, loss of coordination and collapse may occur. If massive envenomation (multiple stings) occurs, respiratory distress and acute clotting can occur.
The goal of treatment is two-fold. First, relieve any discomfort the patient has and then prevent further swelling and redness of the skin. One should remove the stinger if possible using tweezers or fine forceps, taking care to not press on the stinger's sac. If the sac is present and inadvertently squeezed while the stinger is still in the animal, the remaining contents may be injected into the pet causing additional reaction. Drug therapy by your veterinarian consists of epinephrine for anaphylaxis prevention and treatment, Benadryl and dexamethasone, which may be administered as they are an antihistamine and cortisone. After treatment, patients with facial swelling and redness of the skin should be watched carefully to ensure clinical signs are not progressing. If treated early, prognosis is excellent for most pets. If anaphylaxis has set in before the animal is presented to a veterinarian, the prognosis should be guarded short term depending on the severity of attack and resulting symptoms. Obviously, to prevent stings from occurring, all hives and stinging-insect dwelling places should be treated with insecticide and, of course, do not allow pets access to the areas most frequented by these nasty bugs.
As I pulled into the drive of our farm I didn't notice Minnie anywhere and Jon was off running an errand. I began calling to Minnie and paced more frantically about the house. All of sudden, I noticed her tri-colored rear end and tail wagging up in the air. There was my little buddy, her head sunk deep in the earth in hot pursuit of another mole. She stopped long enough to show her dirt covered head and went back to digging. Somehow, I got the message, "You think I'm that wimpy, Dad? I eat those hornets for treats. Already did a self exam and removed the stinger. I'm good. So much for needing your services." What a Superdog. I gathered my bag and stethoscope and returned to my home and my awaiting lunch, wondering how many previous Millie emergencies I had missed because of her rat terrorist line of wasp/hornet/bee sting-resistant super genes.
Look out Osama...