While snake bites can be a serious problem in other areas of the United States, fortunately for us, they are not a significant problem in Minnesota. Of the 17 snake species in the state, only two are venomous: the timber rattlesnake and the eastern massasauga. Both are found in the southeastern counties of Minnesota and are very rarely seen or encountered. If your pet was bitten by a snake, this is considered a “RED” – or true emergency – on our Fast Track Triage chart. We advise you to seek immediate veterinary care. Please call ahead of your arrival so the veterinary team knows to expect you!
Bees and Wasps
There are many different types of bees and wasps in Minnesota; however, the most commonly encountered are: yellowjackets, bald-faced hornets, paper wasps, honeybees, and bumblebees. While they all have the ability to sting, yellowjackets and paper wasps tend to be the most aggressive. True honey bees are rarely a problem unless their hive is being disturbed. Honey bees also have a barbed stinger that remains embedded in the skin. They can only sting once and then die.
If your pet is stung, it is important to get them out of the immediate area. Many bees will release an alarm hormone when they sting that will trigger additional aggression and stings from other bees in the immediate area. If you can see a stinger, don’t grab it to remove it! This may force more venom into the skin. Instead, scrape the stinger out with your fingernail, a credit card, etc.
Wasp and hornets can deliver multiple stings and therefore, tend to be more serious, due to the amount of venom injected.
Just as with people, stings are painful to pets, but they are rarely serious or life-threatening. For pain, applying ice packs to the area of the sting may be helpful. Monitor closely for at least 30 to 90 minutes for any evidence of a more serious reaction: large swelling at the site of the sting, hives, a puffy face, problems breathing, or collapse. Cats may meow a lot, drool, walk like they’re drunk, or collapse.
If more serious complications appear to be developing, have your pet checked right away. People often ask if they can give a stung pet some Benadryl at home, but once serious reactions develop, Benadryl doesn’t help. Injectable medications and possibly IV fluids may be needed. If in doubt, seek immediate medical assistance.
Written by Jeff Bush, DVM.