Wasp Stings & Cats: What To Do?

cat sitting on a car

Bees, hornets and wasps can pose a real danger to your cat.

Time and again, cats have to see a vet due to a wasp sting. But what should be done in emergencies and when do wasp stings become dangerous for cats? We will explain it all, as well as the difference between a cat being stung by a wasp or a bee.

How dangerous is a wasp sting for cats?

A wasp sting can be very dangerous for cats. In the worst case scenario, they can suffer from a fatal allergic shock. Most of the time though, painful insect bites are very mild. The best outcome is the swelling of the bitten area subsiding after a few hours.

Symptoms: How do I recognise whether my cat has been stung by a wasp?

Similarly to with humans or dogs, you can recognise your cat being stung by a wasp based on the following symptoms:

  • Your cat appears stressed and miaows with pain.
  • The stung area swells and reddens.
  • Your cat experiences an itching sensation in the stung area.
  • Your can may salivate or vomit.

If your cat suffers from an allergic reaction to the wasp sting, respiratory difficulties like accelerated breathing (tachypnoea) and even respiratory distress may occur.

Furthermore, changes in cardiac activity may occur in the case of an allergic shock. Possible symptoms are palpitations (tachycardia), irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia) and cardiac arrest (asystole), the worst case scenario.

cat stung by a bee or wasp on the cheek
This cat's cheeks are severely swollen due to a wasp sting.

Wasp sting & cats: When do I need to see a vet?

If your cat’s mucous membranes turn blue (cyanosis), this is a sign that it cannot breathe. This is an acute emergency and can prove fatal. Hence, you should contact your vet immediately after finishing first aid.

First-aid in emergencies: What can I do?

Examine the area where you suspect that your cat has been stung by a wasp. If your cat has been stung by a bee, you first have to carefully remove the spike that has got stuck.

In order to destroy the enzymes of the toxin, you can then place a flannel soaked in warm water (around 50ºC) on the area for a few minutes afterwards. Make sure that the water isn’t too hot and that you don’t damage your cat’s skin with the heat.

Then cool the sting with a cool flannel, which prevents swelling following the wasp sting. If you also have antihistamine ointments (e.g. Fenistil), you can carefully apply them to the skin.

Treatment: How is a wasp sting treated with cats?

If your cat experiences a severe allergic reaction to an insect bite, you should see a vet immediately. They will use the following medication depending on the severity of symptoms:

  • Antihistamines (H1 and H2 antagonists) counteract histamine.
  • Glucocorticoids (cortisone preparations) have an anti-inflammatory effect.

In an emergency, the vet will also give your cat adrenaline (epinephrine), which constricts the blood vessels and thus leads to a life-saving increase in blood pressure and dilation of the bronchial tubes. To continue to increase oxygen saturation, your cat will receive additional oxygen through the respiratory tract.

Causes: What are the triggers of an allergic reaction following a wasp sting?

Wasps can sting several times in a row, injecting a specific toxin made up of several allergens (enzymes).

If a wasp has stung your cat for the first time, this initial contact is usually asymptomatic. Nevertheless, your cat’s immune system does react to the toxin and forms certain protective proteins (IgE antibodies) against the toxin’s allergens. Specialists call this process sensitisation.

If a wasp stings again after some time, your cat’s immune system will now initiate a type I hypersensitivity reaction. Within seconds to minutes, allergens bind to the IgE antibodies.

Through this process, the cells release numerous inflammatory mediators (e.g. histamines, leukotrienes and prostaglandins), which dilate the blood vessels and lower the blood pressure. Consequently, water retention (oedema) can occur. They also constrict the bronchi, making it harder for your cat to breathe.

What is the difference between a wasp and bee sting with cats?

Unlike with wasps, a bee’s stinger, which is covered with barbs, gets stuck in the skin when it stings. The bee then dies and injects all its venom into the skin. In contrast, wasps live for longer.

Hence, bee stings are often more painful for cats than wasp stings, although both insects can trigger allergies.

Prevention: How to prevent wasp stings with cats

Be they birds, butterflies or bumblebees, many cats love catching moving things and living creatures. If you’re sitting in the garden and observe your cat wildly swatting at a flying object such as a wasp in the air, you should stop it if possible.

In the summer months, make sure that there are no wasps close to the food bowl. Mosquito nets on your windows prevent wasps from flying into your home. By doing so, you can at least slightly reduce the risk of your cat being stung by a wasp.

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