Cat Bug Bites
From Pet Health Learning Center
Cat Bug Bites (Feline Bug Bites)
Signs and Symptoms
Whether we are indoors or outdoors, we always share our environment with a variety of insects, from fleas and flies to spiders and bees, and even Cat Chiggers. This is also true for our feline companions. Just like us humans, cats can be troubled by pesky, irritating bug bites. Some insects are more troublesome than others, and some cats experience severe reactions while others only display very mild symptoms. Cats that like to play outside and chase bugs and other critters are especially susceptible to receiving bug bites. Even less active cats are extremely likely to suffer from some form of insect bite during the course of their lives. Fleas are the most common type of insect to bother cats and other pets, but a variety of other bugs can also bite or sting felines, including mosquitoes, bees, and spiders.
In most cases, you will not actually witness your cat being bitten, and will only have the aftereffects to go by to figure out what is troubling your cat. When bitten or stung, your cat is likely to display at least some sign or symptom, but the type of symptoms exhibited and their severity will depend upon the type of insect responsible as well as the characteristics of your individual pet. Even in circumstances where the reaction is quite mild, your cat will likely be more than happy to receive some relief from irritation caused by its bug bite. For this reason, it's helpful to recognize some of the more common symptoms of cat bug bites so that you can quickly identify the problem and provide appropriate treatment and relief.
Fleas are tiny, wingless insects that live on cats as external parasites. These insects affect felines very frequently, biting a cat's skin and feeding upon the animal's blood. When fleas do bite a cat, their saliva causes varying degrees of irritation. For a regular cat that does not have a hypersensitivity to fleas, signs of flea bites include scratching and biting at the head, neck, and belly. In addition, black grit referred to as flea dirt may also be visible in your cat's fur. Sometimes, the fleas themselves may be visible moving around on your pet's skin. In the case of a hypersensitive cat that is allergic to flea bites, symptoms are much more pronounced. The biting and scratching become excessive, almost compulsive, and can lead to hair loss and bald spots. Some hypersensitive cats will also develop skin disease and lip ulcers.
While less common than flea bites, mosquito bites can also be uncomfortable for your pet and can cause Cat Mosquito Bite Hypersensitivity. While flea bites can occur in small or large numbers, mosquito bites tend to occur just one at a time. The site of the bite will likely become red, itchy, and slightly swollen. In the case of bee or wasp stings, swelling is very common and the sting site may become warm to the touch. These insect stings can also be quite painful for your pet. Often, the stinger will be left behind at the site of the sting and will be visible. More severe reactions to bee stings can be very dangerous and require immediate veterinary attention. Warning signs of a more serious reaction include rapid swelling, redness around the eyes and lips, respiratory distress, vomiting, and staggering. If your cat displays these symptoms, take him or her to a veterinarian right away.
Spider bites are relatively uncommon among cats, but they can occur. Generally, however, these bites will not be particularly dangerous and will likely only cause slight swelling, itching, and a minimal amount of pain. Unless your cat is hypersensitive to insect bites or stings, most such incidents do not require significant treatment. Despite this, your pet will likely be very grateful to receive some form of relief from troubling symptoms such as itching and irritation.
When a bug bite or sting is at the source of your cat's suffering and irritation, a veterinarian will conduct a physical exam in order to identify the problem. During this examination, the practitioner will look for any of the above signs and symptoms in order to determine the type of insect responsible. Once the specific culprit has been identified, the veterinarian will then be able to evaluate the severity of the situation and decide upon an appropriate form of treatment, if any treatment is required. In the case of a very severe reaction, such as an allergic reaction to one or more bee stings, the veterinary doctor will very quickly be able to identify the life-threatening reaction simply through a physical exam and will immediately begin to administer treatment. In the case of flea allergies, a skin test may be performed in order to evaluate the cat's reaction to flea proteins injected under the skin. However, in most cases such tests are not necessary in order to reach a diagnosis of flea bites and flea allergies, as the clinical signs tend to provide sufficient confirmation. As a result, with respect to cat bug bites, a physical examination is generally all that is required in order to arrive at a diagnosis.
Causes & Pathophysiology
Most bugs will not bite cats if left alone. However, if they are disturbed, they will bite or sting as a defense mechanism. This may occur when a cat accidentally disturbs an insect or when a cat is trying to catch or play with a bug. On the other hand, insects such as fleas and mosquitoes bite cats deliberately, in order to feed upon their blood. No matter how the cat obtains the bite, swelling and irritation usually occur. This irritation generally occurs in the form of itching, and the bite or sting site may also be somewhat painful.
With bloodsucking and parasitic insects such as mosquitoes, fleas, and some mites, this irritation is caused by components in the insects' saliva. When such a bug bites a cat, the saliva gets beneath the animal's skin, triggering a reaction. These reactions include swelling, which can result in tiny bumps or larger lumps, depending on the type of bite or sting. For example, fleas tend to cause very small bumps while mosquitoes typically cause more swelling and, therefore, larger lumps. Other insects, including bees, wasps, and fire ants sting their victims rather than biting them. Venom is injected into a cat via the stinger, and this typically causes more significant swelling than what is seen in the case of mosquito or flea bites.
While spider bites are quite uncommon for cats, when they do occur they can cause large bumps or sores. Enzymes and proteins found in the spider's venom are responsible for triggering the swelling and other symptoms. Although nearly all spiders are poisonous, in most cases their fangs are not big enough or strong enough to penetrate skin. Therefore, the majority of spider bites will not be dangerous and will only cause relatively minor, localized irritation.
Most cat bug bites can be treated in a similar fashion. However, in some circumstances specialized treatment may be necessary. Such circumstances include when a reaction is particularly severe, or where fleas are involved. Simply treating the irritation caused by flea bites is not enough to solve your cat's problem, as the fleas will likely be living in your cat's fur and will continue to bite and trouble your pet. As result, anti-flea treatment may be required in order to kill the fleas and their eggs. This is especially true when a cat suffers from flea allergies. In such circumstances, if the problem is not fully resolved, your cat could end up developing skin disease and a variety of other medical problems. However, more general treatment aimed at soothing irritation and other symptoms caused by a variety of insect bites may be beneficial when used in conjunction with anti-flea treatments. When a cat has been stung rather than bitten, an additional treatment step is also often necessary. This involves removing the stinger if it has been left behind. This should be done by gently scraping the stinger away from the injection site. Scraping tends to be better than using tweezers, as the second method can cause more venom to enter into your cat's system.
No matter what type of insect bite or sting your cat is suffering from, it's important to try to prevent your pet from biting or scratching at the affected area, as this can cause further irritation and can potentially lead to infection. Before applying any form of ointment or other remedy, it's often best to gently clean and dry the bite or sting site. Trimming some of the hair away from around the affected area may also be helpful. Once this is done, there are a number of remedies that can provide relief for your pet. For example, a mixture of baking soda and water can greatly reduce itching when applied to the site of an insect bite. Furthermore, applying a cold compress can help to prevent and reduce swelling. However, it's important to make sure that the compress is not causing your cat more pain and discomfort.
In addition to such home remedies and treatment methods, there are also a number of natural substances and products that can be very beneficial for a cat suffering from bug bites. One such substance is aloe, which is very soothing. This substance is usually available as an aloe vera gel at regular pharmacies. Mashed plantain applied as an infusion or poultice can also provide significant relief. These natural substances and other plant and herbal components can also be found in a variety of homeopathic products. Tea tree oil, Echinacea, and red alder are just a few other natural ingredients that may be used in homeopathic remedies. All of these substances have a variety of properties that assist with reducing inflammation while soothing pain and irritation. So if your cat is unfortunate enough to be the victim of an insect bite or sting, there are numerous ways to help reduce the irritation and other symptoms that are likely to trouble your pet.