Coco the Schnauzer survives life-threatening hornet stings

Davies Veterinary Specialists

Internal Medicine

8th June 2020

Emergency treatment helps Coco the Schnauzer survive life-threatening hornet stings

A run in with a nest of aggressive hornets caused eight-year-old miniature Schnauzer Coco to suffer a rollercoaster of multiple life-threatening complications. Thanks to a swift referral to Davies Veterinary Specialists in Hertfordshire for emergency treatment, she fought the odds to make a full recovery.

Davies Veterinary Specialists treats Coco the miniature schnauzer after hornet sting

Coco, was attacked by the hornets when a public footpath took her right past the nest. She was stung multiple times, as was her owner. Her primary care vets managed the initial shock and local oedema with steroids and anti-histamines but the following day she developed new signs: red urine and dark stools, with the latter raising concern about gastrointestinal bleeding.

“On examination, her skin was quite bruised, but she did not appear pale,” said Polly Frowde, Internal Medicine Specialist at Davies. “Blood tests showed mild anaemia with evidence of red blood cell destruction (haemolysis).”

Haemolysis is a direct effect of envenomation but can also be due to the body’s immune system becoming confused and attacking its own cells. Coco’s clotting function appeared normal and urine analysis showed that the discoloration was due to pigment (haemoglobin) rather than blood – another sign of haemolysis.

“Her Chest radiographs were normal”, said Polly, “but an abdominal ultrasound scan showed signs of pancreatitis, which was likely to have been triggered by shock. Subsequently we gave her supportive treatment including fluid therapy, pain relief, anti-nausea drugs, together with gut protectants for any ulceration.”

The dark faeces improved, but overnight, her red cell count dropped significantly, without signs of blood loss, and she required a blood transfusion. Repeat blood tests showed convincing evidence for immune-mediated haemolytic anaemia (IMHA), so steroids were continued to help combat this. Coco’s red cell count stayed stable following the transfusion, but the pancreatitis signs grumbled on.

“Unfortunately, she developed two new complications,” said Polly. “Skin pustules (small pockets of pus) formed, presumably corresponding to the original sting sites of which there were many, and these later ulcerated. Her breathing also became laboured and further chest radiographs showed that she now had a small amount of fluid collecting around the lungs (pleural effusion).”

The chest fluid was sampled, revealing signs of infection (pyothorax), which Polly thought likely to be an unlucky consequence of her infected skin lesions and/or the pancreatitis (and being immunosuppressed on steroids). Antibiotics fortunately resolved both the skin lesions and respiratory signs, without the need for more invasive treatment.

Following a two-week rollercoaster experience in the hospital, Coco was finally well enough to go home, much to the relief of her owner, who had been abroad when Coco first became ill.

Coco the miniature schnauzer recovers after treatment for hornet sting at Davies Veterinary Specialists

Frequent follow-up checks with her primary vets ensured Coco remained on the road to recovery and eventually she was able to stop all treatment without deterioration (steroids were gradually reduced over several weeks to avoid relapse).

“Sting envenomation can be very dangerous, with multiple possible life-threatening complications – especially after a large ‘dose’, as in Coco’s case,” said Polly.  “A dog’s coat isn’t necessarily thick enough to provide protection but fortunately, Coco was a stoic little fighter and is now back to full health, enjoying woodland walks in peace!”

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