Bee stings are not fun for humans—and they’re no fun for pups either.
“As spring comes about and the weather gets warmer, our pets, like us, begin to spend more and more time outdoors,” says Dr. Mandi Maimone, DVM of Animal Medical Center in Columbus, Ohio. “And as a veterinarian, I see more pets with insect bite/sting hypersensitivity. Bees [and] wasps are the biggest culprits.”
Let’s take a look at what you should do if your dog comes face-to-face with a buzzy little bee that decides to show your pup who’s boss.
First things first: If your dog catches up with an angry bee and you notice a bee sting on a dog paw or somewhere else on your dog’s body, don’t panic. Your dog is likely going to be upset, and if you’re upset too, it can escalate the situation.
Approach your dog with calm energy and check the area where he was stung. Then, grab an ice pack.
“If a pet owner suspects their pet has been stung by a bee, I recommend putting an ice pack on the area of the sting as soon as possible,” Dr. Maimone says.
Check for an Allergic Reaction
Once you’ve calmed down your dog, you need to check for any problematic reaction. If your dog is allergic to bees, he could already be experiencing anaphylaxis.
“Anaphylaxis is a sudden, widespread allergic reaction that can be severe and potentially life threatening,” Dr. Maimone says.
Anaphylaxis symptoms include:
- Edema, or swelling caused by excess water in the body’s tissues
- Swelling in the area of the sting
- Swelling around the eyes, lips, muzzle inside the mouth, pharynx and neck
This can lead to difficulty breathing, collapse and possibly death.
Your dog can have a severe reaction even if he doesn’t get stung on his body; swallowing a bee can also cause a harmful reaction.
“All of [the anaphylaxis symptoms] can also happen if a dog eats a bee,” Dr. Maimone says. “Bees are not poisonous, so ingesting the bee is not directly the problem. However, it can also be dangerous because even if a pet is NOT allergic to bee stings, a sting to the inside of the mouth or throat can cause localized swelling and also lead to trouble breathing, collapse and death secondary to swelling.”
When to Contact the Veterinarian
If you notice any signs of an allergic reaction in your dog after a bee sting or your dog eats a bee, it’s important to get your dog to the vet immediately.
“Pets with significant reactions many times need steroid and/or high potency Benadryl injections and sometimes anti-vomiting medication,” Dr. Maimone says. “Severe reactions may require rescue measures, such as epinephrine, IV catheter, fluids, intubation, oxygen, CPR and hospitalization.”
If your dog doesn’t seem to be having an allergic reaction, you should call your vet just to be safe. In most cases, your pup won’t require much intervention.
“Careful monitoring of a pet may be all that is necessary,” Maimone says.
Know Your Dog’s Risk
Certain breeds may be more sensitive to wasp or bee stings.
“I seem to see more short-haired breeds develop allergic symptoms after a sting than long haired breeds,” Dr. Maimone says. “For example, Boxers, Bulldogs, Pugs, Boston Terriers and Pit Bull breeds commonly present for symptoms of insect bite/sting hypersensitivity.”
If you know your dog’s breed commonly has allergic reactions to bee or wasp stings, you’ll want to take him to the veterinarian just to get checked out. Better safe than sorry!
Make Your Dog Comfortable
A dog stung by a bee or a dog stung by a wasp is never a fun situation—for you or your pup. Even if your pup isn’t having an allergic reaction, and there’s no need to take him to the vet, you still want to make sure you help get rid of any lingering pain and keep him nice and comfortable.
First thing’s first: If the stinger is still stuck in the skin, you’ll want to get it out pronto; stingers can continue to deliver venom even after they’ve been detached from the bee. You can try to scrape it out with your fingernail or with the edge of a credit card.
Once you’ve dealt with the stinger, apply a cold compress to help manage the pain from the sting.
If you notice your dog biting or scratching at the area, you can also apply a topical antihistamine (like Zymox Topical Spray with Hydrocortisone 1.0%) to help with itching.