Dog Stung By Bees? Here Is What Pet Parents Need To Do And Know

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Last Updated - June 10, 2024

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As a dog owner, you're likely familiar with the boundless curiosity and adventurous spirit that define our canine companions. However, this exploratory nature sometimes leads them into less-than-pleasant encounters, such as a sting from a bee. Imagine a peaceful afternoon in the garden, suddenly interrupted by your dog's distressed yelp. You turn to see them pawing frantically at their face, and you realize - they've been stung by a bee. This scenario, while alarming, is not uncommon and raises crucial questions about how to respond effectively and safely.

In this article, we'll dive into the immediate steps to take following a bee sting, discuss symptoms that signal the need for urgent veterinary care, and explore preventive measures to safeguard your furry friend from these buzzing hazards. With expert insights and practical advice, we aim to equip you with the knowledge necessary to navigate this stingy situation, ensuring your dog's health and safety remain top priorities.

Bee Or Wasp Stings

Identifying whether your dog has been stung by a bee or a wasp can be challenging, but there are a few key indicators that can help:

Stinger Left Behind: Bees typically leave their stinger in the skin after they sting because it is barbed and gets lodged in the skin, leading to the bee's death. In contrast, wasps possess a sleek stinger and typically do not leave it behind, enabling them to deliver multiple stings.

Reaction and Swelling: Both bee and wasp stings can cause swelling and redness, but the reaction to a wasp sting is often more immediate and painful. A dog's bee sting tends to result in a more localized reaction, whereas wasp stings might cause a more widespread area of redness and swelling.

Behavior of the Insect: Observing the insect's behavior, if possible, can provide clues. Bees are generally more passive and only sting when provoked, often near their hive. Wasps can be more aggressive and are likely to sting during foraging or if they feel threatened.

Location of the Incident: If the sting occurred near flowering plants or a beehive, it's more likely a bee sting. Wasps are frequently located near food sources, such as garbage cans or outdoor dining areas.

Symptoms Post-Sting: While both stings cause pain and swelling, wasp stings might also lead to more extensive redness and hives. Some individuals also react differently to bee and wasp venom, which can further help identify based on past reactions if known.

Symptoms of dogs stung by a bee

When a dog is stung by a bee, the effects can vary depending on the location of the sting and the dog's sensitivity to bee venom. Here are some common reactions and potential complications:

  • Pain and Swelling

  • Redness and Itching

  • Allergic Reactions: Some dogs may have an allergic reaction to bee stings. Mild allergic reactions can include more extensive swelling and discomfort. In severe cases, a dog can have anaphylactic bee reactions. Simultaneously, while less common, an anaphylactic reaction can be life-threatening. Indications of a severe allergic reaction encompass difficulty breathing, pronounced swelling (around the face or neck), hives, weakness, and collapse.

  • Multiple Stings: The response can intensify if a dog experiences multiple stings, leading to increased pain, swelling, and a heightened risk of a systemic reaction.

  • Sting Location Sensitivity

  • Secondary Infections

Vigilantly observing your dog is crucial after a bee sting. At the same time, many stings can be managed at home with basic first aid (like removing the stinger, applying a cold compress, and giving the dog antihistamines as directed by a vet). Immediate veterinary attention is essential if any signs of an allergic reaction or severe discomfort are observed.

What To Do If A Dog is Stung By A Bee

If your dog is stung by a bee, it's important to act promptly and calmly to manage the situation. Here's what you should do:

Remove the Stinger Promptly

Quickly removing the stinger can help limit the amount of venom injected. Gently scrape over the stinger with a flat object like a credit card. Refrain from using tweezers or pinching the stinger, as this may inadvertently squeeze more venom into the dog.

Clean the Area Thoroughly

Following stinger removal, cleanse the affected area with mild soap and water. This helps to remove any remaining venom and reduces the risk of infection. Pat the area dry gently, and most dogs will start to feel better within a few hours and a day or two to return to normal.

Apply a Cold Compress

Apply a cold pack or a cloth soaked in cold water to the sting site. This aids in reducing swelling and numbing the pain. Ensure the cold source is wrapped in a cloth to prevent direct skin contact, which might be too harsh for your dog's skin.

Monitor for Allergic Reactions

Watch closely for signs of an allergic reaction, such as significant swelling, hives, difficulty breathing, lethargy, or collapse. These symptoms can progress rapidly, so if you notice any of them, you must contact a vet or emergency vet immediately. Neglecting treatment could result in a severe reaction or, in extreme cases, prove fatal.

Provide Safe Pain Relief

Consult with your veterinarian about the appropriate dosage of an over-the-counter antihistamine like Benadryl for your dog. This can help alleviate symptoms like itching and swelling. Avoid giving any human pain medications unless specifically advised by your vet, as many are toxic to dogs.

Discourage Scratching or Biting

Distract your dog from scratching, biting, or licking the sting area. This behavior can aggravate the wound and potentially lead to infection. Utilizing an Elizabethan collar (cone) can prove to be an effective measure to prevent this.

Continued Observation

Watch your dog for at least 24 hours after the sting. Sometimes, symptoms may develop slowly or worsen over time. If you observe any alterations in behavior or health, you should contact your veterinarian.

Seek Veterinary Help When Needed

When dogs get stung by bees, it's always wiser to choose caution as the best approach. If you have concerns about your dog's reaction to the sting, particularly if the sting is inside the mouth or throat or if your dog has been stung multiple times, seeking veterinary help is crucial. These scenarios increase the risk of severe swelling, breathing difficulties, or systemic reactions. A veterinarian can offer more advanced treatments, such as steroids, antihistamines, or epinephrine shots, which can be life-saving in severe allergic reactions. They can also closely watch your dog for any complications, ensuring the best possible outcome.

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About the Author

Doctor of veterinary medicine with extensive experience in animal welfare with a strong interest in feline medicine and plans to pursue ABVP-Feline specialty board certification. A key member of many local veterinary associations and avid reader of animal related science journals and studies.

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