What to Do if Your Dog Is Stung by a Bee
Find out how to soothe his pain and when to take him to the vet
Last year, I let my two dogs outside to run around the yard and enjoy the fresh air. My 5-pound Chihuahua decided to chase a bee. On his third attempt to eat the insect, it stung him on the nose.
In a matter of minutes his face swelled up to about three times its normal size. You could barely see his usually giant eyes, which were almost swollen shut. I immediately called my vet.
She prescribed his usual dose of antihistamines (like me, he has seasonal allergies) and asked me to wait and see how he reacted. He was his crazy self during and after the incident so I didn’t worry. Within 36 hours, the swelling went down and his face was back to normal.
It could’ve been much worse, especially if he’d been stung more than once.
“For many mammals, 20 stings per 2.2 pounds of body weight can be fatal, so small dogs in particular can be in danger if they are swarmed and stung by multiple bees,” Kevin Fitzgerald, MD, staff veterinarian at VCA Alameda East Veterinary Hospital in Denver, said on a podcast from the American Veterinary Medical Foundation (AVMA).
Bee stings can be just as uncomfortable and painful for dogs as they are for humans. In most animals, the swelling they cause is usually local and goes down within 24 to 36 hours, according to the AMVA.
“Don’t waste time looking for the stinger. We never find the stinger on the pet because of the hair. I’ve never seen a retained stinger become infected,” says Fitzgerald.
However, as in humans, if your dog is allergic to the bee’s venom, a sting can be fatal. “When dogs get into trouble, with an allergy, it’s immediate — usually within 10 minutes of the sting,” Fitzgerald said.
If the dog is stung multiple times or stung inside the throat because he ate a bee, it’s time to call your vet. “A bee sting inside the mouth can cause intense swelling,” says Fitzgerald. It can lead to suffocation.
The vet will likely treat the sting with antihistamines, topical corticosteroids or warm bath. For severe allergies, treatment may include fluids and epinephrine.
If you think your pet has been stung, Fitzgerald suggests the these steps:
- If you see signs of an allergic reaction, such as severe swelling, trouble breathing or loss of consciousness, get the dog to a vet right away; the pooch could go into anaphylactic shock.
- If you don’t — if it’s just swelling and pain your dog is experiencing — you can use antihistamines to bring the swelling down. Call your vet for specific advice (the does will depend on the dog’s weight).
- Give them a warm bath to soothe the itching.
If you know your dog is allergic to bee stings, you vet might advise carrying an EPI pen. Your vet can prescribe one. It can help open up the airways and keep the swelling down in the event of a sting.
You can help your dog avert stings. “To avoid bites, dog owners can keep their dogs inside during certain times of the day when bees are more active: typically cooler mornings and early evenings during warmer months. Also, keep foods out of the yard that attract bees,” says Fitzgerald.
Related: When To Take a Sick Pet to the Vet
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