What to do if Your Dog Gets Stung by a Bee

Written by Small Door's medical experts

While your dog may think it’s a fun game to try and bite at a bee that’s flying around, a bee sting can cause a significant reaction and require quick thinking on your part. Read on for insight on what to look for, how to respond, and what signs require a visit to the vet.

In This Article

Signs and symptoms of a bee sting

When a dog is stung by a bee, the stinger releases toxins that can cause swelling, pain and discomfort. Just like people, each animal may differ in how strongly they react to the toxin – some may simply experience minor swelling and discomfort, whereas others may have a stronger reaction, or even display signs of an allergic reaction.

The location of the sting may also have an impact on the effects. If your dog is stung inside their mouth (for example, when nipping or biting at a bee), the main concern is swelling, which, when severe, could result in difficulty with airflow. Thankfully, issues such as these occur relatively infrequently.

Common symptoms of a bee sting include:

  • Swelling at the sting site; the skin may also feel firm

  • Sensitivity and pain

If the sting occurs inside the mouth, or your dog swallowed the bee, they may also experience:

  • Shaking of the head

  • Repeated licking of the lips

  • Coughing or gagging

  • Drooling

  • Rapid breathing or wheezing

  • Vomiting or diarrhea

Signs of an allergic reaction include:

  • General weakness

  • Difficulty breathing

  • A large amount of swelling that extends away from the sting site

  • Hives, around the face or anywhere on the body

What to do after a bee sting

If you know or suspect your dog has been stung by a bee, the most important thing to do is to monitor them for any concerning signs, including signs of an allergic reaction. Symptoms typically occur within 30-60 minutes after the sting, however in rare situations they can occur hours afterwards, so it’s important to keep a close eye on your dog all day.

Some swelling and discomfort is normal, and does not necessarily indicate an allergic reaction.

If your pet was stung inside the mouth or in the muzzle region, you should monitor them closely for signs of swelling that could be blocking their airway, such as frequent coughing, gagging, wheezing, or excessively drooling.

If your dog swallowed the bee, the main thing to monitor for is vomiting. The gastrointestinal tract tends to do a better job at getting rid of bee toxins due to stomach acids. If vomiting occurs, it will likely resolve by itself, but anti-nausea medication and a dose of antihistamines may be required.

What if the Dog is Stung on their Head, Mouth, or Nose?

The biggest concern with your dog being stung on their head, mouth, or nose is making sure that any swelling does not interfere with their ability to breathe or swallow. Monitor for several hours to make sure it doesn’t increase in these areas. 

Slight swelling is normal, and it may be helpful to apply an ice pack or cold towel to the affected area for 10 minutes to bring down the swelling, but if it increases dramatically or you notice any signs of difficulty breathing, including wheezing, coughing or drooling, make sure to take your dog to the vet immediately.

Anaphylactic Bee Reactions in Dogs

Anaphylactic shock in dogs is a severe and life threatening allergic reaction to an allergen, such as a bee sting. When a dog goes into anaphylactic shock, excessive amounts of histamines in the body lead to decreased blood pressure, smooth muscle contraction, capillary dilatation, and edema. 

Physical signs your dog is going into anaphylactic shock include:

  • Diarrhea

  • Vomiting

  • Drooling

  • Pale gums

  • Cold extremities

  • Seizures

  • Coma

Additionally, the lungs may be affected by anaphylactic shock, along with the liver.

Any signs of anaphylactic shock should prompt an immediate emergency veterinarian visit. 

Unfortunately, there’s no good way to predict if a dog will have an allergic reaction to a bee sting, whether it be mild to medium swelling or anaphylaxis. Your dog could have little to no reaction one time and have a severe allergic reaction the next, so the best thing to do is closely monitor your dog after you notice they’ve been stung and discuss the issue with your veterinarian if they have a severe reaction.

If your pet displays any concerning symptoms, has been stung multiple times, or has ever had a bad reaction before, you should take them to the vet immediately.

Signs that you should go to the vet

If your pet displays any symptoms of an allergic reaction, or airway blockage, you should take them to the vet immediately. The sooner they can receive care, the better their prognosis will be.

Even if your pet appears fine, if they have ever experienced a bad reaction to a sting previously, you should take them in straight away to be evaluated.

In addition, if your pet was stung multiple times, it’s best to get them checked over, due to the higher level of toxicity from multiple stings.

How to care for a bee sting at home

If your pet received a single sting somewhere on the body other than their mouth or muzzle, and is not displaying any concerning signs, it’s generally safe to monitor and care for their symptoms at home.

The stinger may be stuck in the location your pet was stung. As it will continue to release venom, try to gently remove it by scraping against it with your fingernail or something rigid like a credit card. Don’t use tweezers as they may squeeze out more poison into your pet. Take extra care if trying to remove a stinger from the mouth; even the most docile pets may bite when in pain and scared.

An ice pack or cold compress may help to minimize swelling and lessen some discomfort. You should also prevent your dog from scratching at the sting site; an e-collar (cone) might be useful.

Should I give my dog antihistamines?

To help reduce and prevent swelling your veterinarian might suggest giving a dose of antihistamine at home. Antihistamines can also be used in a pinch if you’re out on a hike or need to buy your dog some time as you make your way to the veterinarian for a more thorough evaluation.

We strongly recommend you always check with your vet about the correct dosage of Benadryl for your dog. However, a general rule-of-thumb dose for a dog is 1 milligram per pound of body weight. For example, a dog that weighs 25 pounds would need to take one 25 milligram tablet. It is essential that you make sure this is normal Benadryl (Diphenhydramine) and NOT ‘Benadryl-D’ since Benadryl-D contains a decongestant that can be toxic to certain dogs.

If your dog has experienced an anaphylactic reaction in the past, your veterinarian may prescribe an “epi-pen.” This is a special syringe and needle filled with a single dose of epinephrine and is similar to the type used for people who are highly allergic. These are to be used in an emergency situation, such as if you’re on a trip or hike and your pet experiences another severe reaction.

Speak to your veterinarian if you have any concerns

If you know or suspect your dog has been stung by a bee, the most important thing to do is closely monitor the severity of swelling as well as any physical reactions they might be experiencing, especially for the hour after the sting. 

After a bee sting, dogs will typically experience some level of swelling and discomfort, but if it’s their first time or you know your dog is prone to a more severe reaction, be sure to seek emergency veterinary attention.

When in doubt, you should always contact your veterinarian to ask for their advice, and check whether your dog’s symptoms warrant a vet visit and treatment. As always, Small Door members can chat to us 24/7 via the app.

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