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.
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 some minor swelling and discomfort, whereas others may have a stronger reaction, and some may 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 snapping 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
- 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 blocking their airways, 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.
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.
Often, your veterinarian may recommend giving a dose of antihistamine at home to help prevent and reduce swelling. You should call your vet to discuss whether this is suitable for your dog, and get specific advice on the correct dosage for them.
As a general rule-of-thumb, the dose of Benadryl 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. Ensure that this is simply Benadryl (Diphenhydramine) and NOT ‘Benadryl-D’ which contains a decongestant that may be toxic to some dogs.
Speak to Your Veterinarian if You Have Any Concerns
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.