In the summer and fall months there’s always more bugs and bees around. Most of the time, dogs and bees will get along without any issues. However, sometimes a dog will take a little too much interest in something flying around their head which results in them being stung.
If this happens, your first instinct may be to panic and call the emergency vet. However, staying calm and properly assessing the situation can save you both a lot of stress…not to mention the cost of expensive emergency veterinary fees.
How to Identify if Your Dog has Been Stung by a Bee
If you don’t see the incident happen, it can be difficult to know for sure that your dog has been stung by a bee. However, there are a few signs you can look for which might offer some clues.
Bee stings hurt, so it would be normal for a dog to whine if they are stung. This can often be the first sign that there might be something wrong. Remember, not all dogs will snap or whine when they’re in pain. Calmer dogs and those more placid in nature are more likely to lick their lips in an attempt to self soothe so keep an eye out for excessive lip licking.
When dogs are in pain, they will often pant. If your dog starts panting more than usual, it’s probably a good idea to check them over for any injuries or areas of the body which are causing discomfort. Be very gentle, just moving your hands over their body and keeping an eye out for any flinching or change in behavior.
If your dog has been stung on the paw or leg, they may limp due to the discomfort felt. Check the affected limb for signs of a sting or swelling. Again, be very gentle, even if they’ve just got a thorn or stone stuck in their pads, it can still hurt.
In most cases, there will be some swelling around the sight of a bee sting. For the majority of dogs, this won’t be anything serious, but if your dog has been stung on the face or neck it can lead to compromised airways. If you’re worried they’ve been stung close to an eye, ear, nose or throat, call your vet to get their opinion.
Nibbling specific areas
Many dogs will nibble or chew areas of their body which irritate them. If your dog seems to be taking a particular interest in a specific body part, it is possible that they have been stung. Check the area for any swelling, sting, poison sack or irritation.
Dogs will sometimes paw and scratch at an area which is bothering them. This is more common when the sting is on the face or an area which is difficult to reach with their mouths. Excessive pawing can cause skin to become more irritated, so should be limited wherever possible.
What to do if Your Dog is Stung by a Bee
The most important thing to do is to stay calm. While you might be worried about whether your dog is unwell and may be tempted to panic, this won’t help the situation. Dogs can sense stress and anxiety in their owners, so if you let your emotions control your reaction then it is possible that the situation could be exacerbated.
Try to remove the sting if you can
If you are able to identify where your dog has been stung, you may be able to remove the sting or poison sack. You may need to use tweezers if the sting is difficult to access. Doing this will provide relief from the discomfort of the sting. If your dog is very distressed, it may not always be possible to do this. If the sting is near their eyes, ears or nose (or mouth if they’re reactive), ask your vet for advice.
Bathe the area
Bathe the site in warm water with a little salt in order to make sure that it’s clean.
Ice can help to reduce any swelling as well as easing pain. Be careful not to apply ice directly to the skin as this can cause ice burn. It can help to wrap the ice in a piece of cloth which acts as a barrier between the ice and the skin.
Monitor for a reaction
Most dogs will experience a little pain and discomfort after a bee sting. However, for some dogs this reaction can become more serious. Watch for excessive swelling, difficulty breathing or swelling in areas which could compromise airways.
Medicate or apply a paste to relieve discomfort
Bee stings are acidic, so applying a paste of baking soda and water can help to neutralize the sting, relieving pain and itching. Dogs can sometimes try to lick this off, so if you choose to apply this treatment then keep an eye on them to make sure that they don’t eat it. An oatmeal bath can also help to reduce discomfort - but again, make sure they understand this isn’t a snack.
Some human antihistamines, such as Benadryl, are safe to give to dogs in small doses. It’s always a good idea to check with your vet before giving any medication if you are unsure of the correct dosage, or whether it’s safe.
When to See a Vet
Most dogs will recover from a bee sting within a few hours. However, there are exceptions to every rule and it’s important to know what to do. Even after treatment, it’s possible your dog may need to see a veterinarian. Being able to identify when your dog needs medical attention will help you to act quickly.
You should seek emergency medical attention if your dog shows any of the following signs:
- Swelling on the face or neck
- Wheezing or breathing trouble
In these situations, it’s possible your dog could be having an allergic reaction or may have been stung in an area which impacts breathing. Your vet will be able to provide emergency care and medication to relieve symptoms and improve your dog's condition.
Of course, prevention is always better than cure so if your dog views anything buzzing around its head as target practice, nip the behavior in the bud. A strong ‘no’ or even a quick spray with a water bottle every time they snap at a flying creature, could soon be enough to teach them to think twice.