Depending on where you live, bees can range from a seasonal nuisance to a full-on health threat. You probably already know whether you yourself are allergic to bee stings, but what about your dog?
How can you tell if your dog’s been stung? The most surefire signs to look for are excessive licking or pawing of a particular spot. Swelling and drooling, of course, are also tell-tale indicators of a sting. And if your dog is investigating a flower bush and yelps? A visit from a bee is a safe deduction! The most common spots for bee stings on dogs include the pads of the feet, the mouth, and the face area.
If your dog gets stung, what should you do? Here’s what should happen in the first two hours after your dog is stung by a bee.
0-30 minutes in: Watch for Allergic Reaction
The most important thing to do immediately following a bee sting – for dogs, cats, and humans! – is to watch for an allergic reaction. Dogs who have been stung previously or those who are stung by multiple bees at once are more likely to have a reaction. After a sting, call your regular vet to let them know what happened and ask if they’d like you to bring your dog in.
If the site of the sting swells very significantly, particularly if it’s located on the neck or face, it’s important to monitor your pet’s breathing carefully. If you feel like your dog isn’t getting enough air or is starting to gasp or wheeze, take her to an emergency vet immediately.
Anaphylactic shock is an allergic reaction that can lead to death in dogs. The most common signs of anaphylaxis include vomiting within 5-10 minutes after being stung and/or increasingly pale gums. If your dog shows either of these symptoms, head to an emergency vet immediately for IV administration of potentially life-saving drugs. Other dangerous signs to watch for include significant drooling, agitation, or sudden aggression.
30 minutes – 1 hour in: Remove the Stinger
Once you’re sure your dog isn’t having an extremely adverse allergic reaction to a bee sting you can focus on making her comfortable. For most dogs, reaction to a bee sting is localized, meaning the area of the sting will simply become a little sensitive and puffy. If you can see the sting site and easily remove the stinger with the back of a credit card or tweezers, do so immediately. It can continue to release venom into the bloodstream for several minutes after the event. Be sure not to rupture the venom sack – this will just cause the toxins to spread faster!
It’s a good idea to call your dog’s veterinarian to ask about over-the-counter medications. Some vets advise dog owners to offer antihistamines like Benadryl (diphenhydramine), but it’s important to know exactly the right dosage suggested for your dog. Antihistamine “sticks” can be applied directly to the skin, but if your dog can lick the spot where he was stung it’s safer to rely on digestible medication. Never give your dog medication of any kind without talking to a veterinarian first.
1-2 Hours in: Address Your Dog’s Comfort
Most dogs should begin to feel better within a few hours after a sting and likely return to normal after a day or two. In the meantime, a water-dampened towel made into a cold compress can be applied to the sting site to reduce inflammation and swelling. Some pet owners have also had success applying a paste of water and baking soda directly to the sting. Do your best to remain calm. Try to keep your dog to keep from licking her sting, and give her all the love and support she needs until she feels better.
Never take a bee sting lightly! Even if your dog has been stung before without suffering an allergic reaction, understand that anaphylaxis can happen at any time, after any sting.