Dogs and Bee Stings: Prevent / Treat
Let’s face it…our dogs are curious creatures. They love to run, play, and chase things…including flying insects. This unfortunately can lead to stings. Our dog Daisy chased and captured a wasp…in her mouth. We didn’t see it actually happen, but had seen her snap at flying bugs before. She was stung multiple times and exhibited an allergic reaction. We quickly took her to the vet for treatment.
Most of the time, an insect sting is just painful and irritating for your dog (just like humans). Multiple stings can be dangerous especially inside the mouth or throat.
The two most common types of stinging insects in the yard are bees and wasps. It’s not the small puncture wound that causes the sting’s pain, but the small amount of poison that is injected at the bite site.
Preventing Bee Stings
To minimize exposure to bee stings try to help your pet avoid flower beds and flowering shrubs, naturally a favorite habitat of bees. Bees also like to build their nests in eaves of houses and in trees. Also some hornets and wasps build their nests in the ground. Pay careful attention to where your dog may be digging when he is outside.
It’s always a good idea to monitor your property for nests and have them removed promptly when detected (you may want to call a professional). Bees are plentiful in the spring and summer and “bee proofing” your dog-friendly yard can be a big job. In case of emergency, it’s important to have the phone numbers for your veterinarian and local veterinary emergency clinic on hand in case your dog is stung and exhibits an allergic reaction or shows distress.
Keep the insects away by keeping your yard clean! If you have food outside on your patio or barbeque grill, clean up promptly to avoid attracting wasps. It’s also a good idea to secure your garbage cans so any stinging insects aren’t attracted to them.
Be smart about time spent outdoors with your pet. Bees are typically most active between dawn and twilight, and wasps are most active during the warmer parts of the day. Try and plan your outdoor time and walks around this potentially dangerous window. Be vigilant and do your best to keep your dogs away from the troublesome insects.
Go easy on the fragrances. Bees are attracted to sweet, strong scents, so if you’re wearing a lot of perfume or deodorant, you might discover that you’re suddenly a lot more interesting to the buzzers. This is bad enough for you, but far worse for your dogs. Try to go light on fragrances when you know you’re going to be out with them.
Signs of Bee Stings in Dogs
* Crying out, salivating, running in circles
* Mild signs include: swelling of the area, scratching, rubbing, licking, or chewing at the sting
* Severe signs include: profound swelling of the face, throat, or neck; hives, vomiting; difficulty breathing; diarrhea or sudden defecation, weakness, drooling, pale gums, cold limbs, mental confusion or depression
If your dog is having a severe reaction to a bee sting, you need to take him/her to a vet immediately!
A bee’s stinger is barbed and designed to lodge in the skin, killing the bee when the stinger detaches from the body. Wasp stingers are not barbed but are more painful, and if provoked these insects can sting multiple times.
What To Do If Your Dog Is Stung
Stings sometimes just happen no matter how careful you’ve been to minimize the risks. I’ve seen dogs actively goes after bees or wasps and try to eat them. Whatever the case may be, you need to know what to do after a sting occurs.
If your dog is stung by a bee or wasp, the most important thing for you to do is to remain calm.
A simple sting can be safely left alone. It should be bothersome only temporarily. If the stinger is still present, try to remove it by scraping it with a fingernail, credit card, or rigid piece of cardboard to flick it out. Avoid using tweezers and pinching/pulling to remove it…as this may force more venom out of the stinger.
Administer a remedy for the pain and swelling. Applying a weak mixture of water and baking soda to the affected area will help reduce the pain. Once the pain is neutralized, the dog will be less likely to lick or bite at the wound, reducing the chance that it will develop open sores or an infection.
You can relieve swelling around the sting by applying an ice pack to the area (or use a bag of frozen vegetables…peas work great). Wrap the pack in a dishtowel or place it in a plastic bag, since applying it directly to the wound may cause your pup more pain. Since the cold of the ice pack can be uncomfortable for your dog, remove the pack after five or ten minutes and allow a ten minute break; alternate between ice and rest until swelling is reduced. Be sure to monitor your dog carefully for 24 hours to make sure no more symptoms develop. If the area swells dramatically within a few minutes of the sting, go to the vet immediately.
How A Vet Can Help Your Dog
Your veterinarian can assess your dog and administer medications to treat an allergic reaction. If you were unable to remove or locate the stinger, your vet can assist with this. Medication to ease the pain and itching associated with stings can be administered. In the case of a severe reaction or anaphylaxis, hospitalization for observation and more intensive care may be recommended.
If there is severe swelling or an outbreak of hives after your dog is stung by a bee, ask your veterinarian if you can administer an over-the-counter antihistamine such as Benadryl. While not suitable in all cases, this medication can often stop an allergic reaction within minutes. Symptoms that get worse or don’t respond to home care should be reported to a veterinarian quickly; your dog may need to be treated with an injected antihistamine or steroid instead, which can provide faster, more effective results.