Modern Medicine, Old-Fashioned Care

Apr 4, 2024 | General Health

What Should I Do if My Dog Gets Stung by a Bee?

It’s springtime. The birds are singing, the buds are blooming, and the bees are, well – doing what bees do. By and large, that’s pollinating flowers. Sometimes, it’s stinging our dogs on the nose.

So, what do you do if your dog gets stung by a bee? Pretty much what you would do for yourself, says Dr. Mimi Fitchett, DVM, of Doylestown Veterinary Hospital.

  1. If there’s a stinger present, you want to try to gently remove it.

Gentle is the operative word.

“Honeybee stingers may still be pumping venom,” she continues. “So, you don’t want to squeeze. You just want to scrape the stinger off with a sharp fingernail or a credit card as opposed to using tweezers.”

  1. Apply a cold compress to the affected area to ease pain and reduce swelling.And while icing isn’t necessary, a bit of caution is called for if administered.

“You always want to have a layer of cloth between the ice bag and bare skin of the nose or paw pad,” Dr. Fitchett says.

Usually, she adds – that’s all you’ll need.

“It’s a lot like when people get stung,” Dr. Fitchett notes. “Some people get stung and ‘Ouch!’ It hurts right when it happens. There’s minimal swelling, and it might itch the next day or two – but there are very minimal side effects. Then others, they blow up if they just look at a bee.”

  1. Benadryl, or over-the-counter Diphenhydramine, is always an option to help ward off allergic reactions, she says.

“Call your veterinarian to let them know your dog was stung, and they can provide the proper dosage,” she adds. “Certainly, never give a dog an antihistamine that contains a decongestant or Xylitol sugar. Some pediatric suspension medicines contain Xylitol, which can be toxic to dogs.”

Severe Reactions

Severe responses to a bee sting can happen. Dr. Fitchett recalls a client who requested an Epi-pen to keep handy after her dog suffered a significant reaction to a sting. Unfortunately, Dr. Fitchett says, that would likely do more harm than good.

Immediate medical attention from a veterinarian if there is a severe reaction is best. Otherwise, removal of the stinger and a cold compress go a long way.

It’s important to note that in 30 years of practice, Dr. Fitchett says she has never seen a potentially fatal anaphylactic reaction related to a dog being stung.

“That doesn’t mean it can’t happen,” she stresses. “But in those situations, a dog – or a person – has typically been stung prior.”

“Most of the time, as veterinarians, we see the dogs who got into yellowjacket nests,” she continues. “Those yellowjackets come after you, resulting in multiple stings. And that’s super painful – for a person or a dog. Fortunately, dogs have fur. If they didn’t, they’d be in really big trouble.”

Dogs who have been stung multiple times should be taken to the vet to receive either injectable steroids or injectable Benadryl, Dr. Fitchett says.

Puppies too, are incredibly curious – and tend to investigate by chewing. While Dr. Fitchett rarely sees adult dogs who have been stung in the mouth – puppies are a different story. If a puppy is stung in the mouth, soft tissue swelling could make breathing difficult. “That definitely warrants being evaluated at the vet.”

Now you know what to do if your dog gets stung by a bee! One thing is certain. As long as dogs are exploring the great outdoors, “bee stings” will continue to be buzzwords in the homes where they live.