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What to do if your dog is stung by a bee or wasp

Dog hiking advice
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Spring is upon us, and besides the warmer temperatures and sunnier days, this season also brings with it certain dangers.

By Justine Seraphin

Updated on the 19/12/2019, 15:26

Insects are on the move again and sharing our space with them also means we and our pets are more at risk of getting stung. While most insect stings are only irritating at most, bee and wasp stings can be dangerous, especially when there have been multiple stings, or if the victim (human or animal) is allergic to their poison. In any case, it’s better to be safe than sorry, so knowing how to treat a dog that has been stung by a bee is a must as we make our way towards summer. 

Know the symptoms of a bee or wasp sting

Dogs love to chase insects, but the feeling is not mutual, so its no surprise our canine companions often get stung. If your dog is playing with an insect, it’s always best to try and re-direct their attention to something else, so as to avoid a painful or dangerous sting. 

You will know if your animal has been stung if he starts whining, holding up a paw, biting/nibbling at the site of the sting, drooling, pawing at the face or mouth, or if the affected area begins to swell up.

You will not know if your dog is allergic to bee stings until an allergic reaction actually occurs in a real-life situation, so be prepared for anything. Signs of an allergic reaction include difficulty breathing, swelling of the mouth and/or throat, and collapse. An allergic reaction to a sting is very serious and should be treated by a vet with the utmost urgency.

If you realise your dog is uncomfortable and you think he may have been stung, the first thing to do is to remain calm. Panic will not help you focus on the task at hand – treating your dog’s wound as fast as possible.

Locate the affected area

The most likely places a dog may have been stung are the paws, belly, bottom, and nose.  Your dog will probably show you himself where the irritation comes from.

If your dog has been stung in the mouth or throat, you should contact your vet immediately. Bee stings in these areas can cause swelling that can easily block your dog’s airway, and therefore can be life-threatening. 

If your dog suffered a sting in a non-urgent area, start by looking for the affected area, which should be raised and of a reddish colour. 

Relieve pain and swelling

The stinger may not have stayed lodged within your dog’s skin, but if it has, it is best to remove it straight away. Indeed, a stinger can continue to inject venom even once it is detached from the bee’s body. You should never squeeze the stinger to try and remove it, as this can squeeze more venom into your dog’s body. Instead, try to find something flat and relatively hard, like a credit card, and use this to scrape the skin in the affected area in order to push the stinger out. Your dog will most likely be sensitive in this area and will not appreciate you touching it, however, you must insist for their own good. Don’t hesitate to have someone help you handle your pooch.

Once the stinger is out, you should wash the affected area with warm water and a neutral dog soap. Be gentle while cleaning the wound, as the area will be hypersensitive at this point. 

To reduce swelling, you can place an ice pack or a cold compress onto the affected area. While many will recommend using human antihistamines on dogs, you should make sure this has been approved by your vet first. However, a topical Benadryl applied to the area if needed will cause your dog no harm and may help reduce swelling and irritation, as well as counter the effects of an allergic reaction. 

Always contact a professional 

This will not in any case be enough to treat a severe allergic reaction. If your animal is, for instance, going into anaphylactic shock, you should go to the nearest vet clinic as soon as possible. Your vet will be able to administer the right emergency treatment and can help free your dog’s airways if necessary. Although not all stings require urgent treatment, it is always recommended to take your dog for a check-up anyway. Anaphylaxis can develop at any time, so it’s best to get peace of mind from a professional!

As always, preventative measures are the most effective. If possible, try to avoid flower beds or areas with fruit that have fallen from trees and onto the ground. Always have a dog-friendly antihistamine on hand, even while out on walks, and be prepared to contact your nearest vet if need be. 

The better prepared you are, the more you and your four-legged friend can enjoy the sunshine-filled days! 


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