Most dogs are curious and playful by nature – our four-legged friends are always ready to explore new territories and are interested in everything that moves. That’s why dogs are often at risk of insect bites. Bee stings pose a particular danger to dogs’ health due to a higher risk of severe allergy attacks – most dogs, like most humans, are very sensitive to bee venom.
A dog stung by bee experiences the same symptoms as humans (pain, itchiness, redness at the place of the sting wound; swelling of the lips, tongue, and face, difficulty breathing, and even anaphylactic shock) and the severity of symptoms varies according to the type of bee, the site of the sting and dog’s general health.
In general, European bees are less venomous than African bees; African bees are also more aggressive and tend to respond in packs when disturbed.
The best way to prevent your dog from being stung by bees is to steer away from areas where bees normally live. Unfortunately, accidents can happen even if you take great care when walking or exercising your dog outside.
In such cases, it is very important to know what are the immediate danger of bee stings as well as what first aid is necessary. Both topics, including what to do if your dog eats a bee, are discussed in the following lines.
My dog got stung by a bee – is that dangerous?
Bees are among the most common types of stinging insects. Although they are not aggressive and will sting only if threatened or provoked, many dogs get stung by bees just because they are too curious and often will try to chase or eat them.
Bee stings are painful and the pain level varies according to the location of the sting – for instance, a sting on your dog’s nose will be much more painful than a sting on the back. However, not the pain but the poison that is injected into the dog’s body by the stinger and the reaction to that poison present the real danger of bee stings.
Just like people, dogs may be allergic to insects and bee poison in particular. Additionally, dogs that are allergic to other things (foods, environmental factors, etc.) are more at risk if stung by a bee. So, a single bee sting is not dangerous, unless your pet is allergic. If your dog got stung multiple times or if the sting is inside his or her mouth, throat, ear or near the eyes, you should look for medical assistance.
When discussing the danger that bee stings present to dogs, we need to mention one other issue. Normally, when a bee stings, its stinger as well as the venom sac detaches from the body of the bee – the bee dies and the stinger along with the venom sac remain lodged under the skin of the victim.
Rarely, the stinger just penetrates the skin but doesn’t remain lodged under it. So, if your dog got stung by a bee, you should check whether the bee stinger is still under the skin of your dog and try to remove it.
So, to determine the risk that a bee sting poses to your dog’s health, you should be able to assess the severity of the reaction: slight itchiness and burning sensation with minimum swelling are indicative of a very mild reaction; apparent swelling around the stinger, redness, pain and constant attempts of the dog to lick or chew the place are signs of a serious reaction and extreme swelling extending away from the sting place, difficulty breathing and fainting point to the severe reaction that requires urgent medical help.
My dog ate a bee – how risky is that?
Puppies and young dogs are absolutely fascinated by bees and other flying insects – every time a fly, bee, butterfly, or other insect is around, your dog will surely try to snap at it. These reflexes remain in adult dogs too. That’s why most dogs get stung in the area of their faces or inside the mouth. A bee sting over the face of your dog is rather unpleasant, but a dog that ate a bee is exposed to much more risk.
A bee, entrapped in a dog’s mouth will sting anywhere – on the tongue, gums, palate, etc. If your dog tries to swallow the bee, the sting may be at the very back of the tongue and even down the esophagus (a pipe that connects your dog’s throat with the stomach). Bee stings in these locations present danger even if your dog is not allergic to bee venom because every bee sting is associated with swelling.
Swelling inside the mouth, and especially at the back of the tongue and throat can easily block your dog’s airways and cause breathing problems. If a dog ate a bee and suffered an acute allergic reaction, the swelling will be much more severe and may cause complete airway blockage and suffocation – obviously, immediate medical help is required in such cases.
Another common concern among dog owners is whether certain bee species may be venomous and able to poison their dog on ingestion. There are no records for bees that can be poisonous when digested in animals’ or human’s stomachs, so if your dog ate a bee, you should not worry about your dog getting poisoned.
Any swelling or itching that may appear is likely to be the result of the sting (even if it is away from the actual sting point) and not a result of your dog getting poisoned by the insect itself.
What to do if my dog gets stung by a bee?
As mentioned above, a bee sting presents a serious health risk only if your dog is allergic and if your dog got stung by a bee on a particular spot of his or her body. Here are several first aid tips:
1. Be prepared for an allergic reaction
The greatest danger of bee stings comes from potential allergic reactions. An allergic reaction can be very sudden, acute, and lethal for your dog. Monitor your pet very carefully and watch out for any excessive swelling, difficulty breathing, disorientation, and weakness – these are the symptoms of an allergic reaction.
It is important to know that these symptoms may not manifest at the same time and not right after your dog got stung by a bee – an anaphylactic shock may occur within 24 hours of the incident. Remember that acute allergic reactions present medical urgency, so if you notice any sign of an allergic reaction, take your dog to a vet immediately.
2. Remove the bee stinger
While watching out for possible allergic reactions, try to remove the stinger. A bee stinger works like a very tiny syringe with a hypodermic needle – some poison is injected into the skin at the moment of the sting; some is left in it the venom sac and slowly released.
So, the stinger that is stuck under your dog’s skin will contain some venom; you should not pump it in your dog’s body while trying to remove the stinger. The best way to dislodge the stinger out is to gently scrape it out using your fingernail, a credit card, or a coin – start from a point behind the wound and gently brush the surface of the skin forward.
3. Take care of the swelling
Even if your pet is not allergic, there will be some swelling around the area of the sting. The best way to alleviate the pain and itchiness is to apply ice over the swollen area. Use an ice pack or ice cubes wrapped in a clean towel and place them over the stung place. Keep for as long as your dog can tolerate, changing the ice every 5 minutes.
Clearly, swelling poses a huge risk if your dog got stung by a bee in the mouth or throat – it is not only extremely painful but swelling in the mouth and throat can block your dog’s airways and cause suffocation. In such cases, it is best to take your pet to a vet immediately. A vet will give your pet some allergy and pain medications and will be able to locate and safely remove the stinger from your pet’s mouth or throat.
4. Pain control
Bee stings are always painful and the level of pain depends on the severity of the sting and its location. Mild stings may cause only itchiness and burning sensation while serious stings, as well as stings on the face and/or inside the mouth, may be extremely painful. A good natural pain remedy is a mixture of baking soda and water – soak a cloth with the mix and put it over the wound. Another option is to make a trip to the vet and get special pain control medications.
5. First aid medications
Bee stings are dangerous because of the allergic response associated with them. That’s why antihistamines (anti-allergy) medications are typically the preferred first aid choice when it comes to dealing with bee stings in dogs. Benadryl (Diphenhydramine) is an over-the-counter antihistamine drug that is well tolerated by dogs.
You can use pills or injections in case your dog got stung by a bee and starts showing an allergic reaction. The dose of Benadryl is calculated according to the weight of your pet – normally, you will need to administer 1 mg per 1 pound of body weight. Other antihistamines and steroids may also be used to take care of allergic reactions but it is recommended to call a vet first.
It is essential to take your dog to a vet even if you have given him or her a dose of Benadryl. Your pet will need follow-up care and only a qualified professional can recommend the appropriate dosage and frequency. Epinephrine (adrenaline) is required in case of anaphylactic shock – if you know you have an allergic dog, always carry an epinephrine pen with you.
5. Multiple bee stings
While a single bee sting is not dangerous (unless your dog is extremely sensitive to bee venom), multiple bee stings present a serious health risk for pets and humans alike. Usually, dogs suffer multiple bee stings when they disturb a beehive accidentally – bees become extremely hostile and always attack in groups when their home is threatened. The best thing to do in such a scenario is to administer some antihistamine medication right after the accident and immediately take your pet to the vet.
Larger amounts of bee venom may have a severe toxic effect and may threaten vital organs and systems. In such cases, dogs, like humans, need prompt and aggressive treatment that only a qualified vet is able to provide. Additionally, hospitalization and close monitoring for 24 to 48 hours may be necessary to prevent life-threatening complications.
Bee stings are very common and can be quite dangerous for dogs. Bees tend to become aggressive when disturbed or attacked and are likely to chase their “enemy” until they manage to sting. Any dog stung by a bee is at risk of severe health complications that can be lethal.
Dog owners should pay extra attention when taking their dogs outside, especially if they live close to known bee habitats – blossoming trees and bushes, flower beds, trees with bee nests, man-made beehives, etc. The best way to protect your pet from being stung by a bee is to always keep an eye on your four-legged friend when exercising or playing outside.
Bee accidents can happen even in your own yard and that is why you should never leave your dog unattended outside.
If you know that your dog is sensitive to bee stings, always carry a first aid medication kit with you – at least one dose of antihistamine and an epinephrine pen (in case your dog is extremely allergic), as well as your vet’s phone number. And one final piece of advice: if this happens, remain calm – this will let you handle the situation in the best possible manner and offer the best help to your dog.