As summer kicks into gear, it’s the perfect time to enjoy the sunshine with your four-legged friend. Unfortunately, dogs and owners aren’t the only creatures out and about when the weather heats up. Bees and wasps, though a vital part of the ecosystem, can wreak havoc when our curious canines get too close.
If you’ve ever worried about your dog being stung by a bee, read on. Below, we discuss how to tell if your dog has been stung, when it can be dangerous, and what you should do about it. To help your pooch avoid these nasty encounters in the future, we’ve also compiled some top tips for keeping bees and wasps at bay when it’s time to play outdoors.
What Do Bee Stings Look Like?
Although they can be painful, there is one piece of good news when it comes to bee and wasp stings: they’re easy to spot. If your dog has been on the pointy end of one of these winged assailants, you will be able to observe one or more of the following signs:
Swelling, especially around your dog’s neck and face, is the number one sign that they have been stung by a wasp or bee.
- Lumps and Bumps
Just like humans, certain dogs are allergic to bee stings, and they may come out in a rash or hives – even in spots where they haven’t been stung.
If your dog is whining, whimpering, or otherwise expressing pain out of nowhere in the summer months, a nasty sting could be the culprit, and it’s a good idea to give them a check-over for physical signs of a sting.
Common Stinging Spots
Usually, stings are easy to spot, and occur most often in the following places:
- The Mouth
Dogs are curious critters, and the majority of stings occur when they unwittingly snap up an – apparently appetising – insect. Panicking the bee or wasp will attempt to fight back by stinging their mouth area. This type of sting can be quite dangerous, since swelling in certain areas of the mouth can impede eating, drinking, and even breathing.
- The Face
Stinging insects can also become aggressive when your dog simply examines them too closely. This can result in stings to the facial area.
- The Nose
With such sensitive olfactory equipment on board, it should come as no surprise that a dog’s nose is delicate. Because they use it to explore the world around them, it’s also quite prone to bee stings. Many dogs get stung on the nose as they use it to investigate an unfamiliar insect, and these stings can be particularly painful.
Why do Dogs Get Stung?
The majority of dogs get stung for one simple reason: bees and wasps perceive their curiosity as aggression.
When this happens, the insect’s natural instinct is to protect itself, and its hive, by deterring the threat with a sharp sting.
Bee Stings versus Wasp Stings
In North America and Western Europe, bees and wasps are the most common species of stinging instincts. Despite their similar appearance and methods of attack, their stings are pretty different.
As most of us know, bees die almost as soon as they’ve used their stinger, in an act of self-sacrifice to protect others from a perceived threat. This means that each bee can sting only once, reducing the risk of multiple stings. A bee’s stinger is barbed, and designed to lodge in an animals’ skin when deployed. This might sound unpleasant, but actually makes for a less painful sting than the one wielded by a wasp.
Wasps do not die after using their stingers. In fact, they can deliver multiple stings in fairly quick succession when provoked. Because their stingers aren’t barbed, they don’t remain in your dog’s skin. They tend to be more painful than bee stings, and multiple stings are a real possibility.
When most dogs get stung by a bee, it’s a painful, but ultimately mild affliction. However, if the animal is stung multiple times, or happens to have an allergy, the side-effects can be much more severe.
If your dog is allergic to bee or wasp stings, they should be taken to a vet immediately after they have been stung. If your dog is having an allergic reaction to a sting, you can expect them to exhibit the following signs:
- Difficulty Breathing
Allergic reactions can cause a dog’s air passages to narrow, resulting in wheezing or panting. If your dog is having trouble breathing, seek veterinary attention immediately. If your dog has been stung in the mouth, swelling in this area can also make breathing more difficult.
- Vomiting or Diarrhea
Although it’s a very rare symptom, canine stomach upsets can be triggered by a bad reaction to a bee or wasp sting.
- General Weakness
If your pooch suddenly becomes weak and lethargic – especially when playing outdoors – a sting allergy could be the cause.
What You Should Do
Now that you know how to spot a sting, and why they happen, we move onto an important question: what should you do if your dog gets stung?
The best course of action will depend on the nature and severity of the sting:
- Simple Body Stings
If your dog has been stung just once, and hasn’t had an allergic reaction, there’s no need to panic. Although stings are painful, you can expect your pooch to make a speedy recovery.
In these cases, the only true remedy is time, but you can make your pet more comfortable as they heal. First of all, carefully remove the stinger if you’re able to do so. If possible, use your fingers rather than tweezers, since their firm grip can force out more venom.
You can also help soothe the site of the sting with a simple home remedy. Mix a few teaspoons of baking soda into a bowl of cool water and apply it gently to the affected area. Holding an ice-pack or cold wrap against the sing will also kill some of the pain, and reduce swelling more quickly.
If your pet is reluctant to let you touch the sting, you can give them some diphenhydramine (such as Benadryl). Administer 1mg of the drug per pound of your dog’s bodyweight, a couple of times a day.
Meanwhile, discourage your dog from scratching the wound if possible. The home remedies above should help detract from the itchy sensation as it heals, but you may also need to distract your pet should they worry the sting – a tasty treat should work nicely.
Keep a careful eye on your pet as they recover, and if their swelling hasn’t gone down after several days, take them to the vet as soon as you can.
- Multiple Stings and Allergic Reactions
Multiple stings can be dangerous. If your dog has been stung more than once, it’s a good idea to get them to a vet as soon as possible.
Once your vet has decided a suitable course of treatment, you can also ease your pet’s irritation with the home remedies above.
In the case of allergic reactions, seeing a vet quickly is equally vital. If your dog has entered anaphylactic shock, the vet may need to administer adrenaline, antihistamines, or corticosteroids. In the most severe cases, dogs may also be administered oxygen or receive fluid therapy to support them until the allergic reaction dies down.
- Mouth Stings
We mentioned that the mouth is a common place for dogs to be stung. Unfortunately, it’s also one of the most dangerous. Swelling inside the mouth can affect your dog’s ability to eat, drink, and even breathe.
Your immediate course of action should be to administer an antihistamine (using the 1mg per pound of bodyweight rule we mentioned earlier) and seeking medical attention as soon as possible.
Often, a single sting in the mouth will heal without veterinary intervention, but as the old saying goes, better safe than sorry. If natural healing is the route of choice, try feeding your pooch some ice cubes to help tackle swelling in their mouth.
How to Help Your Pet Avoid Bee and Wasp Stings
Stings can be nasty – especially if they occur in an inopportune spot, happen multiple times, or if your dog is allergic.
Luckily, there are a few steps you can take to help keep your dog out of harm’s way:
- Keep an eye on your dog when they’re outdoors – you may be able to steer them away from bees and wasps.
- Avoid leaving leftover food about the house or garden, as this can attract bees and wasps.
- Consider planting citronella, wormwood, spearmint, or eucalyptus. These plants deter flying insects, bees and wasps included.
- Peppermint oil also repels bees and wasps – consider dabbing a few drops onto your pet’s lead or collar.
- Dog Stung by Bee – Bee Stings on Dogs Paw, Mouth and Face Treatment – Dogs, Cats, Pets
- Are wasp and bee stings on dogs dangerous? – Vets Now