Bee Stings on Dogs

This time of year we find our pets enjoying long summer snoozes on fresh, green grass while basking in the sun. Along with the warm weather and green grass, come those pesky bees. And there is nothing they love more than to play a taunting game of “cat and mouse” with your canine companion! Going out into the back yard to find your dog puffed up like a marsh mellow may seem a bit comical at first, but it can also become quite scary. As a dog owner it is important to ask yourself if you know what to do if your dog swallows or gets stung by a bee. Will you be prepared if this happens while on a family camping trip, or in the wee hours of the morning?

The majority of bee sting reactions occur around your dog’s mouth or face. This is mostly due to your dog snapping at bees as they buzz by or from accidental encounters while their nose is to the ground sniffing all those wonderful scents at the park. Some dogs can have very mild reactions such as a slight swelling of the muzzle or face. While others can be quite severe involving blistering, seeping hives and massive swelling of the muzzle, face, eyes and throat! Some dogs can even develop symptoms of shock, much like their human companions can.

Whether the reaction looks mild or severe, it is always recommended to call your family veterinarian as soon as possible to get some advice. In the case of a severe reaction, don’t waste any time. Head to your family veterinarian or in some cases go directly to the closest vet hospital as soon as possible. It is also a good idea to have someone call ahead on your behalf, advising the clinic you are on your way. Most bee sting reactions can be treated fairly easily and quite quickly once you’ve arrived. This usually involves an exam by your veterinarian to make sure your dog is not exhibiting any signs of shock and that there are no concerns with his airway. Once examined, your dog will most likely receive an injectable antihistamine after which you’ll be asked to wait with your dog so your veterinarian as well as the support staff can monitor your dog to make sure the swelling/reaction is subsiding. You may also be given some oral antihistamines to continue treating your dog from home. The more severe cases can involve things such as hospitalization, IV fluids, emergency care such as placing a breathing tube and overnight care. However don’t let this scare you. Even though it can be impossible to completely avoid a confrontation between your dog and a taunting bee, most reactions can be treated fairly quickly.

If you’ve experienced a bee sting reaction with your dog in the past or have seen your dog snapping wildly at the air trying to catch a bee, you may want be pro-active and keep an oral antihistamine such as Benadryl on hand. If your dog always goes where you go, then keeping some antihistamine in your travelling first aid kit, in the camper or even in your backpack is never a bad idea. Always call your veterinary before administering any medications to your pet to make sure what you are using is appropriate and you are giving the correct dose.

If there is one thing we have seen over the years at Van Isle Veterinary Hospital, it is that when it comes to bee stings, most dogs just never learn. After going through a painful sting, a swollen/itchy face and even a traumatic trip to the vet hospital… time they get back home, they are already on the hunt, waiting for their next target to buzz by. If you would like more information of what you can do in the event a bee sting occurs, call your family veterinarian or give us a call at 250-334-8400.


Written by Van Isle Veterinary Hospital