Bee prepared: What to do if your dog gets stung by a bee

The warmer weather is finally on its way and with it comes longer days, flowers a-plenty, and lots of flying creatures, including bees. While bees are crucially important in crop pollination (according to sustainweb.org, it is estimated that one third of the food that we consume each day relies on pollination mainly by bees), bees are not so helpful when it comes to our pooches’ noses!

Dogs are curious creatures by nature, and love chasing anything that flies, as well as sniffing out critters amongst the flowers. Unfortunately, that puts them in prime position for stings! Usually a sting will just result in some pain and discomfort, but for some dogs they can be potentially life-threatening.

How do you know if your dog has been stung?

The most common areas for stings are the face (particularly the nose), paws and tummy, because sometimes your poor pooch will be minding his own business and will inadvertently lie on a bee hiding in the grass.

The most obvious sign of a bee sting is a big yelp! If you are not in ear-shot or aren’t home when the sting happens, your dog will likely present with mild swelling and redness in the area and will probably be pawing the area or whining and licking it as it will be painful and itchy.

What to do if you suspect your dog has been stung

  • Remove the sting: First up, you’ll need to remove the stinger if it’s still lodged in the poor pup’s skin. Remove it by scraping a credit card or piece of cardboard along the skin. Don’t use tweezers as you might accidentally pump any remaining venom into the body. 
  • Alleviate the discomfort: Create a cold compress by wrapping some ice in a cloth, or take a bag of frozen veggies, and hold it against the skin. Or you can create a paste using bicarbonate of soda and water. This helps neutralize the acid in the venom. (You’ll need to bandage the area to avoid your dog licking the paste.)              
  • Bee vigilant: Watch for any signs that could indicate an allergic reaction, such as difficulty breathing, vomiting, or severe swelling, as you will need to get your pet to the vet as soon as possible for medical intervention. Allergic reactions usually happen within 30 minutes of the sting but can sometimes take longer so keep a close eye on the ‘victim’ for at least 24 hours. If your pup is allergic, he will need to be assessed by the vet and, depending on his condition, he might need antihistamines, steroids and IV fluids.  

How to prevent bee stings in dogs

If your dog is allergic to bee stings, chat to your vet about medications you should keep at home in case of any future stings.

Even if he’s not allergic, a sting is not pleasant, so try and keep him away from known bee hot-spots, especially in the summer; keep him on a leash when walking through flower-covered grassy areas; and cordon-off any areas in the garden that does tend to attract the vitally important, yet equally pesky, critters.

If you have any questions or concerns with regards to your pets, it is advisable to consult a registered veterinarian. This article is intended as an educational tool and should not be used to diagnose or treat a sick animal.

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