How to Prevent and Treat Bee Stings On Dogs

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11 Minute Read
Updated June 18, 2021

As the weather warms up, lots of flying pests start to buzz around us. Some insects are just annoying, while others, like bees, can be dangerous to a curious pooch. Find out what to do if your dog gets stung by a bee.

Bzzzzz...eeek! That’s our natural response to the ominous sound of a bee buzzing around us, but your dog isn’t as scared. In fact, he might be bold enough to chase or even eat his new flying prey. 

Though getting stung by a bee is an unpleasant experience for us, it’s not typically a huge deal, with the exception of those of us with allergies. The same can be said for dogs. The reaction from a single bee sting could be as mild as an itchy bump to a full-blown anaphylactic incident. 

When a dog gets stung by a bee, the reactions are typically more on the mild side, but several bee stings or a bee sting in the wrong spot can lead to some uncomfortable, painful, and even life-threatening symptoms

How to Recognize Bee Stings in Dogs

You won’t always see your dog get stung by a bee, but you can recognize the symptoms of a bee sting. Reactions typically occur within a few minutes of the sting, but you may not notice the sting itself, as much as your dog’s reaction to the sting.

Knowing what to look out for can help you act quickly and treat both the symptoms and the bee sting to ease your dog’s discomfort. Here are a few things you may see if your dog has been stung by a bee:

    • Redness
    • Swelling
    • Itchiness
    • Hives
    • Pain
    • Whining or yelping

While a bee sting on your dog’s body and legs will often be a mild inconvenience and easily treated, bee stings on more delicate parts of the body may have stronger reactions. The face in particular can lead to greater swelling and more painful reactions. 

Bee stings on the eyelids and nose can be most painful for your dog, and the swelling can affect sight and breathing if the sting isn’t treated quickly. 

Bee Sting on Dog’s Paw

Sometimes your dog may get surprised by a bee sting to the paw. This happens when they are walking through gardens, fields, and any other grassy areas that may have short flowers to pollinate. 

Your dog could accidentally step on a bee and get a quick and painful jab in the paw. While you are likely to see minimal swelling, a sting on or in between the pads of your dog’s paw can be quite painful.

Limping and lifting their paw will be the first sign that there is something wrong, so if you notice this odd behaviour, do a quick inspection of the paw to identify a possible bee sting or bug bite. 

Protecting your dog's paws from bees, bugs, and even the elements is easy with a good pair of all-season dog boots. 

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My Dog Ate a Bee!

So, your curious pooch ate a bee. Ouch! That's gonna sting... literally!

A sting to the mouth or tongue is one of the more common bee stings because dogs explore with their mouth, so trying to eat the bee, or at least taste it, often leads to a bee sting. 

A sting on the tongue can also be worrisome if the tongue starts to swell. It can lead to difficulty breathing and eating, so it’s important to act quickly to keep your dog safe. Minimal swelling will go down on its own, but more severe reactions may mean a trip to the vet. 

The good news is, the bee itself isn’t toxic, so if your dog manages to actually eat one, it won’t make him sick, but it is unlikely he’ll get the bee down without getting stung. 

Signs of Allergic Reactions in Bee Sting in Dogs?

french-bulldog-bee-sting-face (1)

Just like people, dogs can be sensitive to bee stings. While a regular bee sting reaction is often mild, an allergic reaction to a bee sting can be much more severe. Swelling and hives are likely to present almost immediately after the sting. 

This can be very dangerous if you don’t act quickly. If you see the following signs of an allergic reaction from a bee sting, you need to call your vet immediately. 

Swelling

Keep an eye out for swelling that extends far beyond the sting site. Swelling in or around the face and neck is very concerning as it could interfere with normal breathing. Anti-inflammatories from your vet may be needed to quickly reduce swelling.

Milder reactions may be easy to treat at home with natural anti-inflammatories. Dogs with seasonal allergies will benefit from natural inflammation reducers that help to regulate histamine reactions. 

Biologic Vet BioSkin & Coat

Hyperventilation

Dogs breathe much faster than humans when they’re excited, so it may be hard to tell whether your dog is in the mood for some ball play or if it's scared for its life. Hyperventilating will often coincide with other anxious behaviours. You may want to call the vet just to stay on the safe side, although the chances are that everything will be fine.

Agitation

Just like humans are none too happy about getting stung by a bee, so you should expect your dog to be agitated after a sting. If your pet is showing signs of being in pain, the toxins may have reached his nervous system, in which case you should contact a vet as soon as possible. Even though this may appear as a mild symptom, it may hide a more dangerous nature.

Laboured Breathing

If your dog struggles to breathe, the swollen area may be pressing against its respiratory system, be it a body sting affecting the lungs or a head sting pushing the meat against its nose. Call a veterinarian and use ice to halt the swelling.

Laboured breathing is often a direct side-effect of severe swollenness, although the toxin may have infiltrated the lungs in addition to that. Either way, this is one of the most severe symptoms of getting stung by a bee for animals.

Lethargy or Collapse

In cases of anaphylaxis, shock, or infection, your dog may appear very low energy. When combined with other symptoms in this list, your dog could be in great danger. If left unchecked, extreme lethargy can lead to your dog collapsing. 

Loss of Appetite

Lots of factors can lead your dog to avoid food, but after a bee sting, pain, swelling, or infection could be the culprit. If your dog is uncharacteristically skipping meals after a bee sting, then you need to call your vet. 

Vomiting

Vomiting is another very serious and concerning sign of a bad reaction to a bee sting. Though the amount of venom in a bee’s stinger is small, several stings can quickly dose your dog with enough venom to start causing problems with your dog’s nervous system, resulting in vomiting, excessive drooling, and even seizures in rare cases. 

Disorientation

Battling the toxins feels pretty scary to most animals, dogs included. If any of the symptoms are present for extended periods, your dog will eventually succumb to fatigue and stress. Typically, sleeping it out is an excellent way to heal, both physically and mentally, but that’s not necessarily the case here.

Most pets should not feel dizzy after getting stung by a bee, and if your dog starts stumbling, you should call a vet rapidly.

What to Do if Your Dog Gets Stung by a Bee?

jack-russel-wearing-cone (1)

Bees are generally peaceful if unprovoked by either a human or an animal. Even though we may perceive them as threats, most people would leave them be, but the same can’t be said for our overprotective pets.

It’s not uncommon for a dog’s bark to enrage a few, but our pets sometimes try to bite them out of curiosity if nothing else. Regardless of the cause, now your dog’s face is red and swollen, so you may be wondering what to do. Today we’ll explain all the steps you should take in case they get stung by a bee, so let’s begin:

1. Search for the stinger

Bee stingers are venomous, and they continue to ooze toxins until they’re removed from the flesh. Some argue that using tweezers would result in large amounts of venom being squeezed out from the sac and onto the open wound, but it’s still a safer option than leaving it there.

A safer option is to scrape it off from your pet’s coat using any thin piece of plastic (credit cards would do the trick). This way, the stinger will secrete its venom on the coat, and you will be able to direct the trajectory.

This may be a bit more challenging in the case of multiple bee stings, as you would have less room to flick the card, in which case you should either take your dog to a professional veterinarian or use tweezers to remove each stinger as fast as possible.

2. Cool the swollen area

Watch your dog closely until the swollen area returns to normal. Reactions to bee stings range from small red marks beneath your pet’s coat to severe swelling on the paws, head, or body. The latter is obviously more dangerous, and you should watch your dog for any signs of distress in the next couple of hours.

Use ice to cool the swollen area. Even if it doesn’t completely work, at least you’ll slow the swelling process a bit. This is particularly effective for treating smaller areas, whereas you should use cooled towels for larger ones.

3. Keep your pet from scratching itself

Dogs will instinctively try to lick their wounds in which case they’ll make matters worse. If they can’t reach the stung location, they’ll try scratching it instead. Both scenarios should be avoided, as licking the stinger is almost the same as getting stung again, whereas scratching a wound will make it more severe.

Open wounds are prone to infections, and your dog’s immune system will already be busy handling the venom from the bee’s stinger, so one of the best ways to prevent this is to use an Elizabethan collar. sometimes called e-collars.

4. Prevent Infection

Regardless of how small the reaction, infection is always a possibility, especially if your dog has had time to lick or scratch the sting site. Proper wound and infection treatments can prevent further irritation as the wound heals. 

It's always a good idea to have a pet first aid kit on hand because you never know when your dog is going to have an interaction with a bee or another pesky pest. 

How to Prevent Bee Stings in Dogs

corgi-sniffing-bee-on-wall (1)

Though bees are typically not aggressive, when provoked they will instinctually sting.  Often the symptoms of a bee sting are mild, but it’s never worth the risk. Help prevent bee stings with these simple tips:

Keep your dog away from beehives

The chances that a single bee will get scared off by a dog are fairly high, but that’s not the case with guardian bees that surround their hives. No matter what kind of threat they’re faced with, hive bees will do their best to sting their target as many times as they can to protect their friends and queen.

Now, a singular bee sting may hurt a bit, but it’s rare for it to induce an allergic reaction. More stings essentially mean that the chances of such a reaction will be proportionately higher.

If wild bees have made a nest in your backyard, your dog will want to protect you from them while the bees will want to protect their ‘home’. Your best bet is local beekeepers or expert services for pest removal. 

Natural Bee Repellents

There are some scents that bees just hate. This can come in handy when you are preparing your dog for outdoor activity. Most pest repellants or bug sprays for humans are quite toxic and dangerous for pets, so it’s better to stick to natural and pet-safe ingredients. 

Here are a few natural bee repellent ingredients that you can use to keep your dog safe:

Vinegar

This naturally pungent smell and acidity of vinegar is a powerful repellent for bees. Making a vinegar and water dilution that you can spray on your dog’s coat before a walk can help keep the bees at a distance. 

You can use either white or apple cider vinegar for this homemade spray, but always make sure to dilute it with water. Avoid spraying the vinegar in your dog’s face or on any open cuts or wounds. 

Essential Oils

Many essential oils can repel pests, but not all essential oils are safe to use around your dog. Here are a few pet-safe essential oils that you can apply to your dog topically:

    • Clove Oil
    • Peppermint Oil
    • Eucalyptus Oil
    • Tea Tree Oil

Essential oils should never be applied undiluted. To make sure they are safe, essential oils should always be mixed with a carrier oil, like MCT coconut oil. Find out more about how to safely use essential oils on dogs in this post from Dogs Naturally Magazine

Dog Bug Spray

While human bug sprays are not safe to use on your dog, bug repellants specifically made for dogs can be used on both of you! There are only a few actual bug repellants for dogs in Canada, like Citrobug, which uses essential oils that naturally repel bees and other annoying insects.

CitrobugSome coat conditioning sprays contain natural ingredients that may repel bugs. They are not proven insect repellants and are designed to support skin and coat health, but many pet owners claim they help to keep bees, mosquitos, and other insects at bay.

One of our favourite coat conditioners is Eqyss Marigold Spray. It helps to soften and detangle fur, and smells great too! 

Shop EQyss Marigold Spray

Avoid Flowers

dog running through field of flowers S

Bees are naturally attracted to flowers, so if your regular walking paths take you through a particularly floral landscape, or if your yard is in bloom, then you may want to block access to those areas. 

This won’t guarantee that your dog won’t come in contact with a bee, but it will reduce the risk of interaction.

These tips are especially if you and your dog spend a lot of time outside. If you are an avid hiker or love camping with dogs, then you are more likely to interact with bees, wasps, and other flying pests. Always be prepared for where ever your doggy adventures take you. 

Check out our full dog camping and hiking checklist to make sure you don't end up in the wilderness without the right tools and protections. 

Download the Ultimate Dog Camping Gear Checklist

When to Call Your Vet

Some allergic reactions can be managed at home. Your vet may recommend over-the-counter medications, like Benadryl, to control the swelling, but many severe reactions require medical intervention. Always connect with your vet for the appropriate and safest steps. 

It's always better to be safe than sorry, so if you see any signs that your dog is in pain, shock, or dealing with a prolonged or severe allergic reaction, then you need to call your vet asap. 

We hope that this brief guide was useful to you, that you’ve learned something new today, and that you now know how to approach the situation if your dog gets stung by a bee. Make sure you are staying safe in these times we are all going through and have a good one, guys!

Has your dog ever had a bad reaction to a bee sting? Share your story with us in the comments below!

Written by

Norma Spencer

Norma fully enjoys her editor career living an RV life with her family. She's also a writer with a Ph.D. in Business Administration (Management). At the moment of writing this bio, Norma is in Germany, planning to spend at least a few more years in Europe in the coming years :)

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