Warm sunshine and beautiful blossoms inspire us as we venture out with our pups in the yards and parks all over Austin and the surrounding area. Sunny days are filled with romps at the dog park and digging in the flower garden, followed by a pesky bee that just doesn’t seem to want to leave Rover alone.
It all started innocently enough with a little subtle curiosity and a chuckle to yourself at the cuteness. But now as if to taunt Rover, the bee buzzes over his backside, belly and head – darting and dodging your pups efforts to defend himself. Finally, Rover has had enough. The next thing you know, ‘CHOMP!’ With a staggered gulp and a sharp yip from your canine friend, you’re left beside yourself with a gasped cry, “My dog just ate a bee!” Now what?
Signs of Bee Stings
Just as with humans, bee stings are extremely painful to dogs. A good rule of thumb to remember is that the more venomous the bee, the more intense the pain, redness and swelling can be. Some clear immediate signs that your beloved pet has suffered a bee sting are their painful cries, salivating/drooling or running in circles. Milder reactions to a bee sting may include; swelling of the sting area, licking, chewing, rubbing or biting the sting site. Please be aware that these signs are not an inclusive list of symptoms, as more problematic and life threatening indicators are discussed later in this article.
What to do Next
If you suspect your dog has ate and been stung by a bee, don’t panic. Remain calm and keep an even, soft-spoken tone with your pet. Rest assured you’re not the first, and certainly won’t be the last, to be horrified when your dog swallows a bee.
As your four-legged best friend chomps down, the bee is able to sting several times on a dog’s head and facial area, in addition to the inside of his mouth and throat before finally ending up in his stomach. It’s for this reason, you should immediately check your dog’s head, face and mouth thoroughly for possible stings and swelling.
Look inside the mouth and ears as well as the outside muzzle very carefully for signs of multiple stings. Take note of any symptoms of distress and the time frame of onset. Multiple stings, as well allergic reactions, can cause the throat to swell rapidly – posing dangerous risks including the swelling and blockage of airways.
While carefully examining the area to access the amount of stings, pay close attention to see if there are any stingers visible. Try to resist the urge to remove the stinger. By pulling or squeezing the stinger area an inexperienced individual can actually push the bee’s venom further into the wound. Hence, we do not recommend pulling out a stinger as attempts can actually worsen matters.
What are the risks?
The risk of your dog swallowing a bee will vary from case to case depending on; if your dog was stung, where he was stung, the amount of stings, and if your dog has an allergic reaction. You should pay mind to any changes in your dog’s appearance and behavior immediately after eating a bee or an all out attack. Bee stings should always be taken seriously, as even the slightest of changes can be indicative of a potential life threatening reaction.
In extreme cases, some dogs may have a severe life-threatening allergic reaction to a bee sting known as ‘anaphylactic shock’. Being able to identify the symptoms and risks associated with anaphylaxis is the first step to saving your dog’s life. Notably, the first initial onset of anaphylactic shock symptoms typically happen within a matter of minutes after a bee stings. Your fast response time and ability to recognize key symptoms will be imperative to head off breathing problems, collapse or death.
Initial indications of an anaphylaxis reaction in dogs will include:
- Itchiness – Localized on the face and neck
- Hives/welts– Localized on the face and neck
Keep in mind that bee stings on the tongue and in the throat are particularly painful and serious regardless of whether or not the patient is allergic. If you have a suspicion your dog has been stung in these areas, seek veterinary assistance immediately. In the case of severe reactions such as anaphylactic shock, be prepared for symptoms to progress very rapidly. Don’t waste time. Rush your dog to an emergency vet immediately if your dog develops any of the following symptoms:
- Pale gums
- Weak pulse
- Swollen Eyes
- Rapid heart rate
- Cold legs and paws
- Changes in mental awareness
- Itching – Localized on the face and neck
- Widespread swelling – Particularly of the face and neck
- Breathing difficulties – Shallow, rapid, gasping breaths and/or collapse
- Swelling of the throat – Interfere with breathing and blocks airways
If you know in advance your dog is allergic to bee, wasp or hornet stings; it is a good practice to be prepared and carry the prescribed Epipen with you. While the Epipen is not a substitute for proper emergency veterinary assistance, you may be able to buy precious time.
You may have thought your pup only ate one bee and didn’t notice if there were more. So continue to watch carefully for areas that swell. If they have mild itching and swelling (as long as it’s not on the head, face or mouth) you might get away with treating them at home with Benadryl® – or the generic version with the active ingredient of diphenhydramine. To determine the dose of Benadryl® you should give them, check out PreventativeVet. When in doubt, always call your vet.
Make your dog as comfortable as possible, keeping a close watch over them to notice any worsening of symptoms over the next 24 hours. If you have to leave, either bring your dog with you or leave them with a responsible adult aware of the incident and can take appropriate precautions. If conditions worsen, be prepared to respond with prompt veterinary intervention.
The best way to prevent a bee sting is to avoid the areas most prone to inhabit them and deter attracting them. While there are many varieties of bees, each with their own temperament, the places and things to avoid is pretty standard across the board. Here are a few tips to help keep Rover – and you – safe from bees stings.
- Refrain from wearing fragrances including aromatic deodorants and antiperspirants
- Wear light colored clothing, but avoid floral patterns or bright colors
- Leave the food and drink at home or in the car
- Stay clear of flowers
- Don’t get near hives/nests
- Never swat at a bee
If you have ever been chased down and stung by a bee, then you can attest that they are relentless, stinging several times in row. Some bees tend to be more aggressive than others. The commonly known Southern Yellow Jacket (Vespula Squamosa), is one of several bees notorious for their aggressive behavior – becoming ferocious if you tread near their hive.
Ground nesting bees, which nest underground in mound-like abodes similar to ant mounds, are particularly nasty and relentless. Their stings are incredibly painful and itch tremendously. Carpenter bees intuitively nest in wood like downed trees or debris lying around, while the honey bee is found in trees. Whenever possible, try to identify the type of bee your dog ate or has been attacked by. This may help your vet ascertain a better mode of treatment for your dog.