When you see a dog stung by a bee, the results are often hilarious. In fact, if you search it online, you will see hundreds of doleful puppy eyes staring over ridiculously swollen noses. However, bee stings can cause a deadly reaction in dogs, so it’s vital to be able to assess how bad it is and to know what to do.
When it comes to insect bites, we naturally want to use soothing aloe vera dog shampoos to help inflammation. But while we can take steps to keep flies off dogs, or even to prevent gnats from biting them, bee stings can be impossible to prevent.
So let’s look at the stages of allergic reactions a dog may have to a bee’s venom, and what we need to know about bee sting emergencies.
Dog bee sting recovery time: Will my dog be okay after a bee sting?
In most dogs that are not allergic to a bee’s sting, the red bump will disappear in an hour, but it may form a pimple that lasts for up to three weeks. This means most dogs will be okay after a bee sting, but it is vital to know the symptoms of a more severe allergic reaction, when acting fast may save your dog’s life. We discuss this below.
Since bee stings can be itchy, try to keep your dog from scratching or nibbling. Breaking the skin around a bee sting can cause an infection like a hot spot to develop.
Dog bee sting symptoms: how to tell if your dog is stung by a bee
Dogs can exhibit four levels of responses to bee stings; mild, regional, severe, delayed. In the case of a severe reaction, a dog needs to see the vet immediately. Delayed reactions are very rare, but they can happen up to two weeks after the sting, so it’s vital to monitor your dog for long after the sting takes place.
Keep in mind that certain breeds such as Bull Terriers, Boxers, and Staffordshire Terriers are more prone to severe reactions to bee stings; hence pet owners of these breeds should take extra caution.
A mild reaction
The first response is a mild local reaction which is a simple reaction and not allergic. Signs that may be seen in this type of reaction.include:
- mild distress such as whining, panting, or lip licking,
- signs of pain or distress, including yelping or limping
- a hor, raise red bump, called a wheal and flare
- nibbling or pawing at a particular area, a pustule, and itchiness.
For reference here is an image of weal and flares that erupt from a very minor reaction to a bee sting. So long as the red bump is quite small, and you safely remove the stinger (see below for how to do this), it should not be much of a problem.
A moderate reaction
The second response is a regional reaction, which is a mild allergic response that requires close monitoring. Signs of this reaction include:
- a visibly distressed dog such as crying, rapid panting or restlessness,
- swelling and heat,
- redness, bumps, or hives
- hardness around the sting site,
- and extreme itchiness.
The picture below shows what hives look like in a dog:
Signs of a severe allergic reaction in dogs to a bee sting
The third response is a severe allergic reaction, and the following are the signs that your dog requires immediate veterinary attention:
- coughing or wheezing,
- runny discharge from the nose and eyes,
- extremely swollen head or muzzle or other body part,
- excessive drooling,
- blue gums and tongue,
- excessive itching,
- wheals, or swelling red skin.
Delayed anaphylactic shock in dogs
In rare cases, the fourth type of allergic reaction can occur up to two weeks after the sting, and it is called delayed anaphylactic shock. The symptoms will look much like a severe allergic reaction, but the main difference is that it happens long after the actual sting.
Knowing how to identify a bee sting is crucial when dealing with dogs. When a dog swallows a bee, while chasing it, recognizing the sting will be easy. You will often see a swollen mouth that looks like this:
In severe cases, you may see extensive facial swelling like this:
If you are googling “my dog got stung by a bee in the face,” and you see the kind of swelling in these images, you need to go to a vet in case the swelling causes an obstruction in their throat and interferes with their breathing.
What to do if dog gets stung by a bee
Remaining calm and following these steps is crucial when dealing with canine bee stings:
- Locate the site of the sting to remove the stinger, but do not use tweezers or your fingers to do so. Using tweezers or your fingers can burst the venom sac in the stinger and force more venom into the dog’s skin. Instead, use a flat, thin, and hard object like a credit card to gently lift the stinger out from below the poison sac. The following video demonstrates how to do this:
- Apply ice to the sting site and monitor your dog for at least 30 minutes to check for any signs of an allergic reaction (note that delayed reactions are also possible and some breeds are more susceptible).
- If your dog swallowed a bee, watch out for airway obstruction due to swelling and be ready to perform an opening procedure if necessary.
- Monitor your dog for at least half an hour after the sting. Severe reactions typically happen within 10 minutes.
- Speak to your vet about giving your dog a human antihistamine.
Should I take my dog to the vet for a bee sting?
If your dog shows a mild or regional reaction to the bee sting, you may only need to monitor your dog. If there is swelling around the face and throat, it is better to go the vet immediately as the swelling could obstruct the airways and interfere with breathing. If you see symptoms of a severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) then time is of the essence. The faster your dog can get to the vet, the more likely they are to survive.
Dog bee sting treatment
If your dog does need to go to the vet, your vet will likely give a mix of pain meds and antihistamines. If the reaction is severe, they may need to put your dog on a drip, provide corticosteroids and even monitor your dog overnight.
How long after a bee sting will a dog have a reaction?
Most dogs will have an immediate reaction, although some may be delayed by up to 30 mins. IN extremely rare cases, dogs can go into delayed anaphylaxis up to two weeks after the sting.
What you need to know about bee stings in dogs
- Reactions to sting can get worse over time. A mild reaction to one sting may become a severe reaction to another sting a few months or even years later.
- Multiple stings are more dangerous, with around 20 stings often being fatal.
- Dogs that get immediate medical treatment for a severe reaction have 85% survival rate.
Most of the time when a dog gets stung by a bee, they’ll be fine. But it is essential to monitor them and be alert for signs of a severe reaction. Getting to a vet fast and knowing what to do can be a lifesaver.
Tamsin De La HarpeAuthor
Tamsin de la Harpe has nearly two decades of experience with dogs in rescue, training, and behavior modification with fearful and aggressive dogs. She has worked closely with veterinarians and various kennels, building up extensive medical knowledge and an understanding of canine health and physiology. She also spent two years in the animal sciences as a canine nutrition researcher, focusing on longevity and holistic healthcare for our four-legged companions.
Tamsin currently keeps a busy homestead with an assortment of rescue dogs and three Bullmastiffs.
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