Are wasp and bee stings on dogs dangerous?

Wasp and bee stings are common in dogs in the spring, summer and early autumn. In some cases, particularly when your dog has been stung in the mouth, stung several times, or has suffered an allergic reaction, emergency veterinary treatment will be required. It’s worth bearing in mind that multiple bee or wasp stings can be fatal.

My dog ate a bee what should I do?

If your dog has eaten a wasp or bee or been stung in the mouth, tongue or throat, you may see severe facial or neck swelling. This is a concern because the swelling may cause a blockage in your pet’s airway resulting in them struggling to breathe. If this does happen you should seek urgent veterinary advice.

Can bee or wasp stings on dogs cause anaphylactic shock?

The venom in bee and wasp stings can cause problems ranging from mild irritation and pain to anaphylactic shock, which is a life-threatening allergic reaction. Be aware that allergic reactions to bee or wasp stings usually happen within 10 minutes but may be delayed for hours, so keep a close eye on your dog. Studies show most deaths due to wasp or bee stings are the result of anaphylactic shock.

Image of a dog following a bee for Vets Now article on dog wasp sting in mouth
Wasp and bee stings are common in dogs in the spring, summer and early autumn

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What else can dogs suffer as a result of bee or wasp stings?

There have been cases of dogs dying due to the sheer amount of venom injected by multiple bee or wasp stings. This is called envenomation. Immune-mediated secondary hemolytic anaemia (IMHA) has also been observed in dogs who have been stung several times. This happens when your dog’s red blood cell count falls to dangerously low levels, or the red blood cells don’t function properly. Dogs diagnosed with severe anaemia may require a blood transfusion.

How to treat wasp or bee stings on dogs?

If your dog has been stung by a bee but is not suffering a bad reaction, remove the stinger by scraping a credit card over the affected area. Avoid using tweezers or your nails as you may inadvertently squeeze more venom into your dog. Wasps and hornets don’t leave stingers behind.

You should then soothe the area around the bite by bathing it in water. It’s also worth using bicarbonate of soda to neutralise bee stings (which are acidic) and vinegar on wasp stings (which are alkaline). After that apply an ice pack (or a bag of frozen vegetables or cold damp towel) to the affected area for around 10 minutes. If your dog suffers an allergic reaction or severe swelling, contact your vet for advice, and only ever give your dog anti-histamines if directed to do so.

How do vets treat bee and wasps stings?

In uncomplicated cases, where there’s been no allergic reaction, your vet is likely to follow the steps above. They may also apply topical lidocaine, which is a local anaesthetic, for the pain, and a corticosteroid cream or ointment to reduce inflammation. In some cases, antihistamines may be prescribed.

If your dog has suffered an anaphylactic reaction, time is of the essence. Treatment will be aimed at reducing the allergic reaction. In life-threatening cases of anaphylaxis, epinephrine may be prescribed. This helps increase heart rate, blood pressure and cardiac activity and is used to treat severe allergic reactions in pets. Steroids may also be administered. On top of that, your dog may be given oxygen and placed on a drip to replace lost fluids. Blood and urine tests may be taken to rule out organ damage.

Dogs who suffer an allergic response to an insect sting should be monitored closely for at least three days due to the risk of a second anaphylactic reaction. This commonly takes place within eight to 10 hours of the initial attack but can occur anywhere from one hour to 72 hours later.

Wasp or bee sting dog paw

Your dog’s paws are among the most likely targets for wasps and bees as they often step on them or use their paws to swot insects away. If the wasp or bee sting is on the pad of the paw it can be hard to see the area affected and, if a bee was the culprit, remove the stinger. Stings to the paws often go undiagnosed because owners think they’ve torn a nail or cut themselves. Signs of dog paw stings include limping and a tendency to repeatedly chew or bite the affected area.