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What To Do If Your Dog or Cat Is Stung By a Bee

Author, instructor, and pet safety guru, Denise Fleck, recently taught us how to read a dog’s pulse, respiration, temperature, capillary refill time, and more – all the vital signs that let us know when our pups are doing well, or could be in distress. Today she’s back to walk us through what we should do if our pets get stung by a bee.

What to Do If Your Pet Gets Stung By A Bee

Just like humans, our pets can experience allergic or inflammatory reactions if they tangle with the wrong insect and wind up getting stung. Their safest strategy is to avoid confrontations with bugs that would do them harm – though convincing them of that can be difficult. Fortunately, there are some steps that you can take to help keep the bees at bay.

Avoid Confrontations

Start in your yard by growing plants like chrysanthemums, lemongrass, or primrose, which don’t attract bees. When you and your pet are outside, burn citronella candles and don’t leave food outdoors. And train your dog to “leave it” whenever he’s tempted to put his nose where it doesn’t belong. Still, even if you take all the precautions, accidents can happen. Pets can be stung on the face, inside the mouth, on their paws, or on other parts of their bodies if they snap at, or sit or step on a bee – so it’s best to be prepared.

If Your Pet Is Stung

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If you notice swelling, pawing at the face, or obsessive licking, there’s a good chance that your best friend has met business end of a stinger, and you’ll need to watch him carefully for the next few hours. Some animals, like some people, are highly sensitive to insect toxin and after being stung can go into Anaphylactic Shock, a severe allergic reaction which can cause the circulatory system to shut down.

If you notice any of the following symptoms, which usually occur within an hour of the sting, DO NOT DELAY in getting veterinary care:

1. Severe and profuse swelling (i.e. entire face as opposed to just the lip)

2. Difficulty breathing or increased respiratory effort possibly due to throat swelling

3. Very pale or blue-tinged mucous membranes (inner lips and gums)

4. Rapid and/or irregular pulse

5. Prolonged Capillary Refill Time (Refer to “Checking Your Pet’s Vital Signs,” but if gums are pale, or if it takes longer than 2 seconds for the color to return to the gum when pressed with your finger, your pet needs immediate medical care.)

Even if your pet doesn’t appear to be having a severe reaction, the site of the sting may still be painful or uncomfortable. Keep a close on him while you gather the following items:

  • Cold Pack
  • Baking Soda or Meat Tenderizer Containing Papain
  • Epi-pen (if your pet has had previous encounters with bees and is known to be allergic)
  • Water
  • Needless Syringe, Eye Dropper, or Spray Bottle
  • Diphenhydramine/Benadryl® (Note: The product you purchase should contain diphenhydramine as it’s only active ingredient. Some products contain additional pain relievers and/or decongestants that can be harmful to pets.)

Treating Your Pet’s Bee Sting

Dog On Ice

To help your pet recover from a bee sting, you can take the following steps:

  • If insect sting is in the mouth:
    • Offer pet an ice cube or small amount of ice water to minimize swelling
    • Seek immediate advice from your veterinarian, as the mucous membranes of the mouth will more quickly absorb the insect toxin. Should your pet’s tongue swell, giving rescue breathing may be an impossible feat, so a veterinarian will be best equipped to help.
  • If the sting is elsewhere on the body:
    • Often the stinger is concealed in the pet’s fur or has already been pawed away, but if you can see it, flick it away with a credit card, popsicle stick, or your finger nail. Do not pull the stinger with your fingers or tweezers as you can puncture the poison sac, allowing more toxin to enter your pet’s body.
    • If you have an epi-pen prescribed specifically for your pet due to previous allergic reactions, read and follow the attached instructions. Follow up immediately with your veterinarian as anaphylaxis can occur.
    • Administer diphenhydramine (Benadryl® antihistamine) – While this medication is generally considered safe for cats and dogs, consult with your veterinarian to determine the proper dosage, and discuss any other medications your pet is taking and any pre-existing medical conditions. Diphenhydramine will help relieve mild allergic reactions and make your pet sleepy, allowing him to relax and prevent him from scratching the sting site. When possible, use liquid gel caps and administer the medicine by piercing the capsule with a straight pin and squirting liquid underneath the pet’s tongue. The abundance of blood vessels in the mouth allows the medicine to be absorbed into the blood stream more quickly. If swelling persists for more than 6-8 hours, consult your veterinarian for further treatment.
    • If you can locate the sting site, dab it with a paste made from 1 Tablespoon baking soda or meat tenderizer mixed with a drop of water. (Meat tenderizer and baking soda are both alkaline and work to counteract the acidity of the toxin. Also, the papain in tenderizers breaks down the protein in the toxin.)
    • Apply a cold pack to reduce swelling, but remove every few minutes to avoid frostbite. Placing a damp washcloth between the cold pack and your pet will help keep your pet’s skin from getting too cold.
    • Homeopathic Tip: Apis Meliffica, also known as Honey Bee, can aid the body in reducing the burning or stinging pain.

Of course, bee stings don’t always happen when you’re at home, so be sure that the first aid kit in your car and in your hiking backpack are stocked with the items you’ll need to treat your pet if he should have an unfortunate insect encounter while you’re out and about. Being prepared will allow you to give your pet the attention he needs quickly, so you can both get back to having fun.

Dog on Armrest

 

Denise Fleck - Author PhotoAbout the Author: Denise Fleck is an award winning author and freelance writer. After extensive training and practice she developed her own Pet First-Aid & CPCR curriculum and has been teaching animal life-saving skills for 16 years. Additionally, she developed a 5-month Animal Care course for high school students in conjunction with the Burbank Unified School District and Animal Shelter. She has demonstrated animal life-saving skills on CBS –TV’s “The Doctors,” Animal Planet’s “Pit Boss,” “Kirstie Alley’s Big Life” and other shows and is emBARKing on a 10,000-mile Southern U.S. Pet Safety Tour this Fall.  Visit www.sunnydogink.com to find out if she’ll be stopping in a city near YOU!

  • Karen Langlois says:

    Great articles.. 1 of my dogs won’t leave BEES OR INSECTS ALONE! You can bet I’ll be adding baking soda to my Pet First Aid Kit!

    • Amy at GoPetFriendly.com says:

      Glad to help, Karen! I’ve heard of a few dogs who do the same – it’s always best to be prepared. Waggin’ trails to you!

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